07 February, 2009

European Film Market Opens With Sparse Attendance

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The European Film Market, the professional component of the Berlinale, opened yesterday at the historic Martin Gropius Bau with more of a whimper than a bang. Attendance on the opening day and for today's first official day of market screenings was definitely sparse compared to years past, with hallways amazingly empty and ample empty seats available in the cafe and meeting points.

"This is the slowest Berlin I've ever experienced", one veteran sales agent told me. "The German buyers are here, but there are far fewer buyers from the rest of Europe, North America, Asia and Latin America. I'd be content with a German sale to cover the expenses of attending."

This year, the Market has extended to three floors of the Berlin Marriott Hotel, where sales agents have taken hotel rooms as office spaces, as they routinely do in Cannes. The traffic was equally light in the hotel passages, with many sellers sitting in their offices with a houndog look on their faces. Clearly, the troubling world economy has affected the attendance and the willingness of buyers to purchase anything but the creme de la creme of film product. However, the film trades are reporting a decent amount of sales activity....although it mainly is concentrated on films that have previously been seen at earlier film festivals.

One of the most high profile deals announced yesterday was the acquisition by American artthouse distributor Strand Releasing of rights to A WOMAN IN BERLIN. The film being sold here by German sales outfit Beta Cinema, is set in 1945 during the Red Army invasion of Berlin.
The World War II drama has been sold in more than 20 countries including Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Portugal, Greece, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, former Yugoslavia, Israel, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Colombia. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and had its U.S. Premiere as part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, where it won the award for Best International Film.

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