25 June, 2008
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
Wednesday, June 25------European Film Promotion (EFP), the pan-European association of governmental promotion agencies that represent the film industries of 25 European countries, continues its New York Industry Screenings as a way of targeting New York-based distributors, programmers and press. Over the past two days, EFP presented a program of 4 critically acclaimed European feature films with special screenings and receptions at the Tribeca Cinemas in lower Manhattan.
Films Distribution partner, François Yon believes that the screenings will offer distributors an all important follow-up opportunity to see films which have just been presented at major film festivals, including the recent Cannes International Film Festival. The four films getting the New York treatment include: No Network (Iceland, Ari Kristinsson), The Stranger In Me (Das Fremde In Mir, Germany, Emily Atef), Private Lessons (Eleve Libre, Belgium/France, Joachim Lafosse) and Eldorado (Belgium, Bouli Lanners).
No Network tells the story of Kalli, a young boy who is brought up by a single mother in the suburbs of Reykjavik. He thrives in a world of imaginary characters, where he gets most of his life experiences through screens: movies, television shows and computers. The film has won several major awards at children’s film festivals around the world, including Sprockets International Film Festival for Children, Kristiansand International Children’s Film Festival, Taiwan International Children’s TV and Film Festival, Stockholm Film Festival Junior and the Audience Award at the Zlin Film Festival. The sales agent for the film is Nonstop Sales, www.nonstopsales.com
The Stranger In Me offers an emotionally devastating portrait of post-pardum depression, as a young mother plunges into the depths of despair after having her baby. As her relationship with her husband unravels, she is advised to go to a clinic, where her maternal instincts are aroused and she learns to appreciate her role as a mother. The film had its premiere at the Semaine de la Critique section of the Cannes Film Festival and is represented internationally by Bavaria Film International, www.bavaria-film-international.com
Private Lessons is a provocative story of a troubled teenager who finds emotional sustenance with an older tutor. The young man, an aspiring tennis player is taken under the wing of an established player as his family life falls apart. The relationship verges on the physical and offers an intriguing portrait of male bonding. The film had its world premiere at the Director’s Fortnight section of the Cannes Film Festival and is represented internationally by French-based sales agent Films Distribution, www.filmsdistribution.com
Eldorado is a worthy addition to the European tradition of the “road movie”. In this tale, a 40-something man who is facing a mid-life crisis takes under his wing a young man who he discovers breaking into his home. The two head off on a road trip to reunite the boy with his family, and in the classic tradition of this genre, both learn valuable life lessons on the journey. The film premiered at last month’s Cannes Film Festival in the Director’s Fortnight section, winning the Europa Cinemas Label Award and the Regards Jeures Prize.
The promotion effort is occurring at a pivotal time for foreign language cinema in the U.S. In the past month, three distributors who had been very active in taking on European films (New Line, Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures) have announced that they will cease operations by year’s end. Another distributor who has championed European projects (THINKFilm) has been making headlines this past week as it faces economic hardships and lawsuits filed by various filmmakers who have not yet received their promised royalty payments.
Despite the recent box office successes of such films as The Lives Of Others, La Vie En Rose, Persepolis, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and The Counterfeiters, the landscape for foreign language films in the American market is as challenging as it has been in many decades. “We are rethinking how many sub-titled films we can really release into the market”, one prominent distributor shared with me. “The truth is that the audience for sub-titled films is aging and younger people seem far less interested in films from France, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia or other important meccas of cinema. That does not mean that a well made film can have crossover appeal, but it is definitely becoming a major concern since the cost of releasing films is at record levels.”
However, recent activity at the Cannes Film Festival, although very modest by previous years’ standards, demonstrates that there is still an appetite among U.S. film distributors for well-made European films that tackle subjects or themes that are not as heavily explored in American cinema. The continued advancement of digital download technology and the new release strategy of “day-and-date” (making films available on the same date in theaters and on Video On Demand platforms on cable and satellite television) will hopefully provide enough economic incentive for more activity in the future.
As an alternative to the summer blockbuster, there remains an appetite among American audiences for intelligent, mature and well-crafted films and European films of a certain stripe. EFP’s New York Screenings initiative provides a strong platform for European films seeking US distribution. Since the program first began in 2005, approximately 25% of the films screened in this series have subsequently secured US distribution. The NY Industry Screenings are financially supported by the MEDIA Programme of the European Union, Wallonie Bruxelles Images, German Films and the Icelandic Film Centre.