Amidst Economic Crisis, Puerto Rico’s Senate to Vote on Cutting All National Film Funding

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Puerto Rico’s in a tight spot. After nearly 10 years of economic tailspin and the looming threat of defaulting on its $72 billion worth of public debt, governor Alejandro García Padilla finally announced last week that Puerto Rico would be unable, under any circumstances, to meet its financial obligations. Understandably, passions are high on the island since the governor’s announcement, and the future of the Estado Libre Asociado hangs in the balance as federal officials coyly tap dance around the issue. But what could this mean for the island’s nascent film industry?

Well, the answer actually came before the governor’s announcement in the form of Law P. de la C. 2487, which already passed the House and if approved by the Senate would gut Puerto Rico’s local film program of $4 million — essentially pulling the plug on 13 projects that had already been promised funding, and dealing a death blow to the island’s burgeoning film sector.

Over the decades, Puerto Rico’s Film Commission has done an admirable job of fomenting big budget Hollywood productions on the island, with titles ranging from Pirates of the Carribbean and Che to Fast & Furious 5 opting for the island’s sweet financial incentives and tax breaks over other tropical backdrops. But all of the big time infrastructure required to sustain these productions hasn’t necessarily translated into a healthy local industry.

That’s where the Commission’s Film Development Program and Puerto Rico Film Fund come into play. Designed to foment quality local film production, the program has been marching steadily toward maturity over the past few years, developing a series of built-in workshops and consultations designed to ensure a rigorous standard of quality in all the projects it underwrites.

But now it seems all this might come to a grinding halt: the $4 million dollars the senate is slated to pull from the program amounts to the entire operating budget of the program. In response, representatives of Puerto Rico’s film industry have thrown their weight behind a petition directed toward the island’s senate, which for days has been just short of the 1,000 signature goal.

Movie director Álvaro Aponte Centenoalso took to social media to share the painful chronicle of his own project Noli, which over four years of development has received express support from the Sundance Institute, Alejandro González Iñárritu, and Emmanuel “El Chivo” Lubezki. Now, after entering into co-production agreements with France and the Dominican Republic, Noli finds itself on the chopping block just as the team was was slated to begin production.

In the end, Noli is one poignant example of the tragedy this law would imply for the future of Puerto Rican film production, which sadly is only one of many tragedies that may await a society teetering perilously on the edge of the financial abyss.

Qué será de Borinquen mi Dios querido?