Thessaloniki mart boosts Balkan biz

Economic crisis benefits region's smaller-budget films

There’s an upside to the global economic downturn for small, independent films from the Balkans region, according to Thessaloniki’s Crossroads Co-production Forum coordinator Angeliki Vergou.

For distributors under pressure to cut costs, the smaller-budget films typical of Greece and the southeast European region offer opportunities to find product without the hefty minimum-guarantee pricetags that blockbusters come with.

“What has been proven clearly during the last five years is that films with a crossover potential can travel if they manage to stand out from their more mainstream competitors,” Vergou says.

Films that have been given a leg up by the festival’s industry programs — the co-prod forum and the Agora market — include Cypriot film “The Last Homecoming,” which got U.S. distribution by “skipping the main markets such as Cannes or Berlin,” according to Vergou.

Other success stories for films that buyers found at Thessaloniki include Alexis Alexiou’s “Tale 52,” a festival work in progress that sold for theatrical distribution to 10 European countries; and this year’s Berlin Silver Bear winner “Katalin Varga,” which was picked up at the Agora as a work in progress by Romania’s Libra Film.

Vergou credits Crossroads with bringing together established filmmakers such as Amos Gitai and Raoul Ruiz as well as newcomers like Nadav Lapid, who won the Crossroads Noki N Series Award in 2007, who found co-producers in Thessaloniki and is in production with Israeli/French shingle Tu Vas Voir with his new project, “Le Policier.”

There’s also the Balkans Fund script development program, which gives four projects each year the chance to win a $15,000 development grant.

Films completed that went through the Balkans Fund include Berlin 2009 Forum entry “The Happiest Girl in the World,” directed by Romania’s Radu Jude; and “Small Crime,” from Christos Georgiou of Greece.

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