A Boom In Foreign Films Made In France

Passed last year, France's "international tax credit" has already benefited 29 movies, mostly Hollywood productions.

Woody Allen is one of many US directors who filmed in France this year

PARIS - In January, Sherlock Holmes 2 will begin filming in Paris and Strasbourg. Directed by Britain's Guy Ritchie, the film is just the latest to receive a new tax credit offered to foreign filmmakers who choose to shoot in France. Passed in 2009, the "international tax credit" offers a 20% tax deduction to productions that spend at least one million euros in France.

Beyond Ritchie, famous American directors like Clint Eastwood (Hereafter), Martin Scorsese (The Invention of Hugo Cabret) and Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), have also set up their sets in France this past year, and taken advantage of these tax breaks. The credit has a cap of four million euros, and can only take into account a small portion of stars' paychecks.

In total, 29 movies were granted the go-ahead for the fiscal measure, according to the promotional organization Film France. Hollywood is the number one beneficiary, with the UK a distant second. According to Film France, the measure could cost about 20 million euros to the French Ministry of Finance, but should help generate about the same amount to the state in other tax revenues.

Film France estimates that 114.2 million euros have been spent by these productions in the country. Shoots for Inception and The Tourist spent just under half their total budgets in France (54.8 million euros).

Animated movies have been a boon, bringing in some 60 million euros this past year. France had already established a worldwide reputation for special effects and 3D thanks to companies like Mac Guff, Mikros and Buff, but is even better positioned with this new tax incentive. Universal Studios, which produced Despicable Me, had Mac Guff create all the special effects.

Tax credit, job creation

The ultimate hope is that the tax credit creates French jobs. "About 50 or 60 % of spending in France is linked to paychecks. Tens of thousands of work days were created by the international tax credit," says Patrick Lamassoure of Film France. Technical aspects, like postproduction, set and truck rentals have also benefited.

To attract foreign filmmakers, France has long counted on its cultural and historical appeal. Ile-de-France, the region where Paris is located, is also looking to expand foreign filmmaking in the capital. Olivier-Rene Veillon of the regional film commission says another policy for generating business has been to lower rental prices for historical landmarks.

With 200 movies a year, France is generally considered one of the world's major film producers, which helps reassure foreign directors of the resources available. But competition is fierce. Since 2005, five countries – Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Malta and Hungary – have also created fiscal incentives to attract foreign films.

Read the original article in French

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How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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