'The Artist' director calls Barroso French jibe 'shameful'

18th June 2013, Comments 0 comments

France's Michel Hazanavicius, whose silent film "The Artist" won the best film and best director Oscars last year, on Tuesday said France's insistence on protecting European cinema from Hollywood was justified.

His comments were the latest in a spate of outrage in France, which is fiercely protective of its language and culture, after European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, called the policy "reactionary".

Hazanavicius said the comments were "shameful", adding: "They do not cover him in glory."

Without naming France, Barroso had said in an interview with the International Herald Tribune that those fearful of a US cultural invasion of Europe "have an anti-cultural agenda".

He was referring to France's insistence on protecting the European film and television sectors in EU talks with the United States to create the world's largest free trade area.

"Some say they belong to the left, but in fact they are culturally extremely reactionary," Barroso said.

Hazanavicius said the policy, known in France as the cultural exception, was vital to the industry's future.

"What is clear is that in an open market, it would be very difficult for us to compete against an American market where they can make films for $100 million and sell them all over the world."

"We will survive, not die, but we will stagnate like the Italian film industry which was the best in the world for at least 20 years," he told Europe 1 radio.

Barroso was also attacked by European Commissioner Michel Barnier, a former French agriculture minister, who broke ranks to counter the remarks saying the cultural exception was the fight of the future.

Barnier, responsible for the EU internal market, said: "When one defends cultural diversity, one is not reactionary, one is in a fight for the future." He said however that closing markets, or jobs, was reactionary.

French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti has branded Barroso's remarks as "absolutely lamentable".

EU officials have repeatedly warned that excluding any economic sector could hand the US an early bargaining chip in what promise to be tough negotiations.

Washington says no areas should be excluded from the talks.

© 2013 AFP

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