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Valenti Hits Plan to Keep Films Out of S. Africa

December 23, 1987|BETTY CUNIBERTI | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, said Tuesday that he plans to fight a movement by a number of "first-class film directors" to withdraw all American films and television programming from South Africa.

Declining to name who the directors are, Valenti told Times reporters at a Washington Bureau luncheon that "a lot of directors, and I mean a lot," are involved with the plan and that he hopes to meet with them soon.

Valenti said he will tell the directors: "You are taking away from South Africa the only source of ideas, propaganda if you will, that is anti-government. It's the only chance these beleaguered people have to see a multiracial society. If you shut off films in South Africa, the South African government would be jubilant."

Would Turn to VCRs

He said that the group, which also involves actors and film makers, wants American production companies to refuse to distribute films to South Africa. As a result, Valenti said, South African whites would turn to pirated films that they could watch on videocassette recorders.

And, he said, "blacks don't have VCRs."

The movie "Cry Freedom," a docudrama about a black activist and a white South African newspaper editor, recently passed South African censors with a firm nudge from American distributors. South African proceeds from the movie will go to a UNICEF fund for South African children.

Valenti touched on a broad range of other subjects:

--At a meeting of business leaders with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev during the recent U.S.-Soviet summit meeting, Valenti urged the Soviets to allow more than about a dozen American movies into their country each year. The few films shown in the Soviet Union tend to portray America as "seedy," he said, citing "The Verdict," "Missing" and "Platoon."

Predicts 'Modest Breakthrough'

Valenti suggested to Gorbachev that Soviets and Americans make movies together in the Soviet Union, funded by U.S. profits made from the screening of American films there. "This is a laborious, pedestrian process where we'll negotiate. Maybe in a couple of years we might make a modest breakthrough," Valenti said.

--About $1 billion a year is lost in "piracy," the unauthorized taping and selling of movies, with about $200 million of it being lost in Japan, Valenti said. "They're marvelous at duplicating machines over there," he said, adding that other problem areas include the Middle East, Hong Kong and Singapore.

In the United States, Valenti said, between 10% and 12% of all products available are pirated, down from up to 40% 11 years ago.

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