The move comes two and a half years after Costa Cavras was asked to head a commission to prepare the new law.

The Greek film industry is welcoming the newly revamped and actualised film law that was finally introduced and voted by the parliament at the start of the new year.

The move comes two and a half years after Costa Cavras was asked to head a commission to prepare the new law.

Notable points in the new legislation are financial incentives for private producers, especially those making art-house films; and a revamped tax return scheme where small local productions  grossing less than 50,000 admissions enjoy a  proportionally larger admission  tax return than larger-grossing films.

Also, small arthouse cinemas will enjoy a larger tax return than in the past. A part of the tax return will be channeled to the state-run Greek Film Centre (GFC).

The law also reconfirms the obligation for TV channels (terrestrial and cable, as well as mobile phone operators) to invest 1.5% of their gross income in film production. Private TV channels will hand out 1.5% of the gross income directly from advertisements (or they are able to offer a portion of the investment as free advertising space for local productions).

That measure was introduced in 1989 but was ignored by some channels. Now there will be sanctions for non compliance.

Other notable changes affecting the GFC and the subsidized Thessaloniki International Film Festival is the nomination of their board of directors directly by the culture minister. Representatives of cinema related trade unions will not any more participate in the management of those organisations as in the past. The GFC will have now a director general, plus four directors, among them, Hellas Film (promotion) and the Hellenic Film Commission.

An additional Thessaloniki Film Commission will operate in  the framework of TIFF. The festival will also get a director general plus four directors, notably one which oversees the organisation of the international film festival, the Greek non competitive event in November as well as the March documentary festival. Dimitri Eipides, who was named artistic director of those festivals in May 2010, is expected to be in charge of that direction. Some filmmakers want the Greek event to become competitive, but the current law doesn’t advocate that.

George Papalios, the current president of the GFC, is also expected to be reconfirmed in an important post in the new management structure of that organisation.

Papalios is close to the Film makers in the Mist (FOG), the  protest movement formed in mid 2009 by rising Greek talents.

FOG has been a key element in the lobbying for the implementation of the new legislation, advocating most of the changes introduced in the new law.  

The road to the implementation of the law and its final vote by parliament was long and bumpy. Various cinema related trade unions spearheaded by the president of the Film Directors Association (EES) offered opposition to the implementation of the law, likely because they would lose control over  the GCF and the TIFF.

Their participation in the governing bodies of those bodies as well as in the voting system of the annual cinema awards, had been charged with favoritism. That meant there were nounion representatives as directors of the organizations.

Local experts say the new legislation does have some holes, like abolishing the state-backed cinema awards, leaving only the Hellenic Film Academy prizes which have no cash prizes. Minister Pavlos Geroulanos left open the chance to reinstate the awards in the future.

Also, the law contains no provision to create a state-backed film school, nor any firm backing for the Greek Cinemateheque nor the International Short Film Festival Film in Drama.

In addition to past problems with implementation of new laws, the new film law also has to overcome the overall dire financial situation of the country. The government is extending its efforts to slash public spending and the culture ministry has already its overall budget reduced from last year’s $560m (Euros 430m) to $450m (Euros 350m) for this year. Further cuts could potentially hurt the GFC’s backing of film production.

The trade unions and some veteran directors have opposed the new law, while others have mostly welcomed the law, if suggesting further changes. Eipides said: “I consider the new film law is a positive step, especially for the new directors”.

Producer Thanos Anastopoulos, whose Amnesty by Bujar Alimani will have its world premiere at the Berlinale Forum, told Screen: “I judge the law in a positive way as it adopts the positions we had brought forward in the Fog movement”.

Meanwhile, despite the challenges at home, it’s been a strong year internationally for Greek film, thanks to films such as Dogtooth, Strella, Plato’s Academy, Attenberg (which is screening at Sundance later this month), and Wasted Youth (which will open Rotterdam).