CULTURE

Overhaul of local film industry

Changes that are meant to make the Greek film industry more creative and active internationally were revealed by Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis last week at a press conference to announce the government’s new, albeit expected, policies. He noted that the policies are «clear, aimed at growth and development, and will be smooth in their application,» adding that the government will proceed with more co-productions with other countries and that Greek cinema would «shine once more.» Main points * The creation of a National Film Council, a body responsible for formulating national policy on cinema and other audiovisual means and seeing it through. The council will comprise 11 members, made up of a government cinema consultant (the position has been given to the director of the Short Film Festival of Drama, Antonis Papadopoulos, who will chair the council), the president of the Greek Film Center, the president and director of the Thessaloniki Film Festival, the directors of all other film festivals in the country, and a group of investment consultants. * The creation of the Hellenic Screen body, whose aim is to promote Greek cinema abroad, and a Documents and Services Secretariat, which will be in charge of attracting foreign productions to Greece and facilitating arrangements for co-productions. The secretariat will have departments for public relations, information and document procurement, research and development. This policy is further enhanced by the establishment of a specialized department within the Ministry of Economy and Finance, which will be charged with drawing up tax incentives for potential investors in the local film industry. This group is represented on the National Film Council. While the deputy minister was rather vague on the subject of specific policies and the manner in which they are to be implemented, he was specific about certain changes that are to be made to existing institutions active in the Greek film industry. Changes to the Greek Film Center and the Thessaloniki Film Festival, unofficially announced several months ago, came hardly as a surprise: Institutional changes * The Greek Film Center is undergoing a major overhaul and will henceforth focus only on funding Greek films and promoting the productions it has funded. The other activities it has been involved in up until now will be transferred to other bodies, while the presidency of the center will pass from the hands of Diagoras Chronopoulos to writer Thanassis Valtinos. * The Thessaloniki Film Festival is moving «into a different phase,» according to Tatoulis, who announced that the Greek section of the festival will compete officially as it did in the past, rather than being shown separately from the foreign films. Furthermore, said the deputy culture minister, emphasis will be placed on the marketing of Greek productions via the festival. Among the top ranks of the festival, Theo Angelopoulos has been replaced by Pantelis Voulgaris as president, and Michel Demopoulos by Despina Mouzaki as its director. Nevertheless, many questions remained unanswered or insufficiently addressed, such as: 1. While the faces my have changed at the Greek Film Center, the problems that have plagued it remain. The center is currently facing a deficit of 5.5 million euros, funds necessary to get the 20 feature films, 14 shorts and 10 documentaries that are on its waiting list into the pipeline. «What will happen to these productions?» asked director Angeliki Antoniou. «We have a duty to see them through,» answered Tatoulis, but without saying whether or how the deficit would be covered. 2. «Does the position of Mouzaki, as producer and a basic shareholder in the production company Cinegram and also director of the Thessaloniki Film Festival, present a conflict of interests?» asked another member of the audience. Tatoulis answered: «The law will be followed to the letter. Our opinion is that there will not be a conflict of interests.» The deputy minister was equally unenlightening on the issue of whether Papadopoulos, as both director of the Short Film Festival of Drama and cinema consultant to the government, may also find himself faced with a conflict of interests. 3. On the issue of why the government saw fit to replace Demopoulos as director of the Thessaloniki Film Festival after such a successful run at its helm, Tatoulis answered: «Our policy is to replace everyone who has held these positions over the years. There is absolutely no other problem,» he added, after thanking everyone present as the conference – press and industry players – for their contribution. From the sidelines However, the president of the Union of Greek Filmmakers, Haris Papadopoulos, informed Kathimerini that Theo Angelopoulos, an award-winning director of international standing, had not been previously informed of his ouster. Papadopoulos also said that Pantelis Voulgaris, who is replacing Angelopoulos as president of the Thessaloniki Film Festival, has a pending court order to pay 450,000 euros from ticket sales from his latest film «Brides» to the Greek Film Center.