Italy's Culture Czar Wants to Boost Number, Quality of Homegrown Films

Massimo Bray is fresh off a contentious battle over the future of the country's production tax credit, which was reinstated a month ago.

VENICE, Italy – Italy’s Minister of Culture, fresh off a battle over the future of the country’s cinema industry tax credit, called the country’s struggling cinema industry “essential” and called for increased investments in film schools and the development of professionals in the sector.

Massimo Bray, speaking on the sidelines of the Venice Film Festival in a conference on the future of the cinema industry, earned headlines in recent weeks in connection with a bitter battle over the future of the country’s cinema tax credit, a €90 million ($119 million) a year resources that can offset up to €5 million ($6.6 million) for production expenses incurred in Italy.

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At first, the tax credit was set to be eliminated as part of a wide round of spending cuts for the cash-strapped Italian government, then half was reinstated, and then the entire amount was reinstated, though the categories of projects eligible to tap into the funs was expanded slightly.

But Bray, a former academic book publisher and journalist, expressed admiration for the country’s cinema industry through the whole process. And in Venice, he continued to do so, saying that a country’s cinema traditions are part of its “self awareness and historical memory.”

He added: “Italy is too often at risk of forgetting these values,” Bray said.

Bray also said he would like to increase the number of professionals with technical credentials in the sector in order to help foster growth in the number and quality of domestic Italian productions.

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“I would like to see this field perceived again as an area of Italian cultural excellence,” the minister said.

Italy’s cinema industry has a long and storied history. The Venice Film Festival is the oldest such event in the world, and the Cinecitta Studios in Rome are the oldest film studios in Europe. Italy has won more Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film than any other country. But in recent decades, the industry has fallen on difficult times.

Bray promised his ministry would keep supporting the film industry, though cinema sector players say the sector would benefit more from increased financial incentives to attract more foreign productions to Italy than to create a new generation of technicians.

“We don’t have work for all the technical people we have now,” said one veteran of the sector who attended Bray’s briefing, asking not to be further identified.

Twitter: @EricJLyman