The AFM is gearing up for a record 249 companies selling indie films, which includes a big increase in foreign participants: 116, up from last year’s 77.

“It’s the biggest market we’ve ever had,” according to Tim Kittleson, exec director of the American Film Market, Feb. 25-March 5.

Kittleson said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the jump signals a revitalizing marketplace.

“I think it means that people are making better movies. Countries that usually export, like France, Italy and to some extent Germany, are making movies that are more palatable for the international marketplace,” Kittleson told Daily Variety.

Big French showing

Countries with the largest contingents are the U.K. with 28, France with 17, Italy with 15, Canada with nine and the Netherlands and Hong Kong with six each. Germany, Japan and Australia registered with three apiece.

The jump in foreign sellers is a result of the AFM’s changing image, Kittleson said. “And I think what these non-U.S.-based companies have learned is that the AFM is not only for English-language action/adventure films.

“You’ll always find the action/adventure stuff gets more attention because it’s zippy. However, studios’ classics divisions and U.S. specialty distributors come to the AMF to find product for distribution in all media, and they use these types of (specialty) films to fill out their pipelines.”

Buying hopes

Pre-registration for overseas distributors is also 6% ahead of last year’s 1, 600 buyers. This year’s buyers are from 54 countries.

“I hope it means it’s the start of an upward rise that will continue on through Cannes and Mifed. I hope that it not only means more deals for finished films, but that it will trigger more investment from the banks, which could result in future production,” Kittleson said.

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