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Europe's filmmakers write to Commissioner Thierry Breton


- The letter calls on the European Commissioner for Internal Market to regulate the tech giants; the signatories include Pedro Almodovar, Luc Dardenne, Costa Gavras and Cristian Mungiu

Europe's filmmakers write to Commissioner Thierry Breton
Directors Pedro Almodovar, Luc Dardenne and Costa Gavras

(Cineuropa publishes the complete letter sent to Commissioner Thierry Breton.)

“Dear Commissioner Breton,

We are European filmmakers and, like you, it is clear to us that after this global health crisis, Europe has a date with history. What will remain of Europe’s culture if it fails to catch up with non-European digital giants? We refuse to take the risk of being reduced to a colony, and maintain that Europe will not survive without its culture, as it is defined less by its geography than by the community of cultures which unites its peoples.

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America understood these cultural and economic stakes when it imposed its films on other countries with the Marshall Plan. But today, the GAFAN companies have grown a thousand times more powerful. And the national lockdowns have allowed them to become wealthier than ever, as other nations and their industries collapsed.

But European states, through their solidarity, can still control this growth, with courage and with their citizens’ support. The pandemic will have enabled European nations to realize the danger posed by a loss of autonomy and to understand the need for cultural sovereignty. And they also understood that by avoiding taxes, the GAFAN companies contributed very little to the funding of hospitals, education and all the vital apparatuses of European democracies. Because of this, European nations are prepared to offer their support.

As for courage, the duties the representatives of European states must fulfil will require bravery. Navigating strict regulations, imposing appropriate sanctions for what is at stake, and maintaining diplomatic power relations will be no easy task, but it is nevertheless essential. You have suggested that you were ready to assume those vital further steps so that we can continue telling our stories to our own people and to other nations. Original, unexpected stories, unique dramaturgies, and creative prototypes straying from the narrow paths set by platforms and their big data analytics.

Surrendering now means opening the way to “Big Brothers” and accepting the insidious disappearance of European culture in favour of permanent distraction, reducing citizens to mere consumers. This cultural destruction will leave European minds colonized and allow digital giants, whether Chinese or American, thanks to “Soft power”, to freely expand in other fields.

And without “spirit”, what is Europe worth? Jean Cocteau once said “Ta différence, cultive-là, c’est toi” (“Cultivate your difference, for you are your difference”). Europe owes its difference to the variety of its cultures.

As you suggested by referring to “a naïve Europe” we can’t get something for nothing. In 1990, Europe had to make brave decisions in order to implement cultural exception, which has since been enacted by 183 countries. Like South Korea that has had to fight to impose quotas protecting its filmmakers. But the movie Parasite’s worldwide success makes it a formidable ambassador for its country’s cultural power.

Commissioner, we have heard, and we appreciate the strong message you sent to the CEO of Facebook. But we more believe in combined forces than in verticality, even if virtuous. It is why we, as European filmmakers, field citizens, are asking to meet with you and invent together innovative, daring and concrete solutions to enable European films and culture to lead the way to a bright future.”

The signatories:

Pedro Almodovar
Cristina Comencini
Luc Dardenne
Costa Gavras
Hugo Gelin
Jeanne Herry
Pierre Jolivet
Kamen Kalev
Claude Lelouch
Radu Mihaileanu
Cristian Mungiu
Olivier Nakache
Eric Toledano

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