SANTIAGO — BancoEstado announced that it will no longer finance national films due to the new austerity measures being put forth by the government. This decision was immediately condemned by the Chilean entertainment industry and various politicians.
On July 2 the Chilean Association of Producers for Film and Television announced that BancoEstado will close its Chilean film program after 14 years of funding national audiovisual projects. According to the bank this measure was ordered directly from the Treasury Department as a way to cut back on spending. This resulted in an immediate backlash from the entertainment industry, with some critics accusing the government of cutting the program due to the nature of the movies that they have funded.
This news comes as a hard blow to the Chilean entertainment industry, especially considering that earlier this year it managed to win the Oscar for best foreign movie, with the critically acclaimed “A Fantastic Woman,” a film that was funded with the help of BancoEstado, just like the “Bear Story,” which won the Oscar for best animated short film at the 2016 Academy Awards.
In fact, Chile’s first official Oscar nomination came from Pablo Larraín’s “No,” which was nominated in 2013, a film that came together thanks to the now-gutted program, as well as many notable films like “Gloria,” “Machuca,” and “Neruda.”
Earlier this week Alfonso De Urresti, vice president of the Senate, led a coalition of senators from across the political spectrum in an effort to try to reverse the decision. The vote is scheduled for September, when the annual budget is discussed in Congress.
The Role of BancoEstado in Chile’s Film Industry.
The Chilean audiovisual industry has always been lacking when compared with other Latin American countries. While we do have more of an industry than Peru and Bolivia, we are still dwarfed by the Argentinian and Brazilian industries, each of which releases nearly twice the amount that Chile does.
In the time that it took for Chile to earn its first nomination, Argentina managed to cement itself with great films like “Nine Queens,” “The Secret in Their Eyes,” and “The Motorcycle Diaries.” Brazil decided to take another route and managed to dominate the TV market by creating great telenovelas like “Avenida Brasil,” ”Terra Nostra,” and “Xica da Silva,” as well as dabbling in some films like the critically acclaimed, “City of God.”
The Chilean film industry was so nonexistent that Alejandro Jodorowsky, arguably one of Chile’s most celebrated artists, had to go to Mexico in order to create “El Topo,” one of his most memorable films. This changed in 2004 when BancoEstado opened its program, which helped fund many more movies.
Before the creation of this program the best option most filmmakers had was to go through FondArt, a government funded scholarship that had filmmakers going up against different art forms in order to win a quarter of what BancoEstado was offering.
Thanks to this film program, Chile went from releasing three movies in 2003 to an impressive 21 movies in 2005. It’s also thanks to these funds that new directors managed to make their first impressions on the Chilean audiences and the wider world. These filmmakers then went on to become staples of Chilean Cinema—people like Pablo Larraín, Matias Bize, and Sebastian Silva.
Reaction From The Chilean Entertainment Industry
Prominent figures in the Chilean entertainment industry have voiced their disagreement with the Bank’s actions. Pablo Larraín, for example, said that the most artless thing one can do is reject money for the arts.
Larraín banded together with “A Fantastic Woman” director Sebastian Leilo, notable actor, Alfredo Castro, the Chilean Association of Producers for Film and Televisión, the Actors’ Union, and the Audiovisual Federation.
Together they made a joint statement condemning the change and criticizing the government for cutting the cost of not only the BancoEstado program but to most of the funds that the government provides, like the National Television Council and the already mentioned FondArt, thus limiting the funding that national filmmakers will be able to gather, since most of the film productions depend on financing from the government due to the low number of audiovisual companies that exist in the country.
Diego Rivera is currently a senior in University, finishing up his audiovisual degree. You can find him on Twitter as @Piover45.