In last year’s edition of the International Critics’ Week (SIC), one of the best in its no longer brief history, besides the Italian title that already had a domestic distributer, there were another six foreign films. By the end of the festival, three of the latter were picked up for Italian distribution, which was not only gratifying but also proved SIC’s worth in promoting, socially and economically, works of artistic merit as well as in giving a positive response to the cultural demand of the public, more precisely of the most demanding spectators who frequent arthouse and specialty cinemas.
Alongside the discoveries and critical awareness that SIC serves to offer during the Venice Film Festival, the above results would more than justify the “free” subsidy, as the technical-bureaucratic saying goes, that SIC receives from the State. However, taking into consideration the difficulties plaguing the national economy, we should delve a little deeper into this point, to integrate other data and evaluations into the discourse. While it has been said over and again that culture in all its configurations is a fundamental value (for individuals and the collective) that every democratic State must continuously support and reinforce, to that we must immediately add that it can also be a resource with important financial and social upshots.
Let’s see if this also holds true for SIC, whose guiding principles we have always said to be first and foremost, though not exclusively, cultural. In other words, let’s let the numbers speak for themselves. In 2010, the Union of National Film Critics received from the Ministry of Culture a financial contribution of €110,000 (down from €115,000 in 2009 and €120,000 in 2008), of which €85,000 was allocated to SIC. This sum – along with other subventions, both direct and indirect, including a crucial contribution from the Biennale – went into the organization of the event, the overall cost of which is €205,000. However, if along with this figure we examine all of the event-related costs – travel and lodging expenses for filmmakers, ticket sales during the Mostra, later costs for preparing the foreign titles picked up for Italian theatrical distribution, and so forth – and we make a rough estimate of how much all this brought in taxes paid to the State, the payout of public monies (the aforementioned €85,000) was offset by revenues, for the State, of over €200,000.
While it may be true that “you can’t eat culture,” it’s also certainly true that cultural activities such as SIC, besides not starving anyone, also function as an economic flywheel. Moreover, such activities provide employment, albeit temporarily, to numerous people, and thus besides their innate cultural role, play a social role as well. This proves, once again, that the operative component of culture, when its just intentions are accompanied by administrative rigor, produces results that are not only by no means passive, they are advantageous to many and reward in manifold ways the involvement, both obligatory and worthy, of public institutions.