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For Argentine culture under Milei, the fear of bad films

Photo: Luis Robayo Agence France-Presse “Our cinema is our identity”, we can read on a poster of an Argentinian protester who denounced budget cuts in cinema.

Tomás Viola – Agence France-Presse in Buenos Aires

Published at 6:30 p.m.

  • Americas

“Delirium”, “danger”, “edge of the precipice”… From the actor Ricardo Darin to the virtuoso pianist Martha Argerich, all that Argentina has of artists or cultural referents, supported by a host of peers at the foreigner, sounds the alarm for a culture that the ultraliberal Milei government intends, at best, to “audit”.

Please no longer send any projects to the National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts for three months: the INCAA, which co-finances around ten films per year, will no longer examine anything, decreed its administrator appointed by the government, the time to study “new standards for regulating audiovisual promotion with the objective of adapting to today's world”.

Music, books, and especially cinema, watch with concern the “chainsaw” movements by which the president for four months has intended to dry up public spending to a “zero [budgetary] deficit”, and finally tame pathological inflation ( 288% interannual).

Cinema activity is almost at a standstill, tells AFP Paula Orlando, a 31-year-old independent producer who has been in the sector for 12 years – and who is awaiting payment from the INCAA. She is now considering “leaving the country to work in the audiovisual sector, because the prospects in Argentina are slim.”

The blow came close in January, with the “Omnibus law”, a legislative mega-project which envisaged an overhaul of the INCAA and its financing. And also “liberated” the book sector, repealing a law that protects small booksellers. Parliament ultimately rejected the Omnibus Law, a new version of which is in the works.

Cinema versus food ?

But the INCAA ($12 million budget, reduced from nearly 700 to 550 positions) remains in the sights: a recent decree provides for other non-renewals, size in operating costs , subsidies to provinces, festivals, etc.

These pruning hooks come against a backdrop of sporadic toxic exchanges between Javier Milei and the artistic world. Vitriolic tweets against Lali Esposito, a Latin pop star “subsidized” for singing at provincial festivals receiving subsidies. Or protests against “financing films that no one goes to see […] instead of using this money to feed people.”

Arguments that make Ricardo Darin jump, head of an Argentine cinema which is the most awarded in Latin America with notably two Oscars for best foreign film, The official story (1985) and In Her Eyes (2009).

“Believing that the horrible things in our country for decades, the erosion of education, of formal work, the number of people in poverty, have something to do with […] artistic sector is crazy. Quite simply,” he said in March, presenting Rest in Peace, a feature film that he is producing.

Luis Sanjurjo, former Director of Culture in the previous government, and holder of the Cultural Policies chair at the University of Buenos Aires, considers that the cultural industry generates more than 300,000 formal jobs.

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Foreign artists in solidarity

“The great illusion is to think that the market replaces the State” when it comes to culture, he told AFP.

Added to this is the backdrop of the recession, of purchasing power which melts endlessly, between inflation and the brutal devaluation (50%) of the peso in December. When costs force sacrifices, it’s culture that jumps first.

One week before the International Book Fair in Buenos Aires – where Milei will present a new book, his 18th – the president of the Argentine Book Chamber, Martin Gremmelspacher, assures AFP that in February, as in January, the book sales fell 30% from last year.

Abroad, these anxieties are relayed: in January the platform of a host of actors and directors (Kaurismaki, Almodovar, Huppert), in March again the (French) Society of Film Directors spoke of an Argentinian cinema “on the edge of the precipice”. And there is hardly a festival that does not express “a thought for Argentine cinema”, as Thierry Frémaux, general delegate of the Cannes festival, recently presented the 2024 selection.

Again on Friday, from Mexico where she is preparing to receive a Platino honorary prize for Ibero-American cinema, Cecilia Roth, Almodovar's favorite Argentine actress, launched “a call for help”. “They are dismantling everything related to culture in general and cinema in particular,” establishing the idea that “we are parasites of the State.”

At the beginning of the month, reacting to the “suspension”, officially due to “administrative transition” of scholarships in her name for young musicians, pianist Martha Argerich, 82, recalled that she herself , young, had received “fundamental” public assistance in his development. “If the State does not support and contribute to culture, the future is truly dangerous.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116