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“An ideological move against Argentine filmmaking”: Famous director Mariano Llinás on President Milei’s cuts to national film institute 

Buenos Aires, Argentina – Argentina’s National Institute of Film and Audiovisual Arts (INCAA) is the latest government agency on the chopping block following President Javier Milei’s austerity measures meant to slash government spending. 

The institute promoted most of the country’s acclaimed films such as Oscar winners The Secret In Their Eyes and The Official Story.

The move is being criticized across the cultural space both at home and abroad, with famous artists like actor Viggo Mortensen and Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu supporting INCAA and industry professionals. 

Last week, the government announced a series of cuts that will paralyze INCAA’s day to day operations. It also includes the termination of hundreds of contracts, the cancellation of overtime payments to employees, and the suspension of all financial support for national film releases. 

INCAA’s new director, Carlos Pirovano, is being received with skepticism by the local film community for his lack of experience in the industry. Pirovano was vice-president of the Argentine Economic Development Bank (BICE) and a campaign collaborator to the current national minister of SecurityPatricia Bullrich, who runned for President against Milei during 2023.

The new administration said that the institute has a budget deficit of USD $4 million, but an internal analysis report published by INCAA in 2022 underscored that the audiovisual sector is responsible for 5.2% of Argentina’s overall economic activity.

As part of the cost-cutting measure, the government announced that INCAA will no longer fund the country’s film festival circuit. The move could force the cancellation of the Mar del Plata International Film Festival, a prestigious event that shares class and importance with Cannes, in France, or the Berlinale, in Germany.

An industry at risk

Mariano Llinás is a famous Argentine director and screenwriter. Along with Santiago Mitre, he co-wrote the Oscar-nominated, historical drama Argentina, 1985, which recounted the trials of those responsible for thousands of crimes against humanity during the country’s military dictatorship. 

Llinás told Argentina Reports that with this move, President Milei has chosen the local film industry and the Argentine cultural scene as his enemies. 

“This is an ideological move against Argentine filmmaking, an absurd gesture pour la gallerie,” said Llinás. “Milei is trying to create a barbaric consensus about the public cultural sector. There is nothing more populist and nazi than that,” said the director of Extraordinary Stories and La Flor.

Magdalena Schavelzon and Paula Orlando work as film producers and take part in Argentine Cinema United (Cine Argentino Unido), an association that organizes the claims of hundreds of members of the country’s filmmaking industry. They told Argentina Reports that their main concern lies in the lack of clarity regarding the new film policies.

They denounced that INCAA’s funding cuts are taking many filmmaking companies to the brink of bankruptcy. “Many jobs are at risk,” they warned. “We perceive a strong ideological persecution towards the cultural sector. We feel stigmatized,” Schavelzon and Orlando added.

Police repression at the cinema

Last Thursday, hundreds of actors, directors, producers and filmmaking students gathered for a peaceful protest in front of Gaumont, one of Buenos Aires’ most iconic cinemas, which the government wants to close and put up for sale. 

While representatives on the street were calling for Pirovano, INCAA’s new director, to resign and stop the spending cuts, local police started to make arrests and disperse the crowd with tear gas. Several people were injured.

The actor Luis Ziembrowski was one of the protesters at the gates of the Gaumont last Thursday. Still shaken by the police tear gas, Ziembrowski told Argentina Reports that Milei and his followers arrived to power to destroy. “They believe that there’s no memory among the people. We will fight to defend the state-funded promotion for Argentine films,” he said. 

Ziembrowski compared the police repression that he and other demonstrators suffered during Thursday’s protests to the political style of Milei’s government: “Police went too far because the extreme-right wing always goes too far. They are brute, vindictive. They only understand culture as something to sell or buy,” he said. 

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