Variety: European Film Promotion Brings Key Talent, Films to Festival

Variety

Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson presents his coming-of-age Icelandic drama “Heartstone,” which nabbed this year’s Queer Lion Award in Venice

European Film Promotion is back at the Busan Film Festival this year with 18 filmmakers and actors in tow as part of its wide-ranging efforts to boost European cinema in Asia.

EFP, which comprises film organizations from 37 countries, has been promoting European film at the Korean fest for nearly two decades through its aptly named Opening Doors program. The organization, which promotes European cinema and talent around the world, sees Busan as one of the main gateways to the Asian market.

EFP president Martin Schweighofer says: the “program has been fine-tuned over the years and proven very helpful for the participants. With EFP’s many years of experience and profound knowledge of the festival and the Asian Film Market, Opening Doors provides a very stimulating environment for the introduction of new film talent at the festival as well as for films on the market.”

The 18 filmmakers and actors attending the event this year hail from 13 different countries and are attending the event with the support of EFP’s respective members. In addition, 36 European sales agents will set up shop at EFP’s expansive European Umbrella at the mart.

As part of its events this year, EFP will introduce European film talent to Korean auds, hold a dinner for participants and selected journalists and organize networking meetings between sales reps and Asian buyers.

In addition, EFP’s Film Sales Support (FSS) initiative provides financial aid to European sales companies to market their films internationally, from producing promotional material to organizing market screenings. According to FSS project director Susanne Davis, it covers 50% of marketing costs, averaging €2,500 ($2,792) per film for a maximum of two films per company.

Among the 13 filmmakers joining EFP at Busan with their films are German helmer Johannes Naber, Greek director Yannis Sakaridis, Virgil Widrich of Austria, Britain’s Bill Clark, Caterina Carone of Italy and Lithuania’s Andrius Blazevicius.

Making its world premiere in the Open Cinema section is Naber’s “Heart of Stone,” the latest adaptation of Wilhelm Hauff’s fairytale about a poor charcoal burner who sells his heart for great wealth. German helmer Paul Verhoeven’s 1950 classic was East Germany’s first color film.

Sakaridis’ “Amerika Square,” which examines the impact of the current immigration crisis on various lives in Athens, and Widrich’s “Night of a 1000 Hours,” a supernatural black comedy about a wealthy family haunted by ghosts of the past, are having their world premieres in Busan’s Flash Forward sidebar.

Also unspooling in the section are Clark’s fact-based drama “Starfish,” about a young family facing a harrowing challenge; Carone’s “Fräulein: A Winter Tale,” a relationship drama set against a freak solar storm; and Blazevicius’ contemporary drama “The Saint.”

In addition, Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson presents his coming-of-age Icelandic drama “Heartstone,” which nabbed this year’s Queer Lion Award in Venice; Jonas Trueba brings his Spanish work “The Reconquest,” about two teenage lovers trying to reunite after 15 years; and Tobias Noelle will introduce his Swiss private eye drama “Aloys.”

European sales companies are expecting to meet enthusiastic distributors as Busan offers an ideal platform to reach Korean and Asian buyers. “On average, almost 40% of the films which receive Film Sales Support from EFP to boost marketing campaigns at the Asian Film Market are sold to Asia every year,” says EFP managing director Renate Rose.

Schweighofer points out that while domestic films dominate South Korea’s box office, followed by U.S. blockbusters, “the third place in the Korean cinemas belongs solidly to European films.” It nevertheless “remains imperative to cultivate the appreciation of European cinema” with events such as those taking place in Busan, he adds.

The most successful European films in South Korea this year included John Carney’s “Sing Street”; Jaco Van Dormael’s Belgian comedy “The Brand New Testament”; Hannes Holm’s Swedish comedy-drama “A Man Called Ove”; and Julia von Heinz’s German comedy “I’m Off Then.”

Last year a wide range of European titles sold not only to South Korea but also to Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. They included Rene Feret’s “Anton Chekhov 1890,” Aron Lehmann’s “Highway to Hellas,” David Farr’s “The Ones Below,” Antti J. Jokinen’s “The Midwife,” Anders Thomas Jensen’s “Men & Chicken,” and Alvaro Longoria’s “The Propaganda Game.”

Variety by Ed Meza

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