Luis Puenzo

Source: Screen file

Luis Puenzo

Argentina is expected to send a slimmed-down official presence to the Cannes Marché next month as uncertainty reigns in the wake of the sacking last week of INCAA (National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts) president Luis Puenzo.

Screen understands a delegation of approximately four people will arrive on the Croisette as officials scramble to prepare a schedule and expect to field inquiries from attending local filmmakers and international partners about the country’s national film body. On top of the Puenzo siuation INCAA faces losing a significant portion of its annual funding at the end of the year.

INCAA vice-president Nicolas Battle has temporarily assumed the reins after Argentinian president Alberto Fernandez and culture minister Tristan Bauer took the unusual step of dismissing Puenzo directly on April 12 following protests earlier that day outside INCAA headquarters in Buenos Aires.

Argentinian filmmakers took to the streets to complain that Puenzo had not made progress on four points of concern since his appointment as INCAA president in December 2019.

Chief among them is legislation pushed through under the previous national administration of Mauricio Macri that set a December 31 deadline to eliminate a key source of INCAA’s allocations to filmmakers: a portion of TV and cable advertising sales channelled through Argentina’s communications and media regulator Enacom.

The film community had hoped Puenzo, whose directing credits include 1986 original screenplay Oscar nominee The Official Story (shared with Aida Bortnik) and Albert Camus adaptation The Plague, would offer a lifeline by pushing back the deadline.

Without this vital funding channel INCAA would need to request money from the national government each year alongside every other body working in the arts; a situation without guarantees that will hit independent filmmakers without easy access to financing particularly hard.

INCAA still allocates funding via an annual 10% contribution from ticket sales, however the risk is that avenue becomes less significant as streamers challenge the primacy of cinema-going.

One prominent Argentinian filmmaker who spoke to Screen said they were hopeful that even without Puenzo at the helm, a significant level of cross-party support for arts funding would prompt politicians to lobby the government to push back the deadline.

Filmmakers who protested outside INCAA last week were upset over what they saw as lack of progress on three other areas: pressing streamers to contribute a portion of their income towards INCAA’s annual allocation; cutting red tape and the number of officials at the film body; and establishing a way for INCAA to provide production support.