Left-wing political appointee takes over from Sarkozy-backed Eric Garandeau.
Former socialist minister Fréderique Bredin is to replace Eric Garandeau as president of France’s powerful film financing body, the National Cinema Centre (CNC).
Rumours that Garandeau, a former political advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy, was on the verge of being replaced have been rife ever since the latter lost the French presidency in May 2012 to socialist candidate François Hollande.
CNC chiefs rarely outlive the governments that appointed them so Garandeau’s departure comes as little surprise.
French newspaper Le Figaro reported that relations been Garandeau and socialist French Culture and Communications Minister Aurélie Filippetti, who was instrumental in Bredin’s appointment, were not warm.
“I send my warmest thanks from the bottom of my heart to all the staff of the CNC, as well as to film-makers and professionals for their confidence and I salute their friendship. I send my successor my best wishes,” said Garandeau as news of Bredin’s appointment was announced.
He listed the digitisation of nearly every cinema in France, the restoration of some 230 major films, the launch of Le jour le plus court short film day and the creation of the World Cinema Fund among the major CNC achievements during his tenure.
In recent weeks, Garandeau has also been at the forefront of France’s fight for a cultural exception for audio-visual industries in free trade talks that are due to kick off between Europe and the US.
His detractors, meanwhile, said his forthright approach sometimes undermined the causes he was trying to defend.
Garandeau’s continuing support for Sarkozy and a possible comeback attempt in presidential elections in 2017 is also unlikely to have done him any favours in terms of retaining his CNC job.
Bredin, 56, will take up the post of CNC head on July 15.
Like Garandeau, she is a qualified tax inspector and former student of France’s famed National School of Administration (ENA) - graduating the same year as Hollande and his former partner Ségolène Royal.
Earlier in her career, Bredin worked in the cabinet of Culture Minister Jack Lang, focusing on cinema policy.
In the late 1980s, she was an advisor in the cabinet of President François Mitterrand, looking after cultural policy, a sector dear to the late statesman’s heart. She held the post of minister of youth and sports from 1991-93.
In 2000, Bredin withdrew from political life to take up the position of managing director of media group Lagardere Active, the owner of top French media brands such as Elle, Paris Match and Europe 1.
Leaving the company in 2009, she set up her own production house FB Production in 2010, and also returned to her original profession of tax inspector.
Focused mainly on current affairs, FB’s works include a 2011 documentary on the history of French presidential campaigns La folle histoire des présidentielles, which aired on state broadcaster France 3.
Bredin takes up the position of CNC chief at a turbulent time for the French film industry.
Key issues currently on the table include the ongoing dispute between French producers and technicians’ unions over a collective labour agreement and the European Union’s current examination of state film subsidies across Europe to see whether they contravene competition laws.
Funded through a tax on cinema tickets and obligatory contributions from broadcasters, the CNC has an annual budget of roughly €700m ($910m). Earlier this year, however, the government siphoned off some €150m ($200m) to help with efforts to rein-in France’s public debt.
Technocrats at the French Finance Ministry and a handful of deputies are rumoured to be lobbying for a cap on the CNC budget at around €500m ($650m), regardless of how much the mechanisms financing it raise.