On the eve of the Toronto International Film Festival, which is hosting a special sidebar devoted to Buenos Aires-made cinema, the Argentine capital's burgeoning film industry is trying to make it harder for Hollywood films to take over their local screens.
Home to some of my favorite filmmakers--namely, Lucrecia Martel and Pablo Trapero (pictured)--the Latin American city's main film body, INCAA, recently announced, effective immediately, they would tax films shown on more than 161 screens the price of approximately 12,000 cinema tickets – roughly 400,000 pesos ($95,000). Aimed at wide release Hollywood films, the tax is graduated, with films playing on 80 screens being fined the equivalent of 1,200 tickets, and so on. Outside Buenos Aires, the tax would be lower.
According to the Financial Times, the institute said big multinational distributors were quasi-monopolies, “filling screens with a few products that are imposed on people almost as if that were the only thing on offer.”
“We can’t allow ourselves the luxury of U.S. blockbusters filling up 95 per cent [of the country’s screens],” Argentine filmmaker Maxi Dubois told the Times, because of what he sees as an “unfair fight” against powerful international distributors.
Variety reports that Argentina produces 100 local features a year, but most don't surpass 10,000 admissions or even get a commercial release, limiting market share at just 10%.
For an upcoming article in Variety on Toronto's Buenos Aires film program, I corresponded with a number of Argentine producers, who suggested the city was a hotbed of production, with a level of enthusiasm and perseverance that was unparalleled. As TIFF director Cameron Bailey commented in a press release, “We found an impressive new generation of filmmakers in Buenos Aires and a thriving film culture."
But I was told that funding is sparse in the country, and there is just not enough INCAA money to go around.
Perhaps now that culture will be allowed to thrive with a little more government support.