It took three years to set up, but the World Cinema Fund is ready to roll. The Berlin Film Festival’s initiative is intended to impact global cinema by supporting filmmakers from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Creation follows in the footsteps of Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund, the French Fonds Sud Cinema, the Global Film Initiative in New York and a fund set up by the Gothenberg film festival.
Features and docus that otherwise might never see the light of the movie projector are to be given an average of $45,000, with a ceiling of $132,000, in production support or a $20,000 distribution subsidy for the film to be shown in German cinemas.
Over the next three years, the fund is to receive an annual budget of $660,900 from the German Federal Cultural Foundation. In the first year, the fund has received 150 applications.
On the question of what kind of films will be selected by the WCF jury, WCF manager Sonja Moerkens explains: “Although part of our goal is to strengthen local film industries, this is really a cultural fund.”
Vincenzo Bugno, the fund’s co-manager and adviser, adds: “That’s why we’re more arthouse oriented in our approach and are looking for director-driven films with a strong cultural identity.”
Among those speculating what’s to be expected from the WCF is German-French producer Christian Baute, who says: “My impression so far is that in terms of ethos and style, the World Cinema Fund is trying to position itself in a similar fashion to the Sundance Institute.” Baute is a likely contender for WCF production support with his $600,000 Argentine drama “El Otro” by helmer Ariel Rotter.
“El Otro” is an interesting example as it had already received script development support from the Hubert Bals Fund and Baute has also applied for production money from Fonds Sud. Such cooperation among the various world cinema funds is not uncommon.
“There really is no rivalry among the funds and, for example, we work very closely with the Goteborg Fund,” says Marianne Bhalotra of the Hubert Bals Fund. “Of course, we’d be very happy to work with the WCF.”
The Hubert Bals Fund, which has an annual budget of $1.3 million and provides development, post-production and distribution support for approximately 60 features a year, is a success story the WCF aspires to.
“The Hubert Bals Fund played an important role in encouraging the new wave of Argentinean cinema,” says Argentine helmer-producer Daniel Burman, who received $20,000 in post-production money from Rotterdam for “Esperando al mesias.” “It’s not just the money — receiving their support is a sign of quality for distributors. It makes people take notice of your film.”
Hopes are that the WCF’s logo on a sale sheet will have a similar effect. “World cinema needs that kind of brand support, those seals of approvals from established festivals like Berlin even before the movie is actually finished,” says Baute, who expects that receiving WCF support will make it easier for him to find an international sales agent and a German distributor.
As cultural exchange is one of the objectives behind the fund, one of the few requirements attached to the grants is that filmmakers bring a German producer onboard. “We hope that we’ll help people discover synergies and make it more interesting for German producers to work with filmmakers from developing countries,” Moerkens says.
However, Moerkens is keen to stress that involving a German producer does not mean the fund is a German subsidy in disguise. In contrast to Fonds Sud, where subsidy money has to be spent in France, there are no German-spend requirements with the WCF.
“We hope that by having a German producer attached, it will be easier for the film to find a German distributor, and it enables us to keep a check on where the money is going,” Bugno explains, and he emphasizes: “We consciously chose not to become actively involved in the production and distribution cycle. We have no rights on the final product.”