A report commissioned by the foreign affairs ministry has sent shockwaves through the French film industry since it was first leaked to French daily Le Figaro last week.
The report, commissioned in October 2007 and handled by theMedia Consulting Group, examined Unifrance's missions over the period of 2005-2007 and found that the group, which promotes the export of French film around the world, must improve its strategy and governance.
Unifrance's major activities include showcasing French film via various events from Mexico to Beijing. The group also has a presence at most international film festivals and markets.
Media Consulting's report, however, found that Unifrance does not sufficiently support French cinema in territories where 'it is the most threatened and where it has strong potential Without balance sheets and sufficient figures the true efficiency' of Unifrance's actions 'in terms of admissions and growing box office for the totality of French films can not be attested to,' wrote the consultants.
Unifrance president Margaret Menegoz told ScreenDaily.com that Unifrance is currently 'fighting to get our point of view across.'
In response to the report, Unifrance has addressed a document titled 'Errors and Omissions' to the foreign affairs ministry which, according to excerpts published in French daily Le Monde, calls the report biased and notes that it was written by 'inept reporters who only traveled to Mexico and Russia' to evaluate Unifrance's missions.
Menegoz stressed that the report's claims that Unifrance does not mobilise French talent to travel were false. One need only look at the fact that 'Sophie Marceau was just in Tokyo with us and Catherine Deneuve is currently in Australia with Unifrance,' to see the inaccuracy of the report's findings.
Support within the industry has been stalwart. The exporters' association, ADEF; the authors, directors and producers association ARP and the various unions have come out to express their solidarity.
Asked whether there would be any major changes inside Unifrance in response to the report, Menegoz said she didn't think so. The 2008 budget has already been committed to with sums locked in for investment in 19 foreign countries. The annual budget of Unifrance is $14.7m (Euros 9.5m) with only 1.3m (Euros 850,000) of that coming from the foreign affairs ministry.
Some changes that will occur are the departure of Menegoz, who also runs production, sales and distribution company Les Films de Losange. She will not attempt to renew her tenure as president in June.
But, she says, the decision has nothing to do with recent events. Because the president of Unifrance must also be a producer, she explains, 'You can't ask someone to totally devote themselves forever,' to the job. 'All of my colleagues are in the same boat. The president really needs to either be someone who has slowed down their own producing activities or someone who's just not really producing. At the moment, no one is really that enthusiastic.'
Le Figaro said it was expected that Unifrance managing director Marc Piton is expected to depart - he is currently on sick leave - and pointed to both producer Antoine de Clermont-Tonnere and former Canal Plus chief Pierre Lescure as possible replacements. Both have dismissed the story.