Viggo Mortensen Slams Argentine President in Film Funds Controversy

Courtesy of Mar del Plata Film Festival

"All you neo-liberal braggarts: Quit the bulls—t. Say no to the destruction of Argentine cinema," said the actor, who grew up in the country.

Viggo Mortensen has become embroiled in a spat with the Argentine government after slamming President Mauricio Macri and the culture minister for their alleged intention to cut down public funding for the country's heavily subsidized film industry.

Mortensen, who grew up in Argentina, recorded a video rant attacking the planned cuts."State funding for films in countries like Argentina or France are unique and successful examples of cultural promotion, admired around the world. Argentine cinema finances itself and makes the country proud. So, Macri and Avelluto, and all you neo-liberal braggarts: Quit the bulls—t. Say no to the destruction of Argentine cinema," said the actor in the video.  

 

Tweeted on Wednesday by the Argentine Actors Guild, the video was yet another episode in an ongoing political dispute between the local film industry and the government, triggered by the decision to fire the president of the Argentine film institute, Alejandro Cacetta, after a controversial and misleading media report was aired last week in the show Animales Sueltos, accusing Cacetta and other film officials of corruption. 

Both the TV report and the subsequent decision to fire Cacetta caused a revolt within the industry, resulting in a huge rally held at the Gaumont theater in Buenos Aires where actors, producers, directors and other film professionals stood by Cacetta and other officials and accused the government of staging the media blitz to justify a reform on the public funding system, in order to relieve big media companies from the fees they are required to pay, which feed around 60 percent of the country's Film Promotion Fund. 

"We can't rule out that this may be a new attack from people who believe national cinema is just another merchandise that shouldn't be supported by the State, and seek to disable its legitimate funding mechanisms," said a statement released by the newly formed Audiovisual Assembly, which gathers most film professional associations. 

Cacetta's defense included statements from Oscar-winning directors Luis Puenzo (The Official Story) and Juan Jose Campanella (The Secret In Their Eyes), as well as Argentine Film Academy president and producer Axel Kuschevatzky (The Clan) and the country's main star Ricardo Darin (Wild Tales, The Summit).

The surprisingly unified reaction of the industry defending Cacetta and demanding Avelluto's resignation forced a response from both the minister and the country's chief of staff Marcos Pena, denying any intention of reducing government film funds and stating their ultimate goal was making the film institute's finances more transparent.  

"The Minister of Culture states there is no intention, neither in this or any Ministry, nor the President's office, to modify the film industry's funding. Its financing and funds are secure," read a statement issued by the minister Tuesday at the Federal Culture Council.

Avelluto was nevertheless summoned by the Senate to explain the conflict, while film professionals remain vigilant about a potential Digital Convergence Law that allegedly could change the legal status of media companies to free them from the tax.

The turmoil also reached the opening night of the Buenos Aires film festival (BAFICI) which was held Wednesday night at the Gaumont cinema, where the Audiovisual Assembly held a huge rally outside the theater. 

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