Feature films and telepics for tykes will up their profile at Mifed this year, thanks to the advent of Kids Screen, a parallel event designed to become an annual forum to promote the production and distribution of quality fare for the growing children’s market.

Organized by Brussels-based ECFA (European Children’s Film Assn.) in collaboration with Mifed, the event will take place Nov. 4-7 at Villa Erba, on the shores of Lake Como, about a half-hour drive from the Fiera di Milano. A shuttle service between the two venues will be available.

“Kids Screen is our first step in this direction, and we believe it is an extremely valid area to be moving into,” says Mifed director Tullio Galleno. “Depending on the response to this year’s efforts, I hope there will be further developments to this section in the future.”

The first children’s film market attempted in Europe, Kids Screen will showcase some 100 films, TV productions and educational products pitched at 4-to 14-year-olds. So far, 20 international companies have signed up, with animation accounting for around 60% of the product on offer.

The organizers’ aim is to help specialized buyers catering to this market to locate product that often gets lost among the general smorgasbord.

“Violence is being increasingly frowned upon on international TV screens, so the market for family pictures is growing and growing,” says Graham King, president of worldwide distribution at Intl. Entertainment Group. “It’s good to have them in an exclusive situation where buyers can go straight to what they are looking for.”

IEG had a hit in terms of foreign sales earlier this year with the family comedy “Rent a Kid” starring Leslie Nielsen. The group will bring three titles to Kids Screen.

“Obviously, within the family area, there’s Disney and then there’s everyone else,” says Dave Sobieraj, Alliance MDP Worldwide senior vice president of domestic sales and marketing. “But what Disney does is good for everyone else in the sector.

“Family films don’t generate tremendous profit, but they usually make money in steady sales, so the risk-reward ratio is lower than with other genres of programming,” Sobieraj adds. “It’s a strong, targetable, promotable area and we have a good track record releasing family films both domestically and internationally. Parents are always looking for new programs for their kids.”

“It’s a sector that has been largely neglected in the past,” says Vincenzo Mosca, head of worldwide film and video sales at Italo outfit Sacis. “Developments like Kids Screen are very welcome and will certainly mean more of these films being produced. Theatrical markets being what they are, however, a specialized market like this will be useful mainly to TV and homevideo buyers.”

Alongside the market, ECFA has invited the directors of several European children’s film fests affiliated with the association to program a selection of the best kid pics from recent years. These include Dorota Kedzierzawska’s “Crows” (Poland), Jafar Panahi’s “The White Balloon” (Iran), Ake Sandgren’s “The Slingshot” (Sweden) and Mike Newell’s “Into the West” (U.K.).

Two international seminars also are scheduled. The first (Nov. 4-5) focuses on children’s film production, aiming to promote contacts between producers, directors and distributors working within the sector.

The second confab (Nov. 6-7) looks at children’s films and media education, and will include presentations on interactive television and other new media. Participants include European Parliament Cultural Commission president Luciana Castellina, vice director of children’s programming at the BBC Roy Thompson and Christian James of the British Film Institute.

As a nod to the film centennial, Kids Screen will show the recently restored 1911 Italo classic “Pinocchio,” directed by Giulio Antamoro. Also screening is Luchino Visconti’s 1951 drama “Bellissima,” with Anna Magnani as the tireless stage mother of a homely young girl. Villa Erba, where the market will take place, is the former residence of the late Visconti.

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