WORLD CINEMA REPORT: Print Traffic; Foreign Films Bottleneck at New York Fest
by Anthony Kaufman
Routinely listed on the back of T-shirts for the New York Film Festival are each year’s participating filmmakers: Almodovar, Dardenne, D’Oliviera, Kaurismaki, Iosseliani, Sissako, Tian, etc. Sure, there’s a few Anglo-sounding names: look for this year’s Anderson, Payne, and Schrader. But the majority of the filmmakers each year resemble a delegation from the United Nations.
Heralding itself as an idiosyncratic showcase of the creme de la creme of contemporary cinema, the NYFF is not beholden to studio interference or the demands of Harvey Weinstein, but only to the whims of its discerning selection committee of diehard cineastes. Of the 26 new features at the 40th anniversary event, only two come from the studios (not counting the Miramax-acquired “The Magdalene Sisters”) and only six are in the English language (two of which are steeped in heavy brogue accents and the other, Jennifer Dworkin’s “Love and Diane,” is a two-and-a-half hour independently-made documentary.)
That makes the festival largely a vital place to catch foreign-language films that may never otherwise get such high profile attention — and for the smaller distributor, an indispensable opportunity to get the word out about their new releases, often challenging films that need a special leg up in the marketplace.
“The New York Film Festival is the most important launching pad for foreign language art film in New York, which translates to the rest of America,” says Wellspring Media’s Wendy Lidell. “But that has as much to do with the New York Times review as the New York Film Festival.” For Lidell, the New York Times — which reviews each feature — can make or break an art film’s chances in the marketplace. And never mind if a review is stellar or sour, Lidell estimates that the column space alone is worth roughly $10,000 in saved promotional costs.
For all these reasons, Lidell was initially compelled to lock an October 18th release date for Wellspring’s recent acquisition, Alexander Sokurov’s 90-minute single-take technical wonder “Russian Ark,” without a theater to show it in. “The ink is still drying on the contracts and we