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"Culture is becoming a political subject"

Industry Report: Market Trends

Rima Abdul-Malak • French Minister of Culture


CANNES 2023: The French Minister of Culture discussed the film industry and the challenges it is currently facing

Rima Abdul-Malak  • French Minister of Culture
French Minister of Culture Rima Abdul-Malak at Cannes on 20 May (© CNC)

We met up with French Minister of Culture Rima Abdul-Malak at the Cannes Film Festival to talk about the film industry and the challenges it is facing – in particular, diversity, allegations of sexism and the subsidy cuts as decided by politicians, as well as initiatives such as the Grande Fabrique de l’image (lit. “The Great Image Factory”).

Cineuropa: At Cannes, you announced the list of Grande Fabrique de l'image winners. How would you respond to people who criticise this solely industry-based approach to providing state support for the development of the sector by 2030?
Rima Abdul-Malak: I would say that the Grande Fabrique de l'image also includes a strand for the support of training, with 34 bodies receiving aid. New talents will be trained up in schools open to social diversity. I really believe in providing support for content diversity nice and early. Just like when we support films to be shown in cinemas, it’s our way of helping with research and development. The Grande Fabrique is a project that’s simultaneously industrial and cultural: many of these studios will be close to training institutions. France lacks organisations to host shoots, but it also needs to nurture its young talents and stop them from fleeing to the USA, which is what’s happened with animation! Yesterday, I met Ramata Toulaye-Sy, the director of Banel & Adama [+see also:
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interview: Ramata-Toulaye Sy
film profile
, a competition film, as well as students from the CinéFabrique. They are young and display a huge amount talent and creativity.

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How can diversity be promoted in France’s film and audiovisual sectors today?
I am not in favour of quotas or an ethnic-based approach, which would be overly reductive. I have Arab and Lebanese roots, and I don’t want to be defined by that and that alone. Our identities are far more wide-ranging. France has historically taken a social approach, rather than an ethnic one. In my opinion, diversity is also a geographical and social matter. That’s why, for example, the training projects supported as part of La Grande Fabrique de l'image take in a dozen different regions of France.

What is your reaction to the allegations of sexism and sexual violence in film in several recent opinion columns and articles?
I prefer to look at how far we’ve come, rather than caricature specific situations, and most importantly, I refuse to stand in for the justice system. The #MeToo movement began in cinema: this industry has been able to reinvent itself in France. Now there are training courses at the CNC and an equality bonus, even though there’s still a long way to go. And I also think that films help to raise awareness of certain debates in society: the success of The Night of the 12th [+see also:
film review
interview: Dominik Moll
film profile
had the power to change people’s mindset about the daily cases of femicide. It’s a more powerful form of leverage than newspaper columns or testimonies. Cinema has the power to change people’s mentalities, and new stories that lead to progress in society are taking their place.

What is your reaction to the lower subsidies for the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival (€110,000), decided on recently by Laurent Wauquiez?
Laurent Wauquiez has already abolished subsidies for several cultural initiatives in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. We must join forces to fight back against this type of decision. As for the short-film festival in question, next week, I am due to meet the local councillors in the city of Clermont-Ferrand. In this particular case, it’s impossible to sit idly by and do nothing for this festival, which is truly successful. More broadly speaking, today in France, culture is becoming a political subject. We can’t forget that the far right in the country is an enemy of culture. The National Rally is taking aim at art exhibitions, and their MPs in the parliament have suggested that the CNC’s support be reserved for films that promote the history of France, like Joan of Arc and Napoleon...

How are you progressing with the negotiations on the changes to the media timeline?
I believe that the current timeline could be shortened. Last October, we began a new discussion, earlier than the planned annual revision clause. But the government is merely a mediator between the different professionals, and we need to get them to agree. We wish to maintain the movie theatres while also taking into account Canal+, which is a huge contributor to French cinema. We are working on shortening the second circulation window, which could change from four to three months. Thanks to Adopi and the CSA’s merger into Arcom [the Regulatory Authority for Audiovisual and Digital Communication], we have already managed to halve piracy in France, which is reassuring. Another example is that the new film by Scorsese, presented at Cannes, is funded by Apple, but it will be released in French theatres. Let’s stay positive: it means that the platforms have realised the value of showing movies in the dark rooms.

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(Translated from French)

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