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Setting stage for foreign-lingo bingo

EFAs can position pix for Oscar contention, U.S. distrib'n

In 1998, “Life Is Beautiful” took the film kudos at the European Film Awards. The following year, Roberto Benigni’s Holocaust drama was distributed in the U.S. and went on to nab an Oscar for foreign-lingo film.

As one of the first award shows of the season, the EFAs positions itself as a kudofest that can help predict which pics will get attention come Oscar time. It also helps draw attention to Euro films that haven’t landed a U.S. distrib deal.

As it is in so many things, timing is everything. When Nik Powell took over as EFA chairman in 1996, he decided to move the org’s ceremony to December in order to serve as a kickoff to the award season.

“The idea was that instead of being a backward-looking award honoring films that had already won an Oscar or a Cesar, we would be forward-looking because that’s what would be the most helpful to the films and their marketing and exposure,” he says.

This year, all the nominees for European film already have U.S. distribution: “The Pianist” and “8 Women” (Focus Features), “Bloody Sunday” (Paramount Classics), “Talk to Her” and “The Man Without a Past” (Sony Pictures Classics), “Lilya 4-Ever” (Newmarket Films), “Bend It Like Beckham” (Fox Searchlight) and “The Magdalene Sisters” (Miramax).

In most cases, the pics that win EFAs have already screened at various festivals and won numerous other awards.

“Just because a film is nominated or wins an EFA doesn’t mean an acquisitions person will buy it,” says Par Classics co-prexy Ruth Vitale. “They’ve likely seen it before. By the time a film has been nominated for an EFA, someone has seen it at some festival somewhere in the world.”

“No Man’s Land,” “The Full Monty,” “Amelie” and “All About My Mother” are among the titles that have been recognized at the European Film Awards in recent years before being nominated or winning Academy Awards.

” ‘Buena Vista Social Club’ won an EFA and then got distribution in the U.S. and was nominated for an Oscar, but the film would have been picked up for distribution even if it hadn’t won an EFA,” says Corina Danckwerts, U.S. rep of the German Federal Film Board and the Export-Union of German Cinema/West Coast.

“I don’t think there’s an exclusive example of a film that received an EFA and then immediately got distribution because of it. In fact, many past winners have never been distributed in the U.S.”

Magnolia Films president Eamonn Bowles is skeptical that winning an EFA is a sign of a film’s marketability in the U.S.

“Cannes has a much higher profile than the EFA and gets incredible press coverage. But the film that wins the award at Cannes doesn’t have a lot of impact on U.S. box office,” he says.

That said, winning an EFA certainly couldn’t hurt a film’s U.S. chances. “Winning any award helps,” says Danckwerts.

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