Franck Riester, French Minister of Culture, visits India [fr]

H.E. Mr Franck Riester, French Minister of Culture, visits India to enhance cooperation in the creative and cultural industries.

Mumbai - New Delhi, 27 - 28 January 2020

H.E. Mr Franck Riester, French Minister of Culture, was on a visit to India from 26th to 28th January 2020, to enhance Indo-French cooperation in the creative and cultural fields.

The Mumbai leg of his trip on 27th January focused on cooperation in the creative industries. He thus held a round-table meeting to seek new collaborative opportunities in the music industry.

India ranks a global first in terms of data consumption, especially video content, while France is the world’s second largest exporter of audio-visual content. Hence, Minister Riester explored synergies between the two countries for audiovisual cooperation.

He also addressed participants of ‘Destination France’, an event for promoting France as a location for film shooting as well as exploring joint ventures, co-operation projects, and partnerships.

Later, Minister Riester visited the office of French company Ubisoft (ranked among the world’s top five video game editors) in Mumbai, which is entirely dedicated to creating original video gaming content.

The Minister concluded his Mumbai trip with a meeting with the Director of IIT Bombay, Prof Subhasis Chaudhuri, and spoke thereafter to IIT students on how the Economics of Culture is Reshaping the World.

In New Delhi on 28th January, Minister Riester met Shri Prakash Javadekar, Hon’ble Minister of Information and Broadcasting, for discussions on a range of subjects, including co-productions, and exchanges on professional training.

With Shri Prahalad Singh Patel, Hon’ble Minister of Culture, Mr Riester jointly inaugurated the Gérard Garouste retrospective at the National Gallery of Modern Art.

An interaction with the winners of the YUDAP programme for young Indian architects and urban planners was also on the minister’s schedule.

Minister Riester concluded his India trip on a high note. During a special reception, he conferred the medal of ‘Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) on renowned theatre personality Ms Sanjna Kapoor, Co-founder and Director - Junoon and former Director - Prithvi Theatre.

Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters)

Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) - JPEGOrdre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters): This French government distinction, instituted on 2nd May, 1957 by the Ministry of Culture, is conferred, regardless of nationality, on persons who have distinguished themselves by their creativity in the fields of art or literature, or for their contribution to promoting the arts and literature in France and throughout the world.

Address of H.E. Mr Franck Riester, French Minister of Culture at IIT Bombay

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Esteemed Board of Governors, Honourable Chairman,
Members of the IIT Council and the Senate
Dear Director, Prof Subhasis Chaudhuri,
Deans, Faculty and Administration,
My dear students,

It is my privilege to be here amongst you at one of India’s Institutions of National Importance, which was also recognised as an Institution of Eminence in 2018.

Fifty (50) years ago, IIT Bombay hosted India’s oldest school of design, the Industrial Design Centre.

The rationale behind it was simple and smart: the oldest living civilization in the world with a diverse cultural heritage and on a growth trajectory, had to deploy industrial design to play a crucial role in national development.

Before moving on, I must convey my felicitations to the IDC on its Golden Jubilee. I also take this opportunity to applaud one of its more popular and widely known achievements - the design for the Indian Rupee symbol, incorporating elements from the Devnagari and Roman scripts. This was not only the achievement of your alumnus, Dr Dharmalingam Udaya Kumar, India’s first PhD in industrial design, but also a symbol of India’s growing economy and currency, too.

And only two months ago, your government announced the idea of establishing public universities for liberal arts education at par with the IITs and the Indian Institutes of Management to focus on multi-disciplinary research and education. IIT Kharagpur is working on a programme to link India’s heritage and culture with science and engineering, wherein projects will cover areas like language, music, iconography, meditation, and creative and traditional economy. IIT Bhubaneshwar has designed a programme called “Creative Entrepreneurs”, wherein entrepreneurs from diverse sectors, including the performing arts, film, publishing, would share their experiences.

You may all wonder: what is a French Minister of Culture doing at one of the top technical universities in India and the world?

I am very intrigued by your ability to develop a top-notch course in technology as well as establish links with cultural economy sectors and find openings in them. You have perfectly understood that the worlds of economy and culture are interconnected, can enrich each other, and have hence bet on cultural entrepreneurship.

In France, linking technology, economy and culture – as you have done – does not come naturally. Recognizing that culture can also be an industry, still elicits incomprehension, and even encounters resistance. This stems from the fear that this approach will reduce culture to mere merchandise, that we will stop creating of works of exacting standards, free and pluralistic, and be content with placing interchangeable products for consumption on the market.

As you know, France is very deeply engaged in UNESCO on the matter of cultural diversity, which helps remember that cultural goods and services are not like any other commodity, because they bear an identity, values and meaning.

