One of the Berlinale’s biggest success stories has been the World Cinema Fund.
Since launching in 2004 with the aim of supporting filmmakers from less-developed regions, the WCF has reviewed 522 projects from 53 countries and provided production or distribution coin to 32 projects from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Central Asia, the fund’s regions of focus. Most of the completed pics have gone on to screen at international film festivals.
While its biggest critical and commercial success remains Hany Abu-Assad’s award-winning Palestinian film “Paradise Now,” several others have claimed prizes and gained distribution around the world.
The WCF funded Algerian helmer Teguia Tariq’s “Roma Rather Than You” and Brazilian Karim Ainouz’s “Suely in the Sky,” both of which unspooled last year in the Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti section; latter also swept the main prizes at last year’s Rio Film Festival. It also backed Ariel Rotter’s “El otro,” unspooling in Competition here.
WCF also helped finance Paz Encina’s “Hamaca Paraguaya” (Paraguayan Hammock), which won the Fipresci prize after screening in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section last year. It’s the first Paraguayan film to unspool in the official selection of a major festival — and the only Paraguayan feature shot on 35mm in the last 30 years.
Thanks to the WCF’s distribution funding, both “Madeinusa” by Peruvian director Claudia Losa and Argentina’s “The Wind” by Eduardo Mignogna screened in German theaters.
“The WCF fulfills a cultural need in Europe and in Germany for producers who want to make international films,” says Vincenzo Bugno, who co-manages the fund along with Sonja Heinen. The WCF contributes to the cultural diversity of Europe’s cinematic landscape, Bugno adds.
Indeed, in order to be eligible for funding, foreign projects must have a German producer onboard — a requirement that helps build cultural bridges between filmmakers, Heinen says.
“While it opens great opportunities for German producers, our money must be spent abroad,” Bugno adds. “We also have an economic goal of supporting the industries in the various regions.”
The fund has allowed Berlin-based producer Peter Rommel and Christoph Friedel of Cologne’s Pandora Film to board projects they may not normally have had the opportunity to work on.
Rommel, one of the producers of “Suely in the Sky,” is the main German producer on “El cielo, la tierra y la lluvia” (The Sky, the Earth and the Rain), the directorial debut of Chilean Jose Luis Torres Leiva. Film received E40,000 ($52,000) from the WCF.
Pandora produced 2006 Berlinale competition screener “El custodio” (The Minder) from Argentine director Rodrigo Moreno and is now producing Chilean director Alejandro Fernandez’s “Huacho,” an episodic drama that examines Chile’s sociopolitical conditions. Latter pic received $65,000 in financing.
Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick stresses the fund provides “German producers a wider scope of activity while contributing to the development of film industries in WCF regions.”
Of the 10 WCF-funded films completed, seven have already unspooled in German cinemas.
The WCF is providing distribution coin for two new films, Kurdish director Hiner Saleem’s “Dol” and Iranian helmer Rafi Pitts’ “It’s Winter.” Berlin-based Mitosfilm will release “Dol” in Germany. In March, Berlin’s FSK Kino&Peripher is releasing “It’s Winter,” which screened in competition at the Berlinale last year.