The president ofArgentina, Nestor Kirchner, announced a raft of government measures to supportthe local film industry yesterday at the Mar del Plata International FilmFestival.

In an emotivespeech delivered to an emphatically enthusiastic audience, in which heportrayed Argentinian cinema as a David locked in a heroic struggle withHollywood's Goliath, the popular president strongly linked the fortunesof the national film industry with that of his own government.

Kirchner, in Mardel Plata to present a life-time achievement award to director Fernando Solanasbefore a screening of the director's documentary A Social Genocide, praised the achievements of theArgentinian film industry. 'The international recognition our cinema hasattracted has given us hope that a better and fairer country can becreated,' he said. 'It has projected a model of what the countrycould be.' Kirchner added the government wished to establish 'acountry worth living in and a national cinema worth watching'.

Kirchneremphasised the role of the Argentinian film institute, INCAA, in'protecting our cinema from those foreign movies with big budgets andhuge promotional campaigns'. He described the standoff between localfilms and Hollywood as 'a struggle between David and Goliath whichrequires active public policies that offer stimulation and protection to thelocal industry.'

Kirchner said hewished to provide the state film body with the means to do this. He said thatmoney raised from the 10% state levy on cinema admissions, that had beenpocketed by the treasury from 1999 to 2001, would be reimbursed to the localfilm industry through INCAA.

Kirchner alsopromised to make the import of film stock exempt of customs duty and expresseda desire to 'unify our film legislation with that of Brazil in order tobring about cinematic and cultural integration' between the twocountries.

He also announcedthat, through an agreement between the ministry of education and INCAA, heintended to 'gradually incorporate the study of national cinema into ournational education' by making the study of Argentinian cinema a part ofevery school's curriculum, which he said he hoped would 'help builda sense of our national identity'.

He also revealedthat from April the government would fund the opening of cinemas devoted toscreening Argentinian cinema in Rome, Madrid, Paris and New York. In Augustfurther screens would be set up in Washington and a number of other capitalcities around the world.

He also said hewished 'to create a specific space in theatres for our films throughoutArgentina, establishing a genuine home for our cinema'. He stated that inorder to make this possible he would seek to ensure that there were cinemascreens showing local films within 50km of every Argentinian. These measuresmay include the implementation of screen quotas for both local films and thosefrom other Latin American countries, the minister of culture, Torcuato diTella, who was also in Mar del Plata, had revealed earlier.

He said heintended to 'introduce a model of cinema that is different toHollywood'. This, he said, may include the use of public libraries toprovide an alternative distribution network for local films 'so that wecan take our national cinema to all corners of the country'.

Jorge Coscia, headof INCAA, added that 'Argentinian cinema bears witness to the potentialof Argentinians when work and creativity are united in public policy. It is forthat reason that Argentinian cinema is a beacon of hope that shines the worldover.'