Saying this does not stop us from being aware of the hybrid nature of cultural industries, or of their economic potential.

In France, the creative and cultural industries account for six hundred and forty thousand (640 000) jobs and generate ninety-one (91) billion euros worth of revenue; it generates thirty-two (32) billion euros worth of exports and accounts for more than 2% of the country’s economy.

All cultural industries hinge on an artistic content, a creative act. However, to make it accessible, to enable it to reach out to the greatest number, to adapt it to new practices, this creativity today depends on industrial and technological tools.

Art and tech have become more intertwined than ever before, whether it’s through providing new ways to mix different types of media, allowing more human interaction or simply making the process of creating it easier.

Take the case of haptic technology, which could present a perfect immersive virtual experience, wherein video games could bring a real emotional response via one’s sensations. If I understand correctly, Prof Chaudhuri, your Director, is involved in research on this amazing technology.

But the links between technology and culture are ambivalent. The evolution of technology can also destroy value if our CCIs (that is, our Cultural and Creative Industries) do not adapt swiftly enough. In France, the very existence of certain sectors has been threatened by the emergence of digital technology. The French music sector, for example, whose turnover fell by almost 65% between 2002 and 2015, comes to mind.

Not a single sector of the cultural and creative industries has remained unaffected in the wake of the digital revolution.

A threefold transformation came about, affecting (i) the economic models; (ii) the cultural practices; and (iii) the geographic landscape of the actors themselves.

Digital technology led to an accelerated opening up to international markets: physical boundaries virtually ceased to exist in certain fields, such as music or audio-visual content. It is useful to recall, however, that the language barrier remains to the benefit of English, and is sometimes a hurdle to exporting our content.

Lastly, the competition has been displaced and has grown fiercer with the emergence of new players with a tentacular aim that is capturing an increasingly greater market share, and gradually positioning themselves across the entire value chain. This novel and complex situation is indubitably one of the specificities of this industry; few economic sectors have been confronted with such developments.

With markets facing great upheavals, the stakeholders adapted, displayed agility and underwent reform. Thanks to this, they started benefiting from the development prospects that emerged with new formats and new modes of dissemination: streaming for music or platforms and serials for television and cinema are convincing examples. Innovation is at the centre of new economic and industrial models.

The development of cultural and creative industries is also an issue of influence, and even sovereignty. A former President of France (François MITTERRAND) believed that a people who lose the means of their representation on the screens are a people enslaved. As such, the power of the Indian film industry, the world’s top producer of films, cannot but arouse respect.

The film industry, with revenues in the region of 2.5 billion euros, has had a far-reaching economic impact in Asia’s third-largest economy. Shooting films directly generates revenues for a destination through spends on accommodation, transportation, equipment, local labour, fees and taxes. The travel and tourism sector often moves to capitalise on the appeal of Bollywood, given the huge influence it can have over the holiday choices of Indians.

That is why President Emmanuel Macron has asked various French ministries (Foreign Affairs, Economy, and Culture) to chart a strategy for our CCIs that would remove silos between disciplines and sectors.

In France, the cultural and creative industries comprise architecture, books, cinema, music, audio-visual media, press, radio, video games, visual arts and the performing arts, and are focused on issues related to financial access, protection of intellectual property rights, exports, artificial intelligence and training.

To formulate this strategy for CCIs, I travel, I exchange views with industry professionals, and I observe the best practices adopted by other countries that have worked.

Our discussions with professionals led us to identify around thirty (30) priority countries for developing our CCIs, and we asked our Ambassadors to draw up a road map for promoting our CCIs in these countries. India, of course, forms part of the countries France identified as being strategic for their export potential with regard to the cultural and creative industries, and for the vitality of their cultural and creative sector.

Some French companies, in fact, took the step and successfully established themselves in India. Just before coming to IIT Bombay, I was at the studios of the French gaming company, Ubisoft, which is only a few minutes from here. Ubisoft is one of the largest video game publishers in the world with the biggest in-house development team. It was fascinating to be in that creative universe, where writers, producers, coders, animators, artists, engineers, mathematicians and so many others were working together to bring you world-renowned brands like Assassin’s Creed, Just Dance, Watch_Dogs, Far Cry, and Tom Clancy’s video game series, Rayman.

Interestingly, the video game market in France grew to 4.3 billion euros in 2017! And France is the only country to boast a National School of Videogames and Interactive Digital Media (École Nationale du Jeu et des Médias Interactifs Numériques - ENJMIN), the only public school in Europe that offers courses in video games.

To begin with, we held a convention of the cultural and creative industries so as to come up with a shared understanding on the needs of our cultural enterprises.

