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Heléna Demakova • Cannes 2005

Cineuropa met Heléna Demakova, the Latvian Minister of Culture

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Heléna Demakova • Cannes 2005

The Latvian Minister of Culture Heléna Demakova was among the 25 EU Cultural Ministers who took part in the Europe Day on the Croisette. She told Cineuropa her hopes for the Latvian film industry.

Cineuropa: Why are you in Cannes this year?
HD: I attended the Cultural Ministers Meeting organised for the third time in Cannes and initiated by Gilles Jacob. I met with all EU Ministers to discuss audiovisual and MEDIA policy and to work on the new MEDIA guidelines for 2007-2013. We discussed the framework of the new MEDIA Programme with EU Commissioner Viviane Reding, and on-line distribution. This is very important as it will create a wider and richer distribution of documentary works and specialised art-house films. One of the main proposals we made for the near future was to involve not only all Cultural Ministers but also the Ministers of Education in this event because film education is crucial and we need to create more film schools.

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How important was it for Latvia to join the European Union in May 2004?
As Minister of National State responsible for providing state benefits to local film production, the question is more how important are European films as an alternative to US films. I am the first Latvian Cultural Minister to have asked the government for an increase in our film budget, which grew by 40% in a year. We now have €2m per year. This is ‘peanuts’ but before we had almost nothing. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all the industry died. We are now in the process of restoring our film industry and infrastructure. But we do have excellent facilities, solid film education from the Soviet times, good photographers, sound engineers and our prices are moderate compared to other European countries.

What will be your future key priorities to help rebuild the Latvian film industry?
As a Minister from the Centre Right Party, I rely on film experts and the Head of the Film Centre actually sets the priorities and decided how to allocate money to film professionals. The cooperation with the other Baltic countries is essential, and the creation of Baltic Films in 2000 to have a common marketing umbrella was very important. I think that one key priority for the future should be to subtitle Latvian children’s films within the Baltic countries–animated and feature films-. There is a good tradition and market for children’s films here.

What about cinemas, do you intend to support cinema refurbishment and construction in Latvia?
Multiplexes are emerging and the other positive element is that exhibitors here grew up with our films and sometimes offer screen space for free. This is the case with Atis Amlins, a friend of mine and owner of a multiplex. I’m also in discussions with the City of Riga to create a non-profitable cinema. There is a former palace in perfect condition and I want to transform it to make it a screening place for world-wide cinema.

Would your government consider introducing tax incentives to attract foreign shootings in Latvia?
Personally I’m all in favour, but I’m the only one in our coalition unfortunately.

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