Belgian Films Looking for Business
by Anthony Kaufman
Tomorrow, eight new feature films and eight new shorts from Belgium will
arrive in New York, as part of a continuing initiative designed to give
international filmmakers much-needed exposure to the American
marketplace. "Voices & Visions: New Films from Belgium" will open with
the Belgian submission for Oscar consideration, Patrice Toye's Toronto
favorite, "Rosie." Also a Best Director winner at her native Flanders
Film Festival, Toye, like all the filmmakers in the series, are coming
to the U.S. without domestic distributors. Other notables entries
include Dorjkhandyn Turmunkh's "State of Dogs" (Grand Prize winner at
the 1998 Nyon Documentary Festival), Frederic Fonteyne's "Max and Bobo"
(Grand Prize winner at the 1998 Mannheim Film Festival), Julien Vrebos'
"Le Bal Masque," described by Variety as "a stylistic tour de force" and
the English-language drama "The Quarry," starring Irish actor John
Lynch. Also in attendance will be famed feminist filmmaker, Chantal
Akerman with her 1986 musical comedy "Window Shopping."
The program is organized by American Premieres, co-partnered by Sandy
Mandelberger of International Media Resources and Wanda Bershem of Red
Diaper Productions, who last year brought the U.S. premiere of
"Character" to the U.S. (which went on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign
Film), as one of eight films from Holland. Not simply a cultural event
for public consumption, Mandelberger explains that "the important thing
is trying to stimulate business interests and get distributors aware of
the films." All distributors and local festival programmers receive
all-access industry passes, and special meetings have been arranged
between the filmmakers and distributors such as Miramax and Sony
Pictures Classics. Even a few prints will circulate from the public
screenings at New York's Quad theater to private screening rooms at the
independent studios. "It's a test market," says Mandelberger. "The
whole concept behind American Premieres . . . is that some of these
films appear on the radar of the distributors, but if they saw the film
at Cannes or Venice or Toronto. . . [distributors] have to make this
judgment as to how the films will work with an American audience. And
we're providing that." After New York, the collection will travel to
10-15 other sites, in hopes of generating more interest in either
theatrical distribution or in ancillary markets like home video.
American Premieres will return in June '99 to promote films from Iceland
and in Nov. '99, new films from Holland will return a second time.