SPAIN: Nepotism and Arbitrariness by David Blanco, filmmaker

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In order to produce independent Cinema in Spain, the support of public money from national and regional televisions and institutions is essential. The public television stations are, at the national level, Televisión Española and at the regional level, Televisión de Galicia, Televisión de Cataluña, Euskal Telebista and Canal Sur, mainly.

The film Institute at national level is I.C.A.A, organization that depends on the Ministry of Culture of Spain; at the regional level there are other institutions, such as AGADIC (Galicia), I.C.I.C (Catalonia) and others in the Basque Country, Andalusia, Comunidad de
Madrid, etc. Any production company can request public funds at the national and regional level, applying to the institution and/or regional television that correspond geographically. Likewise, the State forces private television stations to invest a % of their profits in Spanish Cinema and there also a law on tax incentives; but in both cases these possible sources of private funds are irrelevant
because they are insignificant and anecdotal when it comes to finance Art-House Cinema.

The huge problem in Spain, in the management of public funds for Cinema, is the implementation of a regular nepotism and arbitrariness. Furthermore, the Cinema Subsidies Law, both at national and regional level, is precariously designed, favoring producers that already have resources, instead to help those that don’t have them, and discriminating companies by an unfair and absurd criteria that prevent participatory equality. The Spanish State has created a series of legal mechanisms that should theoretically guarantee the transparency of competitive participation to access to limited public funds, but actually it’s just a protocol façade, distributing money without rigor and randomly according to convenience and cronyism. The majority of film projects are not valued accordingly, and the reports, if they exist, they are not shared a priori with the interested parties, in addition to be executed by anodyne commissions and unqualified civil servant teams. In this sense, none of the people on the AGADIC evaluation commission in 2023 had experience in the creation or production of fiction feature films, or in the writing of film scripts, if we mention two relevant disciplines in order of being qualified to give a report with consistent evaluation content. This commission was made up by Fernando Jesús Rodríguez Madriñán, representative of Televisión de Galicia, journalist with two essays on cinema; Carmen Belas Becerra, production manager and documentary film director; Olimpia Pont Chafer, film consultant in programming at film festivals and sales.

This institutional modus operandi of poorly designed laws and untrained officials, among other deficiencies, has been consolidated for decades; it is a sophisticated corrupt system that protects itself, leaving no trace in most cases. Many film professionals, who know this situation, remain silent or are ignored if they complain, as is my case. The only evidence I can provide about this unfortunate
situation is the testimony of my professional experience.

As a filmmaker and producer I have been in the world of cinema for more than 25 years. I’ve made short films, documentaries and feature films, many times self-financing my productions, for which I have received more than 20 awards at national and international festivals. But for reasons unrelated to my entrepreneurship and the quality of my work, I’ve been doomed to official ostracism. During
the last few years, Spanish public organizations have denied me 27 grants for public financing, applied to Televisión Española, Television of Galicia, Xunta de Galicia AGADIC and the Ministry of Culture, ICAA.

My previous films had a media impact, they generated jobs and have contributed a different vision to the cultural spectrum. The Shadow of the Sun received the Audience Award at 43th Malaga Film Festival; Machulenco, First Prize at the Festival del Sol in Canarias, selected at the 46th New York Film Festival; Heart of Darkness, Best Director at the 6th International Panorama of Independent Filmmakers of Thessaloniki; Borsh, the Shelter, First Prize at the 9th Annual Twin Rivers Media
Festival in the USA, among others.

During the last few years I’ve applied for public financing for five art-house independent fiction feature films, titled Circular Paths, The Master of the Waves, Benedicto, The Strip and Ilakku. None of these films have been able to be produced due to the lack of Spanish public funds, despite the fact that each and every one of these proposals has the support of international institutions, such as
Sundance Institute, they’ve been selected in prestigious film forums and workshops, as Equinoxe in Germany, Ficci Frames and PrimEchange in India, PFM in London, they’ve being granted with development funds from the European Union Media Program, have the support of distributors such as Ajay Kumar Kumari and Dori Media Group, platforms such as Filmin & Cameo, signing of co-
production agreement with international companies, such as Fresco Films, etc. These projects have also the participation commitment of quality technicians, actresses and actors of recognized national and international prestige, such as Ángela Molina (Honor’s Goya 2021), Luis Zahera (Goya 2019 “El Reino”), Morris (Feroz Award “Fariña”), Daniel Freire (“Lucía y el sexo”, “Campeones”) and the Bollywood actors Virendra Saxena and Vikas Shrivastav, among others. Despite the support of these
organizations, international institutions, actors and technicians, corroborated with commitment letters and contracts, none of these projects of proven quality have being supported by public funds in Spain.

