ColombiaOne.comColombia newsHow Public Aid Has Managed to Promote Colombian Cinema

How Public Aid Has Managed to Promote Colombian Cinema


The Colombian film industry is the fifth in importance in Latin America. However, until 1987 there was no audiovisual industry as such. What changed?

By Antonia Moreno Cano & Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos

In 2003, only five nationally produced feature films were released in Colombia. In 2010 there were already ten. In 2019, 48.

Three laws created between 1997 and 2013 in Colombia structured the audiovisual industry and created a system of economic funds that boosted the growth of its film industry. This meant the birth of a cinematographic policy articulated through various promotional funds that has caused the sector to do nothing but grow.

A law for all cinema

Law 397 of 1997 was the first holistic law to promote the audiovisual industry. It proposed that the State should stimulate not only production, but all the links in the value chain –development, production, distribution and exhibition.

The law involved two fundamental changes. On the one hand, the Colombian State recognized cinema as an industry that formed the collective memory and as a means of expression of national identity, for which reason it undertook to promote conservation, preservation and dissemination, as well as artistic and industrial development. 

On the other hand, the Ministry of Culture and two entities dependent on it were created: the Directorate of Cinematography and the Mixed Fund for Cinematographic Promotion (Proimagenes Colombia), in which state actors and private agents are represented.

The recognition for the granting of aid is carried out by the Directorate of Cinematography of the Ministry of Culture. Between 2002 and 2017, 997 cinematographic works were recognized as a national product, 625 short films and 372 feature films.

Within Law 397, the Plan Nacional de Estimulos (PNE) was included to articulate scholarship and award programs for Colombian artists, creators, researchers, and cultural managers.

Trailer for the Colombian film ‘La estrategia del caracol’, from 1993. FilmAffinity

In addition to the PNE, the General Law on Culture authorized the different regional administrative organizations to create a territorial tax. The resources collected through said tax are administered territorially and allocated to projects in accordance with national and local cultural plans.

The new law of 2003

The 2003 Film Law, whose objective is to stimulate investment through tax benefits and facilitate the production of films in Colombia, in turn creates the Fund for Cinematographic Development (FDC).

The FDC proposes taxing feature film producers, distributors and exhibitors in national theaters. Thanks to this, between 2004 and 2021 it raised €43,127,496.54, 70% of which was distributed to the creation, production, co-production and making of feature films, short films and documentaries, and 30% to complementary lines of action (preservation, training and promotion).

Through FDC stimuli, 3,161 projects have been supported between 2004 and 2017, in different categories –scriptwriting, training, making short and feature films, development, production and post-production, etc.

The audiovisual governance framework offers a wide range of opportunities that any Colombian citizen can access. It is common to find in the same call projects supported by university, public or private television channels, made by renowned directors and producers, but also candidates with little professional experience. This ease of access to public funds makes it possible to increase the number of national productions and their popularity.

The Comisión Fílmica Colombiana (CFC) was created in 2008, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, with the aim of promoting the country as a territory for film and audiovisual production, through advice and information.

Finally, in 2012 the Comisión Fílmica Colombiana (CFC) was created, which depends on the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism. They are intended to reimburse producers a percentage of the value they spend in Colombia for the services necessary to carry out the film and audiovisual production shot, totally or partially, in the country.

The multiplier effect of film politics

It must be taken into account that, by increasing aid, the number of films produced increases, which encourages the creation of more cinemas or screens. The greater the number of films in theaters, the more people go to the cinema. This is a reason to continue investing in this production. Currently, in Colombia the rate of attendance to theaters is small. In 2021, out of every two Colombians, one had attended the cinema at least once. Before the pandemic, the index was better, since in 2019 each inhabitant went to the cinema at least 1.5 times. In 2022 a recovery is observed, because three out of four inhabitants have gone to the cinema.

In addition, it remains to improve the rate that Colombian cinema occupies in relation to other cinematographies, especially the North American. The maximum attendance occurred in 2012: 8.3% of viewers chose a national production. In 2010 it had been 4.5% and in 2019, 3.4%. In 2020, only 7% of viewers watched Colombian movies; a figure that has fallen to 1.7% in 2021, and that has recovered slightly (3.3% in 2022).

Another of the pending issues is to improve relations between cinema and television, so that the latter becomes more involved in the production of films.

We also have to work on decentralizing an audiovisual industry that is highly focused on classic production locations such as Bogotá.

Look into the future

Promoting (and protecting) the national audiovisual industry requires the creation of a support system to strengthen all the links in its value chain. In the case of Colombia, the fact of promoting the existence of audiovisual heritage content already justifies its existence.

Colombia is an example of the creation of a structure for the promotion of audiovisuals, both at the industrial and heritage levels. Audiovisual policy is a fundamental instrument, especially in the era of platforms in which the consumption of audiovisual products is multiplying.

Little by little, Colombian cinema conquers the world. In 2004, Catalina Sandino was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for Maria, Full of Grace. In 2007, The Crown was nominated for Best Documentary Short Film and, in 2016, Embrace of the Serpent was shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film. What will be next?

The authors of this article would like to thank the collaboration of Angela Revelo Castro, professor and co-investigator at the Universidad del Cauca, Colombia.

Antonia Moreno Cano is an Associate Researcher in the Communication Research Team, University of Deusto.

Juan Carlos Miguel de Bustos is a Professor of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising, University of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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