India, Canada Sign Co-Production Treaty

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan at the 2011 International Indian Film Academy Awards held in Toronto.

The treaty is expected to open India to Canadian filmmakers, while benefitting Indian producers with some of Canada's financial assistance and tax concessions.

India and Canada have signed an audio-visual co-production agreement that will enable film producers to tap into various incentives and tax breaks offered by both governments. The agreement was signed in New Delhi Monday during the ongoing state visit to India of Canada Governor General David Johnston and his delegation.

“I was pleased to witness the signing of the audio-visual co-production agreement, which will deepen the level of engagement between our respective audio-visual sectors,” Johnston said in a statement, adding, “in doing so, the agreement promises to bring cultural and economic benefits to Canadians and Indians -- while entertaining and inspiring audiences worldwide.”

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The signing ceremony was headed by Indian Information and Broadcasting Ministry Secretary Bimal Julka and Canada's high commissioner to India Stewart Beck. This is the latest agreement India has signed following similar pacts with Poland, Spain, New Zealand, France, Brazil, Germany, the U.K. and Italy.

The Canadian delegation will also visit Mumbai where a roundtable discussion is planned on March 1 at the state government-run Film City complex, a major hub for film and television production. The roundtable will include various stakeholders, including representatives of leading Indian film banners.

According to a statement from India's I&B Ministry, “benefits accruing from such agreements include government financial assistance, tax concessions and inclusion in domestic television broadcast quotas. ”

The agreement is also expected to boost India as a shooting location for foreign productions, while boosting exports of Indian films to Canada, which is already a major market for the industry because of the huge diaspora audience.

Other benefits of the treaty include co-productions being treated as national films, such that they are eligible for the government's National Film Awards and the Indian Panorama section of the International Film Festival of India, held annually in Goa. Co-productions can also tap the Indian distribution network, potentially widening the market for Canadian films here.

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The treaty could also be useful to promote documentary co-productions, given the recent interactions between the Indian Documentary Foundation and Documentary Organization of Canada at the Mumbai International Film Festival this February. MIFF saw a strong Canadian presence with filmmaker Mark Achbar (Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media) serving as jury president. The festival included tributes to the late Canadian documentary filmmaker Peter Wintonick and  Grierson Documentaries. Canadian director Dylan Mohan Gray won an award for his documentary Fire in the Blood, which examines how pharmaceutical majors are blocking the manufacture of low-cost drugs for the treatment of HIV-AIDS in poor countries.

“This treaty will solidify the long standing friendship and partnership between Canadian and Indian documentary, and enable Indian filmmakers to benefit from the depth of skills and expertise in the Canadian industry,” said IDF executive director Sophy Sivaraman.
“This new co-production treaty between Canada and India is very timely given the recent accolades on the world stage for documentaries on subjects particular to India produced by filmmakers from our two countries,” added DOC executive director Pepita Ferrari.

One of the selected projects at the inaugural Good Pitch program -- a partnership between BritDoc and the Sundance Institute -- held alongside MIFF was the in-progress documentary Driving With Selvi by Canadian filmmaker Elisa Paloschi. The film tells the story of a young woman who, against all odds, defies strict patriarchal traditions when she escapes the abusive marriage she was forced into as a child to become the first female taxi driver in south India's Karnataka state. “As a Canadian filmmaker currently working in India, I’m honoured to be here to bear witness to this historic moment,” said Paloschi who is also part of the Canadian delegation.

Last year, British Columbia premier Christy Clark announced that the province would spend $9.5 million to host the inaugural Times of India Film Awards in Vancouver April 4-6. That echoed the Ontario government in 2011 spending $12 million to host the Indian International Film Academy Awards in Toronto, as part of a similar bid to open up tourism and commercial trade between Canada and India.