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International Festival Developments: The Good News and the Bad

International Festival Developments: The Good News and the Bad

As festivals proliferate, the most well established of them, those with a foothold in the international film world of are working to create better business models which, if successful, will create revenue streams while further consolidating the place of festivals as contributors to the commercial side of the Seventh Art.

The bad news first: Fallout in Greece first from the change to the socialist government’s taking power six months ago, Thessaloniki International Film Festival‘s artistic director, Despina Mouzaki ♀ has resigned after six months of wrangling with the new government to receive funding. While the festival will continue, the question of its viability during this time of severe fiscal crisis, and how the core sections of the event such as Agoura, the film market itself, the Balkan Fund and Crossroads run by Marie-Pierre Macia which is a coproduction market targeting films with Mediterranean or Balkan links will fare remain in limbo. Also in limbo is the competition itself whose award winners of the Golden and Silver Alexander awards for first and second films receive €40,000 and €25,000 Euros respectively. The Balkan Fund and Crossroads development strands, intensively boosted by Mouzaki during her five-year-tenure at TIFF, offer seed money for projects coming from the Balkans and the Mediterranean region.

The Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival which was held last fall had completed it transition to digital media, with all 470 titles in its International Doc Market available digitally for the first time. The market, which ran March 15-20 alongside the festival, was launched in 1999 and attracted around 50 buyers from Europe, the U.S. and Canada,

Greek minister of culture Pavlos Geroulanos has appointed Dimitri Eipides as the new head who has changed the dates to December 3-11, 2010. He arrives at the post within a critical overall financial situation of the country which is certain to affect the festival year-round budget, running at about Euros 7 million. In his favor is Eipides’ long-time acquaintance with the festival where he has served in various key positions since 1993 when he first introduced the New Horizons international non competitive section, a key element to the prestige and the internationalization of the event undertaken at that moment by TIFF’s general director Michel Demopoulos. Eipides stepped down from New Horizons in 2004 following the sacking of Demopoulos and TIFF president Theo Angelopoulos the same year by the conservative culture minister at that time. He remained associated toTIFF, as head of the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival-Image of the 21st Century, which he created in 1999. Operating under the TIFF umbrella, the event rapidly grew in size and importance to become one of the top three European documentary festivals. Another plus in Eipides’ assets is his international stature as he commands a wide respect from his colleagues around the world. He is, since the time he was living in Canada during the seventies and the eighties, a senior international programmer of such respected festivals as Toronto and Montreal (Festival de Nouveau Cinema that he created together with Claude Chamberlain) as well as programme director of the much newer Reykjavic International Film festival.

The Toronto International Film Festival will finally move into its new headquarters. Along with it, all the activities will move into a five block radius within the Arts District of Toronto consolidating the area for its events, strengthening its year round activities and giving filmmakers, buyers and sellers an area more conducive to international growth of the industry in general. This Friday in Cannes Piers Handling, Director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) gave more details. TIFF Bell Lightbox will open its doors to the public on September 12, 2010. “We have spent a decade working on this project and its opening marks a new step in the evolution of TIFF. Audiences visiting our new home and experiencing our wide range of programming will see that we are so much more than a 10-day event in September”, Piers announced.

In brief the newly designed areas include
– Year round programs
– Film Circuit (the traveling film festival visiting all Canada)
– EFP Producers initiative allowing Canadian and European producers to network)
– Match Club
– Filmmakers Lounge
– New program for send or 3rd time producers, international coproductions
– Why? Why Me? Why Now? Pitching for producers.

TIFF Bell Lightbox is soon to be the world’s leading destination for film lovers. Five public cinemas, ranging from 550- to 80-seat theatres, are expressed as distinct architectural volumes – each a box within a box. TIFF Bell Lightbox also includes a three-storey atrium, two galleries, three learning studios, a centre for students and scholars, the staff offices of TIFF, a bistro, a restaurant and a lounge. TIFF’s programming in TIFF Bell Lightbox will give context to films through innovative cross-media exhibitions, lectures, and film-related learning opportunities for all ages. The year-round programming in TIFF Bell Lightbox is being driven by Noah Cowan, Artistic Director, TIFF Bell Lightbox and his programming team. To date, two significant programming initiatives have been announced for 2010: Essential Cinema, a TIFF-curated film and exhibition programme, and Tim Burton, the highly successful MoMA exhibit.

TIFF is a not-for-profit cultural organization whose mission is to transform the way people see the world through film. Its vision is to lead the world in creative and cultural discovery through the moving image. TIFF generates an annual economic impact of $135 million CAD and currently employs more than 100 full-time staff and 500 part-time and seasonal staff, and counts upon the largesse of over 2,000 volunteers year-round.

Locarno, in its first year under the leadership of former Cannes Directors’ Fortnight chief Olivier Pere will augment its business side by offering special industry screenings and conferences for buyers and sellers with a three day industry screening section August 7 to 9. Coproductions will also have a place in the Open Doors Factory and will be dedicated to cinema from Central Asia this year.

The Moscow International Film Festival is launching its first Business Square event this year, which will run from June 22-26. The program will include the Moscow Co-Production Forum, a three-day masterclass with Audiovisual Entrepreneurs and a film-financing forum dedicated to greater co-operation between the European film industry and counterparts in Brazil, Russia, India and China. More information will be given at their reception will be held in the Russian Pavilion May 16 in the Russian Pavilion.

Taormina Film Fest, June 12-18, will be programmed by the new senior programmer Shane Danielsen, former director of the Edinburgh and the Sydney film festivals. The festival is being directed by The Hollywood Reporter’s chief international film critic, Deborah Young ♀ for the fourth year. Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick will serve on the jury. Robert De Niro and Emir Kusturica lead master classes and receive The Taormina Arte Award and the new Foundazione Roma Mediterraneo Award respectively.

Doha Tribeca Film Festival is expanding this year to include two competitions for Arab film and Arab filmmakers, offering prizes of $100,000 each, two audience awards for narrative and documentary each worth $100,000 as well.

The Tokyo Film Festival had to address criticisms of its program and competition selections and added film executives to its roster including producer Jeremy Thomas as executive advisor and veteran Avex Entertainment acquisitions exec Ken Umehara, who will serve as programming advisor. Thomas has had a long association with Japan, starting with his production of Nagisa Oshima’s WW2 drama Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1982) and continuing with Takeshi Kitano’s gang pic Brother (2000) and Takashi Miike’s new samurai epic Thirteen Assassins to be released this fall.

Returning to the fest are Yoshi Yatabe, programming director for the competition section, and Kenji Ishizaka, programming director for the Winds of Asia and the Middle East section. Tom Yoda is gearing up for his third round as fest chairman, with plans to continue the eco theme he initiated two editions ago, including the section for nature docus and the Toyota Earth Grand Prix for best pic with an eco-related theme.

The Abu Dhabi Film Festiva has integrated the Emirates Film Competition into the festival’s programme under the new banner Emirates Competition, in a move to heighten support for local filmmakers.

Marie-Pierre Macia♀ will oversee the new development and post-production fund launched by the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. As reported in April, the new Sanad fund was set up with $500,000 per year to support filmmakers from the Arab World. Maria Pierre Macia is a well-known figure on the international film scene as both a producer and programmer. She has worked at the San Francisco Film Festival, has headed Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, and produced films for Adrian Sitaru, Bela Tarr, Kamal Aljafari and Ihab Jadallah. Since 2006, she had served as artistic director of the Crossroads forum at Greece’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

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