Belgian spending up on French-language prods


BRUSSELS -- Belgium spent 19.8 million euros ($29 million) in subsidies on French-language audiovisual production last year, a shade higher than the 19.3 million  euros ($28.3 million) in 2006, according to a report from the Francophone Cinema and Audiovisual Center.

The report said that, out of the 386 submissions for funding, some 98 projects were subsidized, including 23 feature-length films. This compares to 356 submissions in 2006, when 117 projects funded -- 22 features.

Of the 81 films actually completed in 2007, 21 were features, 34 were shorts and 26 television programs. Among the 21 features, 12 were majority Belgian productions, four were co-productions with Wallimage (the agency in charge of audiovisual investment for the Walloon region in southern Belgium), three were co-produced with the Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF), 14 were co-produced with France and four with Eurimages (the Council of Europe fund for European films).

Significantly, 14 of the 21 features benefited from the tax shelter system, which allows foreigners tax breaks through co-productions with local producers who tap companies fiscally registered in Belgium.

The tax break is worth 150% of the amount invested, up to a ceiling of 750,000 euros ($1.1 million). The report said that the tax shelter had generated 85.3 million euros ($124.8 million) since its launch in 2002, representing roughly 12.5% of the cumulative production budget of 680 million euros ($995.3 million).

The top local French-speaking movie in 2007 was "Les Deux Mondes," with Benoit Poelvoorde, but that only reached sixth place in the top 15 Belgian films, a list dominated by Dutch-language productions.

Only five French-language films made the top 15, with "Odette Toulemonde" and another Poelvoorde movie, "Cowboy," also in the list.

But while just 30 films Belgian films were released last year in French, they won more than a hundred prizes at international festivals around the world, notably the Berlin-lauded co-production "Irina Palm."