• The artistic triumph and economic failure of France's subsidised film industry


    The French cinema industry has some of the world’s highest-paid stars and largest film budgets, but is losing money hand over fist. The paradox is explained by a system of public subsidies paid to make films whatever their box office appeal. Even for those which prove a popular success, the enormous production costs are hardly ever recovered. The subsidies paid to the French film industry are part of a complex system that its supporters say has allowed it, over many decades, to maintain a rich production while other national cinema industries in Europe have faded. Its critics argue it is a perverse and outdated economic model. In this interview with Joseph Confavreux, the sociologist Olivier Alexandre, a specialist in the history of modern French cinema, analyses how the system works and weighs up the arguments for and against.

  • Life in a French jail: 'The system doesn't allow you to change'

    Hafed Benotman Hafed Benotman

    Last week the French Ministry of Justice organised a key-note conference on reoffending. Mediapart has spoken to former inmates who told us how they got into crime and explained why prison doesn't stop people from reoffending - and how it can even sow the seeds of further crime. Prisoners often complain that no one listens to them, so we have decided to publish what they have to say, in their own words. What follows is an uncompromising account by 52-year-old Hafed Benotman, who still describes himself as a thief and who served three prison sentences and spent 18 years behind bars. He is now an author and scriptwriter and co-founded a newspaper which gives prisoners a voice.

  • Why a strained Franco-German 'couple' stay married

    French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin on Tuesday to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty, a milestone reconciliation and cooperation agreement that gave birth to a longstanding diplomatic and cultural alliance. The celebrations on Tuesday included a cabinet meeting between French and German governments, and a joint session of both countries’ parliaments, hosted by the Bundestag. But the alliance, often referred to in France as the ‘Franco-German couple’, has been placed under strain in recent years, and notably since the election last year of Hollande who has repeatedly clashed with Merkel over European policies. In this interview with Thomas Schnee, Étienne François, a historian and a recognized expert on the history of modern relations between France and Germany, a co-founder and former director of the Berlin-based Marc Bloch social sciences research centre, analyses the state of the current relationship between the two countries and the wider consequences of their fundamental differences in political culture.

  • Mind the reality gap: Grand Paris plan ‘a vain castle in the air that left people behind’


    A major urban renovation project called ‘le Grand Paris’ was launched in 2007 to modernise the Greater Paris Region with the development of new centres for economic activity, the construction of more than a million new homes and a major new inter-linking transport system. Amid soaring costs and fierce criticism from environmentalists, the plan, now estimated at 30 billion euros, is under government review. In this interview with Mediapart, Jean-Pierre Orfeuil, a specialist in mobility issues and professor at the Paris Institute of Urbanism, says the project is yet another example of how the elite ignore the real social and economic needs of the public, and argues why only a radical and visionary new approach to the transport infrastructure in and around the capital will solve its current problems.

  • The French budget minister, the Swiss account and the judicial inertia that begs major reform

    French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac earlier this month announced he was suing Mediapart for defamation after this website published an investigation revealing that he had held for a number of years, before he became a member of the government, a secret Swiss bank account. Since its first report, Mediapart has published further information including a tape recording in which a voice identified by witnesses in the affair as that of Cahuzac can be heard discussing the account. While the government stands by its budget minister, who denies ever holding a bank account abroad, the justice authorities have made no move to investigate the case, prompting Mediapart’s Editor-in-Chief Edwy Plenel to write to the Paris public prosecutor’s office demanding an independent judicial enquiry. In this interview, Mediapart’s lawyer, Jean-Pierre Mignard, argues that the judicial inertia is the result of the submissive hierarchical relationship between the prosecutor’s office and the executive political powers, one which President François Hollande has previously pledged to bring to an end.

  • Gay couple marriage and adoption rights 'a principle akin to abolishing the death penalty'

    E. Binet. E. Binet.

    This week, the French government approved the text of a bill of law to go before parliament that will give full-blown marriage and child adoption rights to couples of the same sex. One of President François Hollande’s election campaign pledges, the bill is bitterly opposed by the conservative opposition and France’s Roman Catholic Church. The leading opposition party, the UMP, has promised to reverse the legislation if it is carried, and a significant number of French mayors have warned they will refuse to marry same-sex couples. The bill will be presented before parliament by socialist MP Erwann Binet (pictured). In this interview with Mathieu Magnaudeix, he argues why the proposed law is an important step forward for French society, as a matter of principle, and why he is confident it will be enacted, with or without the cooperation of mayors.   

  • Kostas Vaxevanis: list of Greek accounts in Switzerland 'just the tip of the iceberg'

     © (Reuters) © (Reuters)

    Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis was finally acquitted last week by an Athens court of charges of violation of privacy and data protection laws, brought after the magazine he edits, Hot Doc, published a list of the names of more than 2,000 wealthy Greek individuals and companies with secret bank accounts in Switzerland. Shortly before his acquittal, Vaxevanis was interviewed by Amélie Poinssot, when he explained why he decided to publish the list, how he received it and who is on it, and what the whole affair says about the state of journalism in Greece.

  • Priest who taught tolerance in Syria warns of 'horrible' end


    Italian Jesuit priest Paolo Dall’Oglio (pictured) has spent more than 30 years in Syria, where he rehabilitated the abandoned Deir Mar Musa monastery situated 80 kilometres north of Damascus. There he created a pluralist, ecumenical community where he preached tolerance and encouraged inter-faith dialogue. His activities brought him into increasing conflict with the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and he was finally expelled from the country this summer. In this in-depth interview with Caroline Donati, he offers a rare insight into the workings and strategies of both the Assad regime and the forces of the opposition movement, the stance of the Christian community and the hopes for future reconciliation, and denounces what he calls “the outrageous” and “disgusting” distance of the West in face of the escalating slaughter of opponents to the Damascus regime.  

  • Good business, Bad business: Bill Emmott on the crisis in Italy

     © Justine Stoddart © Justine Stoddart

    In 2001, British weekly magazine The Economist published an investigation into tycoon-turned politician Silvio Berlusconi’s shady business empire under the headline ‘Why Silvio Berlusconi is unfit to lead Italy’. It earned the magazine and its then-editor, Bill Emmott, the full wrath of the Italian leader and several legal suits for defamation, all of which were ultimately thrown out. This year Emmott published an in-depth analysis of modern-day Italy, called Good Italy, Bad Italy, in which he argues why the country, now rid of Berlusconi, has reached a crucial societal and economic crossroads that allows no turning back to its past structure, and where the future path for change it will take is all but certain. Here he tells Mediapart’s Philippe Riès how the eurozone's third-largest economy was suffocated by “the desire of business to seize the state and to use it to serve its own selfish interest”.

  • Kadhafi « exécuté » : les révélations d’un agent libyen

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    Obeidi, à gauche. © (dr) Obeidi, à gauche. © (dr)

    Dans un entretien à Mediapart, Rami El Obeidi, ancien coordinateur du renseignement extérieur auprès du Conseil national de transition (CNT) libyen, assure que « des agents français ont directement exécuté Kadhafi ». Selon lui, « la menace d’une révélation d’un financement de Sarkozy en 2006-2007 a été suffisamment prise au sérieux pour que quiconque à l’Élysée veuille la mort de Kadhafi très rapidement ». L'attaque aérienne ayant visé le convoi de Kadhafi était « dirigée par la DGSE et des responsables à l’Élysée ».