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DISPATCH FROM ROTTERDAM: In 23rd Year, Cinemart Focuses on Slice of Life, Family Drama Co-Production

DISPATCH FROM ROTTERDAM: In 23rd Year, Cinemart Focuses on Slice of Life, Family Drama Co-Production

One integral and oft imitated part of the Rotterdam Film Festival experience is Cinemart, their highly successful international co-production market. Having just completed its 23rd year, Cinemart was founded by IFFR director Sandra den Hamer in 1983, and is now run by Marit van den Elshout and Bianca Taal who succeeded previous director Ido Abram. Prior to Abram, Cinemart was run by Wouter Barendrecht (Fortissimo Film Sales) and Janette Kolkema (Fortuna Films).

While the basic structure of Cinemart is the same each year, needless to say, the projects are different. Like the completed films shown at a festival, projects submitted to Cinemart may well reflect a general feeling running through the minds of the world’s filmmakers over the past year and this year’s projects are no different. According to an interview with van den Elshout and Taal on the IFFR site, the pair “found fewer political films and less violence, in favor of more close to- real-life, small relationship and family dramas.”

At Cinemart, there are always new territories to discover as far as partnerships and producers go. As the film industries of a few developing countries and cultures around the world grow, so do their participation in the world film community and places like Cinemart. I spoke to a very tired but fulfilled van den Elshout while she took a brief break from packing up Cinemart’s temporary offices at de Doelen, the IFFR’s hub during the festival and the rise of indigenous and developing world filmmakers was one of our topics of discussion.

“For a few years we have had a partnership with the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa,” said van den Elshout “and this year we have a new partner, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, so you do see that there’s a lot more activity in South Africa.” She went on to add that Euromed 2, short for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (Barcelona Process), will be opening new markets for co-productions with new Mediterranean nations.

According to the official site, Euromed is a “wide framework of political, economic and social relations between the Member States of the European Union and Partners of the Southern Mediterranean.” The partnership includes the 25 EU member nations and the10 Mediterranean partners of Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey, with Libya having had observer status since 1999. The third objective of the “Barcelona Declaration,” a “wide framework of political, economic and social relations” is described as: ” The rapprochement between peoples through a social, cultural and human partnership aimed at encouraging understanding between cultures and exchanges between civil societies” which clearly opens the door to more co-production between Europe and the Middle East/North African region.

Van den Elshout does point out that indigenous voices are being heard more at Cinemart as well. “This year we had the indigenous branch of the Australian Film Commission again with a few indigenous producers and last year we had Maori producers,” she ads, however, that she’s not sure that just because there are producers and projects coming from new areas of the world means that there’s more money for those projects. One can only hope that potential financing sources from those areas of the world will take notice of the homegrown talent and support those filmmakers.

One of Cinemart’s more recent initiatives is the Rotterdam-Berlin Express. Launched in 2002, this year the program consists of three Cinemart projects chosen to be presented at the Berlinale’s co-production market. This year’s projects riding the express are: Eran Riklis‘ Israeli/French co-production “Lemon Tree,” Wiebke von Carolsfield‘s Canadian production “Stay” and Stefan Arsenijevic‘s Serbia and Montenegro/German co-production “Love and Other Crimes.”

Many producers who attend Cinemart go on to Berlin to continue their meetings at the European Film Market, which kicks off on Thursday, February 9th. The EFM is a massive market and filmmakers coming off a base of dozens of meetings during Cinemart cannot help but benefit from continuing on to the EFM.

While there is a certain amount of knowledge about Cinemart and the IFFR among the US indie crowd, one part of the country has been very late in discovering the possibilities afforded by the various programs and initiatives offered by van den Elshout, Taal, den Hamer, et. Al. and that is Los Angeles. The LA community of indie filmmakers seems to be somewhat lost among the Hollywood giants, but that is changing, according to van den Elshout. “This year I noticed that I’ve received a lot of phone calls from West Coast producers that want to know about the Rotterdam Lab, [and] about applications for Cinemart.” She adds, “when they call they have no idea of what we are doing here,” but the fact that they are calling is a good sign.

The aforementioned Rotterdam Lab is a four-day training workshop for young and emerging producers, designed to build up their international network and help them learn the ropes in dealing with the world of international festivals and markets. The Lab has partners in several countries that enable them to assist in choosing producers, including the IFP in New York who chose producer Jamin O’Brien to attend the lab. O’Brien, producer of Morgan J. Freeman‘s upcoming “Just Like The Son” had a ball at the festival and told indieWIRE that his meetings were very productive, adding that several people he met with are eagerly awaiting updates on his future projects.

I’ve said this several times in the past, both in indieWIRE and in other publications, but Cinemart is one of the jewels of the indie film world. Any producer that does not take advantage of the opportunities offered by foreign co-productions and programs like Cinemart are only hurting themselves and their projects.

[ABOUT THE WRITER: Mark Rabinowitz is a co-founder of and currently a freelance journalist, producer, and writer of The Rabbi Report.]

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