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Ignasi Guardans • ICAA director general

To a large extent, the future of European cinema rests on the digitisation of theatres

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Ignasi Guardans  • ICAA director general

After the major turmoil of November, when Brussels blocked film funding (see news), calm has returned thanks to the ratification issued a few days ago by the European Commission (see news). With this difficult matter drawn to a close, ICAA director general Ignasi Guardans spoke to Cineuropa about the importance of co-productions and the future challenges facing European and Spanish cinema. The interview took place in Rome, where the meeting 'The Future of European Cinema. Italy-Spain' was held on February 3.

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Charlemagne Youth Prize

Cineuropa: What is the main challenge facing European and Spanish cinema today?
Ignasi Guardans: Above all else, the digitisaton of theatres. Because if we don’t get it right we’re going to drive out all independent and some European films from our theatres, for if the process is funded by US majors alone they will dictate the programming.
Moreover, there are thousands of theatres in Europe and hundreds in Spain that won’t have the means to go digital. This requires public measures, not necessarily subsidies, but also help in gaining access to credit. In Spain, we’ve not really woken up to this issue. And, either we all get on with it, or in Spain hundreds of movie theatres will close before long. Sooner or later, there will be a cinematic blackout.

What changes will digitisation bring to the Spanish film industry?
Digitisation involves a complete change of model. It totally changes the distribution chain. It reduces the cost of distribution and may lead to distributors becoming sales agents. If there is satellite distribution, there could be an almost direct relationship between producers and exhibitors. This has huge advantages, such as making it possible to provide the subtitled and original version, offer much higher quality and transform every movie theatre into a centre of cultural dissemination. We’re moving towards a total change of model and at the ICAA we’ll try to lead the way. But the Ministry of Culture won’t achieve this alone. It’s rather like the climate change of the film world: it’s everyone’s responsibility.

How important are co-productions for European cinema in general and Spanish cinema in particular?
European film culture is all the stronger for the fact that its different, composite film industries are strong. We must make an effort to get to know our neighbours’ films better and, in some cases, work together without always turning our backs on each other.

Some producers talk about the difficulty of putting together coherent and organic co-productions with other European countries. What is your opinion on this?
It’s true that co-productions must be natural. I don’t believe in co-productions where you end up hiring two actors from another country in order to gain access to its funding, or shooting a few shots there, forcing the script to fit. But we’re closing our eyes to reality if we think there is no common ground between Spain and other European countries. Our problems are exactly the same. What we need is creativity and a firm legal framework.

In what way must we improve the circulation of European films?
The lack of circulation of European film is one of its most serious problems, because it leads to a profound ignorance of foreign cultures and greatly limits the market’s potential. Co-productions ease this problem a little because they involve two countries and this facilitates their entry onto both markets, but we need state policies that promote this distribution.
We’ve reached an unusual situation. Pretty much across Europe, people consume either global US films or highly local films. In the middle, there’s nothing, just various difficulties in gaining access to our European neighbours’ films. For those of us who believe in Europe and the need for exchange, this is a bad thing.

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