According to Manfred Salzgeber, head of the prestigious Panorama section of the Berlin fest, the annual viewing of indie films has become known among buyers as a “market for insiders.”
“Only a few experienced producers realize this,” says Salzgeber, “and they keep coming back year after year.”
“We try to actively participate in the selling,” he continues, “and have built up solid links with tv and art-cinema buyers.”
Good track record
Indeed, Panorama does boast a good sales record for art films and documentaries such as “Diva,” “My Life As A Dog” and “Through The Wire.” According to Salzgeber, the Canadian film “Comic Book Confidential” was sold to over 20 territories when it unspooled at Berlin. “At the very least,” he says, “most Panorama films receive invitations to other European festivals.”
For a film to qualify for Panorama, its Berlin screening must be an international or European premiere, or a first screening outside the country of origin.
This year, some 50 films from about 20 countries will unspool at the Zoo Palast, Filmpalast Berlin, the Kongresshalle and the Filmtheater Intl.
After spending four weeks in the U.S. viewing some 300 indie films, Salzgeber selected five Yank features: “Hangin’ With The Homeboys” by Joseph Vasquez, “The Grifters” by Stephen Frears, “Iron Maze” by Hiro Yoshida, “Sleeping With The Enemy” by Joe Ruben and Phil Joanou’s “State Of Grace.”
Other U.S. fare consists of nine shorts and three docus including Robert Elfstrom’s examination of the plight of AIDS-infected children, “Christmas At Starcross.”
“What we are looking for,” says Salzgeber, “are films which reach a wide audience and have the potential to penetrate at least the art-cinema market.” He concedes that this is becoming more arduous due to the difficulties U.S. indies have in raising coin, plus the majors’ new push to extract talent from the indies.
The U.K. slate includes Mike Leigh’s “Life Is Sweet,” David Hare’s “Heading Home,” “Close My Eyes” by Stephen Poliakoff and Ron Peck’s “Nighthawks” and “Strip Jack Naked.”
From north of the border
Canada will show Darrall Wasyk’s “H,” Bachar Shbib’s “Julia Has Two Lovers” and a Canadian-French-Belgian co-production, “Un Ete apres l’autre” by Anne-Marie Etienne.
Germany unspools five features including Jurgen Brauer’s “Tanz Auf Der Kippe” (a DEFA film) and “Candida” by Dore O. There is one German-U.S. co-production, “My Father Is Coming” by Monica Treut.
There is also a strong selection of pics from Eastern Europe at this year’s Panorama, with films from Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania.
Romanian retro on tap
It has become a tradition to include a national retrospective in the Panorama section. This year’s retro will concentrate on Romanian cinema – from its beginnings at the turn of the century, with emphasis on the “sociological” documentaries since the early ’30s, to witnesses of the latest changes following the demise of the Ceaucescu regime. Many Romanian filmmakers and critics are expected to attend.
The USSR reps with “Comrade Stalin’s Journey To Africa” by Iraklij Kvirikadse (Georgia) and “The Children Of Hotel America” by Raimundas Banionis (Lithuania).
Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and France all unspool European feature film fare; from farther afield come pics from Mexico, Turkey, Iran, Tunisia and Japan.
Panorama, a sidebar to the official competition, has existed in its present form for about 10 years and was originally intended as a screening space for films not selected for competition. As Salzgeber puts it, “The festival did not intend to make Panorama what it became.
Seeking hot sellers
“Most of all,” he continues, “we look for films that have the best chance of selling, and we strongly advise Panorama participants to enter their product in the market.
“We are not loaded with funds,” says the helmer. “Unlike, for example, the Forum, we do not have enough money to subtitle films, and we can not offer stars a hotel suite.
“But what we can offer them,” he adds, “is a valuable window. That means sales, and that is something no producer could pay for.”