These conventions, held from December 2019 to March 2020, bring together representatives from all the sectors in the form of working groups based on themes of shared interest: access to financing, issues of intellectual property protection, exportation, artificial intelligence, training, etc.

The ambition is to bring together different sectors for cross-cutting projects to answer common challenges. We wish to pool ideas from joint deliberations, given the major ruptures of their economic environment, as well as fully benefit from an economic-industrial approach to the sector.

Another essential point is that of access to financing, which seems to be hampered by lack of information on the specificities of the economics of the cultural and creative industries. In a prototype industry in which value creation necessary implies risk taking, financiers cannot fall back on the sole criterion of profitability. The CCI sector, which receives four to five times lesser in bank loans than in more traditional economies, should be able to depend on financial partners specifically formed to support them.

Having noted this, we created specific financial tools aimed at funding them, given their singularity.

The government started off by instituting an investment fund, in September last year, of 225 million euros dedicated to the cultural and creative industries.

By joining forces, France’s cultural and creative industries will be able to continue growing, innovating and envisaging responses together to the challenges they face.

For the concluding part, I would like to particularly focus on training cultural entrepreneurs – as you do here in India through the development of your “Creative Entrepreneurs” programmes.

I have observed that, apart from access to financing – which remains the main problem of cultural entrepreneurs in France – it turns out that these entrepreneurs:

  • considered that they had insufficient educational grounding in entrepreneurship, and felt a lack of advice in legal, social, accounting, tax and trade matters; and
  • felt isolated and wished to have greater exchanges with their peers.

The Ministry of Culture took action to address these issues. Thus, we organise an annual Forum in Paris in May, on “Entrepreneurship in Culture”.

The Entrepreneurship in Culture Forum is a free national event open to the general public, for promoting and valorising cultural entrepreneurship.

Its main aim is to provide practical and concrete information to current and aspiring cultural entrepreneurs on financing, support, international development, structuring and different entrepreneurial models.

It is intended for cultural entrepreneurs for the professionalization and structuring of their firms, for students or fresh graduates who wish to launch ventures in these sectors, as well as for institutional entities that wish to relay reliable information to their interlocutors.

The event saw 78 roundtables, conferences and practical workshops on key themes of the cultural sector and best practices in entrepreneurship.

It was an example of bringing together higher education, professional training and expertise in different cultural sectors in aid of cultural entrepreneurs.

Its success has led us to now organise around ten regional events in different parts of France, and develop international partnerships – with Germany, Canada, and Senegal in 2019, so why not India tomorrow?

I am convinced that it is in our interest to remove silos between the different approaches, including scientific and technological ones.

We should explore diverse options and opportunities in the purely scientific and technological realms, but also keep in mind the tremendous opportunities that the creative industries offer.

France welcomed 10,000 Indian students to its universities last year. We would like to welcome 20,000 in the next few years. And in all disciplines. The French Embassy in India offers over a million euros worth of scholarships for this purpose, which is supplemented by additional resources through private funding to the Franco-Indian Education Trust. With your scientific background, there are myriad different possibilities – including in design, in restoration, in archaeology, in visual and performing arts, in gaming, in museology, in multimedia, in cinema, in VR and more.

I also invite the Director, the Deans, and the faculty to consider research and collaboration opportunities between France and India in a host of pluri-disciplinary areas.

We all know we can attain the Sustainable Development Goals through our cultural and creative industries, which contribute to employment, growth, education, professional development, citizenship, conflict prevention, gender equality and creation of identity.

The Smart Cities Mission is another significant opportunity to promote creative industries in India, which, in turn, will lead to substantial growth in other sectors, such as tourism and hospitality.

The Smart Cities Mission is meant to promote cities that will provide core infrastructure and improve people’s living standards, and develop a clean and sustainable environment. A key ingredient to this is the access to art and cultural institutions, which define the liveability of a city. Hence arises the need to establish creative clusters/art and cultural districts within Smart Cities that are designed to attract, retain and nurture the creative workforce that our cities need to succeed in the new economy.

France is already collaborating with the Indian government on smart city projects in Chandigarh, Nagpur and Pune, as well as in other cities.

I will be meeting your Minister for Culture tomorrow in New Delhi, and, amongst other subjects, will discuss how we could work together in the domain of museum development and other cultural infrastructure in India. Today’s museums are not just about art and artefacts and antiquities and history, as there are museums of every kind. Today’s museums are increasingly high-tech, involving multimedia, virtual reality, artificial intelligence to not only enhance viewer experience but also generate interactivity and mobility. For instance, today, it is possible to visit (or re-visit) some French monuments and museums while staying at home. With virtual tours, take a stroll in the gardens of the Chateau de Versailles, or admire some works in the Louvre Museum for free, from your computer.

