Culture Minister Miri Regev plans to submit a kind of cultural loyalty bill in November that would allow her to cut state funding to cultural institutions which violate the so-called Nakba Law.
She announced this at a Tel Aviv press conference on Monday called to unveil a reform of state funding for the film industry.
The Nakba Law allows the Finance Ministry to cut state funding to any institution that publicly observes Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning, but doesn’t allow the Culture Ministry to do so. The Nakba, an Arabic word meaning “catastrophe,” is the Palestinian term for their losses in the 1948 war and is typically marked on Independence Day.
Regev also said that an amendment to the Film Law containing some elements of her film reform would come up for its first of three parliamentary votes later on Monday, and would be discussed by the Knesset Education, Culture and Sports Committee on Tuesday or Wednesday in preparation for the final two votes. The amendment was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.
State funding for the movie industry is channeled through organizations known as film funds that decide which movies to back. The reform is based on the recommendations of a committee set up to examine the way these film funds work. Regev said the panel found serious flaws with the system.
“It’s clear there was a conspiracy of silence here, and only certain parts of the population benefited from the film budget,” she said. “If I were at the start of my term, I would abolish the funds entirely. They have no place in the current system, and in their place, I would establish an Israeli film institute like the French CNC. But unfortunately, we’re a year away from the end of the term, so I can’t abolish all the funds.”
Asked about her repeated requests that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon cut funding to institutions that violate the Nakba Law – most recently, in regard to a film by a Bedouin woman screened at the Cinema South International Film Festival – she replied, “It’s no secret that I have a disagreement with the finance minister, who isn’t exercising his powers under the law. Until now, I haven’t dealt with this, aside from a few discussions with the attorney general.”
But during the Knesset’s winter session, she said, she plans to submit legislation enabling the Culture Ministry to slash funding to such institutions.
“The Film Council will be able to deny funding to cultural institutions that violate the Nakba Law and participate in incitement against the state,” she said, adding that the intended legislation would also bar film fund lectors from approving funding for films that violate the Nakba Law or “delegitimize Israel.”
One key element of the film funding reform is to create a pool of lectors, or script readers, subordinate to the Culture Ministry. These lectors, who will decide which films get state funding, would include people from the theater and literary worlds rather than only from the film industry. Regev said the pool will be similar to those from which the state draws accountants or board members for government companies.
Asked by Haaretz whether this change won’t make people from outside the film industry responsible for the future of Israeli cinema, Regev replied, “There will be people there from other cultural fields who could be suitable. And if we have to train lectors, we will. Just as there’s a course to train board members, we’ll train lectors. “
The Justice Ministry, she added, has ordered that every field of government activity have strong rules to prevent conflicts of interest, “and we’ll do what’s necessary to increase the pool of lectors, so that they won’t be dependent on any [film] fund.”
Another provision of the reform would grant retroactive state funding to movies that didn’t get film fund grants but succeeded at the box office. Regev said 15 percent of the state’s film budget would be earmarked for this, adding that this provision is meant to encourage private investors to back films.
“Today, virtually the only private investor is Moshe Edery; there are almost no entrepreneurs in this field,” she said. “The moment I enable entrepreneurs to come and invest in this field, not only will I increase the pool of producers, but I’ll increase the number of films made here each year.”
Outside investors will also expand the amount of funding available to the film industry, “which could reach as much as 120 or 140 million shekels a year ($33 million to $39 million),” she added. “Moreover, I believe in the wisdom of audiences, and in this case, the Israeli public will serve as a good lector.”
Regev said portions of the reform are included in the amendment to the Film Law that the Knesset is discussing this week, but most will be implemented by changing the criteria for state funding of films.
One major change in the criteria is that the film funds will have to hire 70 percent of their lectors from the state pool, and of these, at least 30 percent must be women and 40 percent must be from the periphery. In addition, a new film fund will be created to encourage filmmakers from the periphery; this apparently would come in place of the three regional funds the reform committee had recommended.
To encourage the industry to increase the number of female decision makers, film funds will receive financial incentives if women comprise at least 50 percent of their management. There will also be incentives for the funds to institute term limits for their executives and executive board members and increase the transparency of their operations.
In addition, the funds will have to set up an appeals process for filmmakers whose applications are rejected.
“They have to understand that the fund isn’t anyone’s private business,” Regev said. “It’s supposed to provide a solution for artists who want to make films in Israel, and I need to give them the right tools for this purpose.”
She said she plans to finish enacting the necessary legislation and criteria changes within four months.
“The Film Law won’t look the way it does today with regard to funding allocation,” she said. “We want to hear everyone, but we will open this closed club of Israeli film to more varied colors.”
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