European Actors and Directors Set to Defend 'Cultural Exception'

Berenice Bejo will appear in Strasbourg June 11.
Berenice Bejo will appear in Strasbourg June 11.
 Getty Images

PARIS – A group of European industry heavy hitters announced Wednesday they will present a petition to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on June 11, just before the European Commission is set to decide if the traditional “cultural exception” should be included in EU–US trade talks.

Palme d’Or winning directors Costa Gavras (Missing) and Christian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) will appear with Oscar-nominated actress Berenice Bejo (The Artist) , Cesar-winning director Radu Mihaileanu (Va vis et deviens), as well as directors Lucas Belvaux (Afterlife) and Daniele Luchetti (Domani Accadra) to present the petition that has gathered over 6200 signatures so far.

STORY: European Parliament Wants TV, Movies Excluded From U.S. Trade Talks 

The petition calls for audiovisual and creative works to be exempt from consideration as “goods” and excluded from the negotiations, with special protections for creative output in place as the trade talks begin. 

It was the talk of the town in Cannes when Harvey Weinstein crashed a press conference headed up by French culture minister Aurelie Filippetti aimed at talking up the petition to throw his support behind the cultural exception. “The cultural exception encourages filmmakers to make films about their own culture. We need that more than ever,” he said, citing some countries moribund film industries and propensity to simply copy the American model at the expense of local creativity. “The most important thing is to preserve the environment of cultural films, because it’s good for business too.”

Cannes Jury President Steven Spielberg also added his support, calling the cultural exception “the best way to support diversity in filmmaking” during his closing ceremony remarks.

The petition's signatories are also a venerable who’s who of European cinema, with France’s Oscar-winner Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Austria’s Michael Haneke (Amour), Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt), Olivier Nakache (The Intouchables), Pedro Almodovar (Volver) Stephen Frears (The Queen), Mike Leigh (Vera Drake), and Ken Loach (The Angel's Share) adding their names.  Even New Zealand’s Jane Campion (The Piano) has signed on. 

The European Commission gave the green light in March to launch negotiations for a free trade agreement with the United States, including the audiovisual sector in the negotiating mandate.  However, under pressure from France and the governments of other member states, the European Parliament voted May 23 to uphold the exception. That vote is non-binding, and has yet to be adopted.  The Commission is expected to make a final decision June 14.

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