May 27, 2024

France and Taiwan on Thursday signed a wide-ranging agreement to enable their film and TV industries co-operate on a higher level.

At a signing ceremony in Taipei at the Taiwan Creative Culture Fest (TCCF) convention, government representatives of both territories stressed shared values at the political level and in the audiovisual sphere.

“We have the same philosophy of a cultural exception and commitment to democratic values,” said Franck Paris, director of the Bureau Francais de Taipei.

Homme Tsai, head of TAICCA, referenced the same shared values and said, “we now have international co-productions and cooperation to look forward to.”

“Taiwan is the key partner in Asia, in the face of threats from Chinese and American giants,” said Dominique Boutonnat, head of the France’s National Film Bureau (CNC). “The CNC will always be by your side.”

Cultural exceptionalism is a policy introduced by France in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT, the predecessor body of the World Trade Organization) negotiations in 1993 that sees culture treated differently from other commercial products. It gives strengthened protection to intellectual property and brands and permits government subsidy for cultural goods.

The CNC and TAICCA agreement – described as “memorandum of understanding” in English and a “cooperation agreement” in French – will rapidly be followed by the award of a joint CNC – TAICCA award at Friday’s TCCF project award ceremony. There will be further examples of co-operation at the next edition of the Series Mania convention in France in March and other events at the 2024 edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

Beyond those set-piece events at the upcoming festivals, what the agreement will lead to is both more vague and more grandiose.

Part of the complication is Taiwan’s political and diplomatic status – on many fronts, Taiwan conducts itself like a democratic country, but, with China claiming Taiwan as its own territory, the island is excluded from many international organizations – which prevents the signing of formal bilateral co-production treaties between equal sovereign entities.  

“Taiwan and France may be illegitimate brothers, but they are real brothers in freedom of expression between Europe and Asia. This memorandum doesn’t need very strong political recognition, because it is really a concrete partnership that is going to allow us to provide our professionals with new ways of working together,” a French source told Variety.

“In France, we have this scheme called Aides aux Cinemas du Monde, dedicated to supporting minority co-productions, which allows a film to get a subsidy without a treaty as long as it has a budget of less than EUR2.5 million ($3 million), which is the case of the majority of Taiwanese films. Having a treaty would be easier, but where there’s a will there is a way,” the source explained.

From the stage, Boutonnat said that the CNC-TAICCA memorandum may become a bridgehead for further cooperation in film and TV between France and East Asia.

Government-backed film agencies from several East Asian countries this year in Cannes set out the basis of a regional co-operation organization that may lead to the creation cross-border film funding structures similar to those in the European Union.

“If this initiative were to succeed, it could be a very good way for them to answer the common question of the day, which is how to be strong in face of the streamers and how to retain ownership of our intellectual property,” said the French source.

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