In front of the rejection of said grants, I have drafted 15 official administrative appeals, requesting motivation and reports from the corresponding evaluation commissions. After years of waiting, ICAA have rejected 3 of these appeals for hypothetical formal defects and have still not responded reliably to the rest of these complains. Neither public televisions, nor public institutions have yet answered to my writings, violating the Spanish Subsidies Law 1/2016, of January 18, and Law 19/2013, of December 9, related to transparency, access to public information and good governance, which oblige them to motivate and respond to the producer within a maximum period of 6 months. The ICAA also violates said Law by not informing individually when a project has been rejected,
causing producers don’t have updated knowledge of said rejections in order to exercise the right to present claims within the deadlines stipulated by the Administration. In 2021 I already expressed my official complaint to Mr. José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, Minister of Culture and Sports, about this and other matters related to the precarious design of the ICAA Subsidies Law, but the only thing I received 8 months later was a self-defensive anonymous letter without signature, protected only by the seal of the institution itself, without answers to my questions, nor showing self-criticism and less appreciating my effort of feedback. In 2023 Mr. Jacobo Sutil Nesta, director of AGADIC replied to one of my text allegations of Benedicto and The Master of the Waves, providing incoherent, disrespectful and subjective reports, both written after the official final decision, which makes it clear that the system of granting funds in this case was executed without consensual criteria and randomly. These reports were subsequently manipulated in a new resolution of the Appeal for Reinstatement, signed in this case by the President of the Governing Council of AGADIC, Mr. Román Rodríguez González.

In the cases of public financing requested to Televisión Española and Televisión de Galicia, I have consecutively received, for years and for each of my projects, emails of this kind: “After the reunion of the last committee, we inform you that your project “X” has been rejected (…)“. It is acceptable for a private platform or television they send only a brief notification by email. But it is illegal, at least in
Spain, the public television sends notifications without detailing any motivation because their decisions. In 2021, after receive the second rejection email of Circular Path’s project from Televisión Española, signed by Mr. Fernando López Puig, director of the Cinema Area, I wrote him a letter requesting motivations about the reason for the new rejection; I’m still waiting for an answer. In
addition I made a telephone enquiry to the deputy director of the film department, who informed me that, unfortunately with the resources available, they should first of all support the “established” filmmakers. Ms. Monserrat Besada, Content Service Director of Televisión de Galicia, personally expressed “why would they co-finance my films if there are film directors more famous than me”,
despite unofficially this person told me my feature-length scripts had received outstanding reports, both for The Master of the Waves, as well as for Circular Paths or Benedicto. In these cases, Televisión Española and Televisión de Galicia have openly expressed their favoritism, lack of motivation and transparency.

Up to this point I have mentioned only a few names of people from all the institutions and organizations with which I have dealt. Some of these people are no longer in office. This is not the problem of an isolated corrupt individual, but of a corrupt system as a whole, with institution directors, deputy directors, coordinators and other kind of personnel who rotate periodically,
depending on ever-changing political conveniences. Due to this regrettable situation, currently it is almost impossible to produce quality independent films in Spain with public money, due to the unsatisfactory cultural policy and laws of the State, the
institutional control of content against freedom of expression, due the lack of impartiality and the common practice of a naturally accepted shameless governmental nepotism.

Cinema is culture, counter-culture, art, entertainment, criticism and self-criticism of the society. Making films with everyone’s money cannot be the privilege of a few, but rather a right accessible to all citizens equally, both in Spain and all around the world.

David Blanco, filmmaker

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