Call for Estates General of French Cinema: French independents make their voices heard
- Representing every sector of the industry, a great number of auteur cinema professionals ring the alarm and question public authorities’ vision for their future
From Virginie Efira to Jacques Audiard, Agnès Jaoui to Swann Arlaud, Arthur Harari to Léonor Serraille, the distributors of the DIRE and the SDI, the filmmakers of the SRF and the ACID, screenwriters, the ADEF exhibitors, technicians, film students, film journalists and a great many producers behind the best in French auteur cinema: the great hall of the Arab World Institute in Paris literally overflowed yesterday during the Call for Estates General of French Cinema (Appel à des États généraux du cinéma), which simultaneously revealed the great concerns currently at the heart of the industry, and the desire to unite in an attempt to influence the course of events.
“Is the crisis insurmountable?”, “Threats against creation,” “What consequences in cinemas?”. Divided into three parts and with a lot of space allowed for contributions from the audience, the afternoon highlighted the different sides of “a system whose oxygen is gradually being taken away.” That system is the French cultural model for cinema, still praised and envied around the world, where cash flows are redistributed in order to support the entire breadth of creation, and to insure talent renewal. “We are currently seeing profitability and results criteria being introduced, which are going to completely destabilise this system,” insisted producer Saïd Ben Saïd (SBS Films). “We must make it understood that a whole section of auteur cinema (editor’s note: which includes all of the films recently awards at the major international festivals, from Audrey Diwan to Alice Diop, and including Julia Ducournau), is research and development,” underlined David Thion (Les Films Pelléas). “Our model has to evolve, but that doesn’t mean changing our goals,” added Philippe Carcassonne (ciné@ and producer of, among other titles, The Father [+see also:
interview: Florian Zeller
film profile]), who recalled the famous phrase from André Malraux (who created, among other things, the advance on receipts from the CNC): “Cinema is an art; furthermore, it is also an industry.”
Public authorities, from the CNC to the Culture Ministry, who were invited but absent (as was the FNCF – National Federation of French Cinemas, while the AFCAE - French Association for Arthouse Cinemas was represented) were at the heart of the debates. A reminder of the cultural essence of their mission was pronounced. “It is important to make this institution, which has long been our friend, understand that we need its protection,” summed up the director of photography Yves Cape.
The strategic choices of public authorities combine a reinforcement of France’s attractiveness for international shoots (via tax credit), a desire to bring forward “national champions” (described as an “obsession” and a “logic that favours industrialisation and goes against creation” by Élizabeth Perez - Chaz Productions) and a vision of the future where investments would favour large groups and the metaverse (through the France 2030 plan). As such, they clash with the current situation of independent auteur cinema, which has been impacted at every level by the consequences of the pandemic (lower ticket sales, distributors severely weakened, production financing increasingly complex, etc). “We are not safe from a collapse in production and distribution,” warned director Marine Francen, at a moment when “the diversity of creation has never been so extraordinary” noted distributor Grégory Gajos (Ad Vitam). He also insisted on the fact that “this wealth of talent is the result of a political will, a belief in and defence of creation that goes back decades, a state of mind that must not be erased by the culture of innovation.”
A swan song, or the birth of a nation? The Call for Estates General of French Cinema has produced a more than alarming report on French auteur cinema, but it also clearly answered to a need for collective gathering which could make major waves if this movement channels its grievances. The ball is now in the court of public authorities.
(Translated from French)
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