Canadian Buyers Are Taking A Conservative Approach

Canadians will be in Berlin on their first shopping excursion of the year, but don’t expect any impulse buys.

Quebec is the only market for Eurofare in Canada, but local cinephiles aren’t lining up for foreign films as they did last year. Quebec distribs, therefore, only want reasonably priced gems with commercial potential.

The market in Quebec for films from France “has totally dropped off says veteran distrib Victor Loewy, Alliance Releasing’s topper.

“We won’t be buying French films for the same kind of advance we gave in the past,” Loewy says. “All major buyers are staying away from French films.”

Loewy and other serious buyers want to stage repeat performances with the “quality art films’ that are Berlin’s hallmark. Loewy himself is looking for a poignant sleeper like his last Berlin find, “My Life As A Dog.”

Didier Farre of Key Largo Films is hoping to unearth another “Bagdad Cafe.” Louis Dussault of Films du Crepuscule is seeking this year’s equivalent of Aki Kaurismaki’s last pic, “Leningrad Cowboys Go America”; Dussault bought “Cowboys” in Berlin last year and has scheduled the film for a Feb. 15 release in Montreal.

Berlin is also the place to discover new directors, says CinemaPlus topper Richard Goudreau. Last year he was introduced to Danish helmer Kaspar Rostrup and picked up “Waltzing Regitze, ” which will open in Quebec soon. Goudreau, like all his Quebec peers, will be scouring the market and official categories for similar films which have a chance in Quebec and possibly English-speaking Canada.

“Berlin corresponds to the exact kind of film I’ve distributed for 15 years,” says Dussault, whose time is booked solid during the fest. “A lot of people call me and want me to see their films,” he says, because of his track record in picking up product. However, there is always the unexpected film which will change his sked.

As for tv buyers, Radio Quebec’s Daniel Lajeunesse is no longer looking for auteur films. “I have enough,” he said. “Now I need more commercial films, but of the same high quality.”

Berlin is also a bonanza for festival programmers and directors from Canada’s major events in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto and smaller fests as well, says Monica Haim, director of the women’s film fest Cinema Femmes. At Berlin last year, Haim selected no less than four features, two shorts and a docu for her event, including “Crocodiles In Amsterdam” and “The Asthenic Syndrome,” the Soviet pick which won Cinema Femmes’ top prize.

Haim says competition is stiff between her fest, the Montreal World Film Festival and the Intl. Festival of New Cinema and Video in Montreal to find the best films.

“Everybody is going shopping, and given the density of film festivals in Montreal, everybody is working hard to get to the right films first,” Haim explains.

Toronto Festival of Festivals deputy director Piers Handling says he and programmers David Overby and Kay Armatage select about 5% of their lineup from the Berlin fest. Last year that meant eight picks including “Nasty Girl,” which was presented in the prestigious gala category in Toronto.

Vancouver fest director Alan Franey programmed “a half-dozen films directly from Berlin last year,” despite the fact he was “disappointed in the lineup” of pics.

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