Belgian filmmaker urges indie aid

Producer-helmer's 'Sand' preemed at San Seb

UTRECHT — Belgian filmmaker Marion Hansel, speaking Saturday at the Variety Cinema Militans talk at the Netherlands Film Festival, called on distributors, exhibitors and broadcasters to find more space for independent features.

“If our films never get shown, how can we know if there is an audience for them or not?” she asked.

The fiercely independent producer-helmer, whose Africa-set drought drama “Sounds of Sand” just preemed at San Sebastian, spoke candidly about her career in the Q&A session.

A trained actor and tightrope walker whose first loves were the stage and circus, Hansel broke into filmmaking in 1982 with “The Bed,” about a dying sculptor.

“I couldn’t find a producer. No one was interested in a story about a dying man,” recalled Hansel. “When I hear ‘no’ it gives me three times more energy to find another solution.”

In its 16th year, the Cinema Militans talk revolves around the fixed theme of “The Position and Viability of Cinema in the Present Age.” It’s inspired by Dutch film critic Menno ter Braak’s 1926 essay “Cinema Militans.”

It took place within the context of the Netherlands Film Fest’s industry-focused Holland Film Meeting (HFM), which ran Saturday through Monday.

HFM’s central event, the Netherlands Production Platform, aimed at fostering fledgling projects, was modified this year. Daylong pitching sessions were replaced with roundtable discussions and one-to-one meetings.

“The feedback has been very positive — we wanted to move away from the pitching format because it’s hard to keep the energy levels up for 20-odd projects,” HFM chief Ellis Driessen said of reaction to the new format.

This year 24 projects from across Europe were presented at the NPP. Dutch project “Dead Girl,” a psychological drama about a dead twin who comes back to haunt her sister, won the e5,000 ($6,366) Kodak NPP Development Prize.

Driessen said 152 foreign guests attended the HFM this year, 30 more than 2005. Other HFM events included panel discussions on co-producing with the Netherlands and new ways of distribution.

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