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Asian pix hit it big at Berlin fest

Response to Asian cinema has been stronger this year than last year, according to marketgoers at the Berlin Film Festival. Helen Loveridge, sales director of the Dutch-based Fortissimo Films, which represents many Chinese films, attributes this to “the fact that Asian films have cleaned up most of the major prizes at the festivals last year. People are looking for the next ‘Farewell My Concubine’ and ‘The Wedding Banquet.’ “

A bevy of films are positioned throughout the festival. Chinese new-wave director Wu Ziniu’s film “Sparkling Fox” is in competition. The Forum has two mainland films, “Red Beads” by Je Jianchun and “The Days” by Wang Xiaoshui, and Taiwanese “18” by director Ho Ping.

“Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker,” by mainland Chinese director He Ping, is in the Panorama section, as is “Always on My Mind” from Hong Kong Chinese director Jacob Cheung (“Cagemen”).

‘Firecracker’ hot

“Reception to Chinese cinema is continuing to increase,” said Barbara Robinson, vice president of film licensing for ERA Intl., which is handling “Red Firecracker.””This is turning out to be a terrific market for me. Everyone is rushing to see me. I expect to close a deal in the U.S. and most of Europe by the AFM.”

Robinson said that the film has been taken on its commercial merits. “I have been talking with all of the major U.S. distributors, Miramax, Sony, Samuel Goldwyn, and they see this film as a commercial vehicle.”

Fortissimo, which is handling “The Days” and “Red Beads,” has been surprised at the response to the films.

“They are very small films. We took them on as an exercise to promote the talent, and we are getting offers on them,” said Loveridge. She said they have already sold to the Netherlands, France and Sweden.

An offer for ‘Fox’

“Sparkling Fox” had received one offer from a German distributor who wanted six territories, according to Cheung, but the offer was not high enough. He is taking the film back to Hong Kong to discuss European and American distribution with Warner Bros., which is handling the Asian distribution.

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