Interview with David Martinon, French Consul General, Part 1

Posted on 04. Nov, 2009 by in Interviews, Politics

David Martinon

David Martinon is the Consul General at the Los Angeles French Consulate. In this role, he is responsible for promoting French culture and arts, science, and business, as well as caring for French citizens in the US. Prior to joining the Los Angeles Consulate in 2008, Mr. Martinon was a spokesperson for the French President, before which he was chief of staff for President Sarkozy’s presidential campaign. And before that, he worked as a diplomatic advisor for four years. In this two-part interview we begin by discussing cultural sustainability, and France’s revolutionary attempts to redefine how we measure “success.”

OG: You do an amazing job of utilizing social media, much more than one would expect of a government agency. Your Twitter feed and your blog do an excellent job of promoting French culture in Los Angeles. So tell me, what are you looking forward to most about the conference?

David: Thank You, but it is more the work of Stéphanie Rainin. I wanted to attend Opportunity Green because I try to be aware of ideas that pop up here in California. I first met Karen Solomon when I invited her for the premiere of HOME, the film by French director Yann Arthus-Bertrand. We got on well, she’s a very interesting person. I like that you’re trying to promote not only awareness of environmental issues, but also to create new ideas on how to improve the situation. Before I came to California, I saw that there were great intellectual & technical revolutions in California, not only the ideology of May ’68, but also of course the environmental revolution going on today. Today’s ideas in California are the rest of the world’s ideas tomorrow.

OG: So it seems you work with two major industries- life sciences and entertainment. Can you tell me about some interesting projects in either of them?

David: In entertainment, for the past 13 years, we’ve put on a French film festival- City of Lights, City of Angels (CoLCoA) every spring. Also, this year we started OohLaL.A., a music festival featuring the most cutting-edge French musicians. The selection was made by Silvain Taillet, the art director of the very prestigious music school, Barclay. Both festivals are great successes, even with OohLaL.A. in its first year, we’ve had great partners and the seats were full every night. This is difficult, considering most of the artists are unknown in the US.

OG: It’s definitely hard to break into LA entertainment industry.

David: I think if we can’t be successful here in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, we better change the consul! We also try to bring American screenwriters to France, because we think that showing them the hidden  faces of France inspires them. We want them to film in France, to take advantage of our beautiful scenery and great crews.

OG: Adam Werbach promotes the importance of cultural sustainability alongside environmental, social and economic sustainability, arguing that culture is too often ignored, particularly by multi-national corporations operating abroad. Let’s talk about how great the French are at preserving their cultural heritage.

David: On this topic, we French actually have a lot of contradictions. On the one hand, we’re extremely attached to our culture. For example, in Paris the Parisians go to the theater, to movies, and box office receipts are still very high, we maintain that a minimum of 50% of films are French, so 40% are American and 10% from the rest of the world. We also read a lot of books, publishing is still doing well. La rentrée literaire is always a interesting time. Roughly a third of the pages in French newsmagazines are dedicated to culture. It’s our pride. We will accept to be “poor” as long as we have culture.

However, on the other hand, we embrace foreign culture. We’re also interested in films from other countries. Even though few countries have national film industries, we welcome them in France. So we’re attached to global culture, and are very much in love with American products, the French love American blockbusters, American music, etc.

OG: Yet the French also do an excellent job of appropriating foreign cultural influences and making them their own, which to me is the crux of modern cultural evolution. For example, I’m a big fan of French mashups and French rap.

David: Ah, French rap…I’m a bit of an expert in French rap, the lyrics are much better. The arrangements as well.

OG: There is a real concern that the artisanal knowledge of the Haute Couture is not being passed on to a new generation of craftspeople. What is being done to keep the traditional arts alive in France?

David: It’s a huge topic- we have a tradition established for the past ten centuries of forming young apprentices in France. Of course there are some more popular fields, like cooking, fashion. Still in architecture and masonry, and all other fields we have what we call “The Tour de France for Apprentices.” Behind Jean Paul Gaultier, for example, you find old women with golden fingers who can do the very stylish parts of the clothes.

OG: Yes, but is it difficult finding young people who will replace them?

David: No, not as far as I can tell.

OG: Now, let’s get back to what you said earlier about accepting less money if that’s what it takes to enjoy a strong and vibrant culture. I am so happy to see that France is taking the lead on redefining GDP, something that has needed to happen for quite some time.

David: Many Americans question me about this, claiming it’s a way of breaking the tool to avoid measuring a bad situation. There will never be a good time to redefine GDP, you’ll always question the intention. But it needs to happen. Sarkozy, in the first weeks of his presidency, essentially said “If you destroy Earth, it can bring more wealth, but at the same time, it’s  not improving global well-being.” And you know, one of the economists they’re working with on this is American, Joseph Stiglitz.

OG: That’s great! I’ve loved reading his books on globalization, and I recall discovering Redefining Progress in 2005 and wishing their ideas would break out of the Berkeley green ghetto. It seems the time has finally come when people recognize that money does not define us.

David: Yes, however, in the US, you have some wonderful legacies around quality of life as well, for example your National Parks tradition is something to truly be proud of.

OG: That it is! Stay tuned for part two tomorrow…

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “Interview with David Martinon, French Consul General, Part 1”

  1. greendiva

    04. Nov, 2009

    He’s yummy! Also, I love that he says, “We will accept to be poor, as long as we are cultured.”

  2. David Darmawan

    06. Oct, 2010

    David: Many Americans question me about this, claiming it’s a way of breaking the tool to avoid measuring a bad situation. There will never be a good time to redefine GDP, you’ll always question the intention. But it needs to happen. Sarkozy, in the first weeks of his presidency, essentially said “If you destroy Earth, it can bring more wealth, but at the same time, it’s not improving global well-being.” And you know, one of the economists they’re working with on this is American, Joseph Stiglitz.

    I am saying: Le bien-Etre n’est qu’une simple illusion sans une vrai connaissance de soi-meme et du monde autour de nous!

Leave a Reply

PHVsPjwvdWw+