In the words of Stanford professor and author, Dr Tina Seelig, “The biggest failures of our lives are not those of execution, but failures of imagination”.

Let us, India and France, together create a winning story.

Thank you for your attention.

Address of H.E. Mr Franck Riester, French Minister of Culture - Conferral of the insignia of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters on Sanjna KAPOOR

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Conferral of the insignia of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters on Sanjna KAPOOR

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

Dear Sanjna KAPOOR,

It is a great pleasure to be able to show France’s recognition of your outstanding artistic journey.

A passionate woman of theatre, you completely throw yourself into making artistic productions accessible to the greatest number.

Whether on stage, in front of the camera, or at the helm of the organization you run, you show the same infectious enthusiasm for championing the place of art in our societies.

For you, theatre is first and foremost a family affair. Your parents, Jennifer and Shashi, met in Calcutta, where the tours of their respective parents’ theatre companies had taken them.

Your maternal grandparents, Geoffrey and Laura Kendal, were touring with their company from Great Britain, “Shakespeareana”, crisscrossing India and falling in love with it.

Your paternal grandfather, the great actor Prithviraj Kapoor, had decided to travel across India with Prithvi Theatres, which he had established. It was at the intersection of these two theatrical universes that your family was founded.

Naturally, theatre has accompanied you since your very first steps.

As a child, your nights would begin – not infrequently – sleeping on a bench in the last rows of Prithvi Theatre, which your parents built in Mumbai as a tribute to your grandfather.

At 12 years, you set off on Ireland’s roads with your grandparents to play Olivia in Twelfth Night or Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

How would you not develop a true passion for the stage?

You made your debut in cinema playing the younger version of the character your mother was portraying in 36 Chowringhee Lane, produced by your father. Other roles followed.

But you wished to devote yourself to live performance.

So you studied acting in New York, then returned to India and went on to helm Prithvi Theatre.

Thanks to your energy and vision, thanks to the remarkable work by the entire theatre group, and thanks now to your brother Kunal, Prithvi Theatre continues to be a living space of encounters, a space for research, experimenting, and artistic production.

A lively space open to the city, Prithvi Theatre anchors art and culture in the daily lives of Mumbaïkars.

You have conducted pioneering programmes at Prithvi Theatre to win over new spectators.

I am referring to initiatives like “Prithvi Players”, and “Summertime” for children, among whom it is vital to raise awareness about art.

As part of the Prithvi Theatre Festival, you have given pride of place to the best of Indian drama and invited international theatre greats to Mumbai and other Indian cities.

Among the remarkable shows from France that the Indian public had the chance to watch thanks to you were Philippe Genty’s Ne m’oublie pas and Nada Théâtre troupe’s Ubu roi.

The choice of these productions illustrates the openness, curiosity and boldness that guide you.

I would also like to mention your long adventure with the Footsbarn Travelling Theatre, which, thanks to you, regularly tours India to present its creations inspired by French and British repertoires.

Thank you for infusing life in all these exchanges!

I also know that you are a regular at the Avignon Theatre Festival, to which you were invited in 2010 by the Embassy of France in India as part of its “300 Bonjours” programme. I’m not surprised that you appreciate this extraordinary festival during which the entire city lives at the pace of theatre!

And I would like to thank you for having made Prithvi Theatre an active partner of the Alliance française de Bombay, with which you have shared numerous adventures. Among these, I would like to mention the founding of an international puppet festival, which is very dear to you.

To foster the development and spread of theatre from your country, you also took the initiative of establishing the India Theatre Forum, which brings together theatre professionals.

In 2012, you moved on from being the Director of Prithvi Theatre to start your own theatre agency with your longstanding partner-in-crime, Sameera Iyengar.

Christened “Junoon” – a term that suits you so well that you seem to be its embodiment – this “stage for theatre” aims to bring the arts and culture within reach of the greatest number through innovative initiatives.

Thus, you continue to foster children’s discovery of the arts through the ambitious “Arts at Play with Schools” programme, which you have already conducted in many cities of India.

Dear Sanjna Kapoor,

Animated by the passion for theatre, you tirelessly seek to share the inspiration that you parents transmitted to you, both in your artistic ventures and your engagement with the people of India.

I would like to greet your loved ones who are here this evening, your spouse Valmik Thapar, and you son Hamir, and all those who bolster you and support you every day. All of them know how energetic you are, how talented and how exacting.

So, for all that you have already achieved and what remains ahead of you to accomplish, we confer on you the insignia of the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.

[And now, as required by protocol, I will proceed in French:]

Nous vous remettons les insignes de Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Last modified on 12/02/2020

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