An esteemed party, led by Costa Gavras, Michel Hazanavicius and The Weinstein Company co-chairman Harvey Weinstein, crashed a parlay at the Palais on “Strengthening The Cultural Exception In Tomorrow’s Europe”, where MPAA head Chris Dodd was among the policy-maker panelists today. Weinstein spoke on an issue that currently has European filmmakers fighting to preserve the autonomy of their individual film industries. The U.S. and the European Union will enter trade talks later this year which could result in the removal of trade barriers between the world’s two biggest economies. But included in the draft negotiation mandate for the talks are the audiovisual and film industries. Filmmakers want the arts excluded. Hazanavicius said, “Our fear is if they kill our regulatory system, it will crush us.”
Weinstein recalled that when preserving the cultural imperative wasn’t as important in Italy, filmmakers there began turning out clones of American movies, which they felt they needed to do to compete. “We never bought any of those films,” Weinstein said. Costa Gavras and Hazanavicius also showed their support and then the whole crashing party was gone.
Earlier, as they made their way to the Palais, the filmmakers explained the stakes to Deadline. Costa Gavras said, “The big risk is having the same movies in all of these places. That is our concern.” Culture and the production of culture shouldn’t be treated “like any industry, like cars. This is different.” Each state should “have the possibility to decide how to deal with its cinema and its art.”
Filmmakers believe the European Commission’s inclusion of the audiovisual and film industries in the proposed trade talks flies in the face of the Cultural Exception. That concept has its roots in 1993 when Hollywood tried to make the arts a part of the GATT negotiations. Europe, led by France, balked at what they saw as a threat to their subsidy systems, putting them in danger of total Hollywood hegemony. Europe prevailed. But tensions are running high once again. The past month has seen a petition circulated entitled “The Cultural Exception Is Non-Negotiable!” which now has 5,000 signatories including Costa Gavras and Hazanavicius, and a lot of non-European directors, too (Walter Salles, Jane Campion, David Lynch…).
States in Europe back the arts and “This relationship needs to go on, because if not, our cinema will die in a few years,” Costa Gavras told Deadline. “Under the current system, we have extraordinary diversity… If that system stops, then all of this just dies. It isn’t just subsidies, but all kind of help. For example, the state decides that if a big company wants to help the cinema, they are going to be given advantages. That will die also.”
Hazanavicius added, “We know our own industry. We’ve built something that is very complex, but is very fair. It is a system that allows a lot of countries to decide the fate of our own culture and how to manage that culture and finance it. It’s not European against American, it’s the culture against the total liberalization of the marketplace that will make it impossible for us to do our movies anymore.”