Not only has Mexican film institute Imcine survived plans to axeit but it has also won the biggest budget allotment from the government in sixyears, according to Imcine director Alfredo Joskowicz.

The state-backed film financing entity was granted a 2004 budgetof nearly $14m (150m pesos), more than double last year's budget of 70m pesos." I think all the fuss over our possible demise made the lawmakers moresensitive to our plight," he said.

Imcine had asked for a 2004 budget allotment of 240m pesos whenthe government announced its plansto close Imcine as well as film school CCC and studios Churbusco Azteca inDecember. An uproar of dissent from home and abroad prompted the Mexican congressto scrap the proposal.

Now that the crisis is over, Imcine hopes to back a minimum of 25films this year. The new budget will be split between two nearly depleted filmfunds Fidecine (for mainstream productions) and Foprocine (for directorialdebuts and experimental films) with 70m pesos each. The additional 10m pesoswill be allotted for short films. "If you examine the statistics, Imcinehas backed 46% of the country's output every year," said Joskowicz. Imcinebacked 17 out of 29 features last year.

However, Imcine's battles are not over. Joskowicz plans tocontinue lobbying for tax incentives that would help stimulate privateinvestment as well as find new ways to promote and distribute Mexican cinemaabroad.

Of last year's output, Ladies Night, the first Mexican feature produced by DisneyLatin American label Miravista became the blockbuster of the year with twomillion admissions in seven weeks. The romantic comedy directed by GabriellaTagliavini now ranks sixth among the leading Mexican films of all time. The toptwo all-time local blockbusters, El Crimen Del Padre Amaro and Sex, Shame And Tears, were both Imcine-backed.