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International films hunt for funding

Atelier helps connect filmmakers, investors

PARIS — Judging by the resumes of the 15 filmmakers who made the cut for this year’s Atelier du Cinema — Cannes’ spotlight on in-the-works projects from emerging filmmakers — the competition for places must have been fierce: The lineup includes a Cannes Palme d’Or winner for short film (Romania’s Catalin Mitulescu), a Camera d’Or winner (Sri Lanka’s Vimukthi Jayasandara) and a Berlin Silver Bear winner (Taiwan’s Ming-Liang Tsai), among a host of worthy nominees.

Now in its third year, the Cannes Atelier differs from most traditional film workshops in that the focus is not so much on providing nuts-and-bolts advice about filmmaking as it is on giving young talent the chance to showcase their projects and attract international investment.

To be considered for selection, a film project must have a completed screenplay, a director and producer attached, plus at least 20% of the final budget already in place. It is this remaining 80% that Atelier chief Georges Goldenstern hopes the spotlight of Cannes can help attract.

“We began the Atelier because we felt it was becoming more and more difficult for a film to find the necessary financing in its own country,” says Goldenstern, who spends much of the year traveling around film festivals in search of new talent. “The Atelier gives directors the chance to put their films in the shop window and open the way to meetings with international investors.”

Goldenstern estimates that 75% of the projects selected in 2005 and 2006 have either been finished or are in production. These include last year’s Venice grand special jury prize winner “Daratt,” by Chad’s Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.

This year’s projects hail from 15 countries (Asian and South American pics figure strongly). The lineup includes two first films, from Argentine helmer Pablo Aguero and Morocco’s Hicham Falah and Mohammed Chrif Tribak.

France is represented by Bertrand Bonello, whose project “De la guerre,” a mysterious fantasy, was written with Italian thesp Asia Argento (who has agreed to star) in mind. Bonello’s last pic, “Tiresia,” was in competition at Cannes four years ago. He’s interested in making what he calls “experience” films.

“There are many more projects in France looking to get made than there used to be. So the number of projects has increased, but not the amount of money,” says Bonello. “It also helps in France to have a commercial project that the main TV channels want to finance. For more personal projects, like my own, that’s rarely the case. The Atelier will permit me to meet foreign backers and look for the money I need outside of France.”

A list of this year’s Atelier projects and their synopses (in both English and French) can be found at cinefondation.com.

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