On January 4, cultural policy experts criticized the structure of the Fiscal Stimulus for Investment Projects in National Film Production and Distribution (Eficine), as well as the official statements in which it was mentioned that the resource allocated to the cinema was 900 million pesos (MDP) last year (700 million pesos come from Eficine, whose resource does not come from the federation’s budget, but from a model in which companies allocate their tax payment, 10% of the ISR, to a film project).
Another criticized point was that, regardless of the artistic value of the participating projects, If they do not have a company whose fiscal situation is in order, they will not be able to access the support or they will receive less money.
The award-winning filmmaker with several awards from the Mexican Academy of Cinematographic Arts and Sciences and director of the Mexican Institute of Cinematography (Imcine), María Novaro, now responds to criticism.
—For analysts of the Collective Movement for Culture and Art in Mexico, Eficine’s structure is difficult for independent filmmakers. Have you thought about making it more accessible?
—Two years ago changes were made to the Eficine. Since then, he has applied twice as many projects. We established a first stage of cinematographic evaluation (projects compete on their merits, without the need for a contributor, which is a company that dedicates 10% of its taxes to a film project). In this first stage there is an evaluating council that analyzes the artistic quality and the feasibility of production; later, the projects can already participate hand in hand with contributing companies. The second stage is the fiscal evaluation of the contributing companies. There are many people who do not have projects or are applying and have not realized the changes that are taking place in Eficine.
—It has been criticized that of the 900 million pesos earmarked for cinema, 700 come from the Treasury and not from the Federation Expenditure Budget.
There is a confusion in some people. Eficine is a State instrument, managed by Imcine together with the Ministry of Finance, Culture and the SAT. That’s where I thought I read that the Eficine’s money is not from the State; of course it is, It comes from the Treasury in expenditures, it is money that the State renounces receiving through taxes and authorizes taxpayers to give directly to film projects. All the money comes from the Treasury; they pass it through Imcine as an instrument to carry out and follow up on the calls. On the one hand, the Treasury contributes money to the Program for the Promotion of Mexican Cinema (Focine) and also allocates money to the Eficine, only that part comes from revenue from the Treasury and another from expenses. The 900 million pesos are managed by Imcine and come from the Treasury, like all public money.
—It’s 15 years of Eficine, shouldn’t that ceiling of 20 million pesos that each film can access be readjusted and encourage more ambitious or better produced films?
—The State does not produce the films, it is a support for them to consolidate their financial scheme. Thanks to Eficine, Mexico went from producing five or six films a year to 259; 56% of this cinema was made with state support. It is an encouragement, a support. There are no films financed 100% with public money, just as there were with the Banco Cinematográfico in the 70s. In some times, the State paid 100% for the films; that was not the scheme of Eficine, designed to be a support that allows the consolidation of the films.
—What do you think that Luis Estrada asked the Eficine for 20 MDP for his film “¡Qué viva México!” and only 2 MDP were authorized?
—Luis Estrada presented his project three times to Eficine. In the first, it was recommended by the evaluating councils, which are people from the film community, whose names are raffled by a notary public and serve for a single period. Imcine organizes the evaluation sessions, but does not participate with voice or vote. The councils make the decisions. Estrada was going to apply with four or five contributing companies. The one that was going to contribute more money did not pass the fiscal evaluation. So, Luis and his project could receive the contribution from the other taxpayers, which was less than the 20 million pesos he requested. He declined and preferred to apply a second time. A different board considered his film viable and valuable. He reapplied with taxpayers, with the bad luck that once again there was a taxpayer or two who were also not in order with the Treasury; he was authorized to receive an amount less than requested, and again declined. He participated a third time with a different production plan and budget. A third council commented on his budget and his shooting schedule, and considered that he was unauthorized. From the third time he introduced it he was already associated with Netflix; he himself has said that he decided to produce it that way because Netflix movies have higher budgets. Such were his decisions. The censorship issue is already very far-fetched because at no time did anyone, in any way and under any circumstances, exercise censorship.
—What do you think about Guillermo del Toro offering to pay for the manufacture of the Ariel Award statuettes?
—From the Ministry of Culture we have paid for the statuettes year after year. Imcine paid them by the ancestor; the past, Cineteca. It has never stopped paying. If he wants to pay them, go ahead.
What do you think prompted him to say that?
—Well, what? it is far away and he was misinformed. Hopefully I have the opportunity (I already raised it) to report it correctly. I understand that many people are misinformed. Suddenly the opinions are from people who do not apply, do not understand, do not know and do not produce. It is difficult for them to understand how the mechanisms work. Eficine is a breeding ground for good films, such as “A police movie”, “Night of fire” or “I’m not here anymore”.
—Are there productions that have received Eficine and are canned?
I would approach it another way: there are many Mexican films that are not shown in movie theaters. Putting aside the pandemic, which affected the exhibition, the big chains are only required, by law, to dedicate 10% of their screens to Mexican cinema. The T-MEC was renegotiated one day before the inauguration of this administration; they left it sealed. Countries like France or Canada did negotiate their cinematography as an exception; Mexico did not.
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