Unifrance fest unspools despite storm

PARIS — Unifrance, the French umbrella group designed to promote French films internationally, will go ahead with its French film festival in Acapulco, despite the recent damage caused to the city by hurricane Pauline.

The Mexican authorities have made it clear that while the city is still in shock, the fest will be part of a drive to relaunch the economic and tourist activities of the region.

Seventeen pics will be attending the event (Nov. 19-23), with world premieres for Philippe de Broca’s swashbuckler “On Guard” and Benoit Jacquot’s “Le Septieme Ciel.” Other films set to head to Mexico include comic hit “Pedale Douce,” Manuel Poirier’s successful road movie “Western” and Claude Chabrol’s “Rien ne va plus.”

This year, Unifrance is making a special effort to bring Latin American television buyers to the event as part of an overall strategy to boost sales to the television sector. Unifrance figures show that some 732 million people will watch French films on television in Europe this year. “With the growth of pay television and the increase in the number of television channels we cannot afford to miss this rendezvous,” noted Unifrance president Daniel Toscan du Plantier. “Pay television is becoming an important source of revenue for our producers.”

Stressing that Unifrance does not intend to reduce its efforts to get French films into hardtops, Toscan du Plantier said that increased efforts would be made to target television buyers. These efforts will include an increased Unifrance presence at such television markets as Mip and Mipcom, in conjunction with Television France Intl. (the TV equivalent of Unifrance), as well as prospecting TV acquisition execs at the major film fests.

With Unifrance’s budget currently at some 58 million francs ($10 million), efforts are being made to find additional cash to help film exports. One new initiative that has been put to the French Culture Minister Catherine Trautmann is for a support fund to be set up for producers to use to back the international careers of their pics.

Although Unifrance is still studying the idea of this fund and is a long way from working out exactly how it would operate, early indications are that it would be based on the international box office results of a given film. Based on box office results outside France, additional funding would be made available to the producer to promote a future pic internationally. Unifrance insiders said that the Culture Minister and the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC) — which collects and distributes the vast majority of film funds in France — have both given their approval to the project, which could be put in place in 1999.

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