Film mart clocks 200 plus participants

PARIS — Shukhrat Karimov’s “The Gaulish Village,” Ernesto Contreras’ “I Dream in Another Language” and Pablo Fendrik’s “Smoke Men” were just some of the standouts at the 8th Paris Project film financing forum, which wrapped Wednesday.

Budgeted at just Euros 500,000 ($635,000), and the Uzbek director’s debut, the gag-laden “Village” centers on an aging Francophile teacher from Uzbekistan who decides to transform his village into a Little Paris. Produced by Uzbekistan’s Central Asia Film in association with Sharq Sinema, the project is inspired by a real story that was chronicled in a documentary also helmed by Karimov.

“It’s the perfect combination of a World Cinema film that can appeal to niche audiences both in Eastern Europe and in France, Germany and Spain,” said Guillaume de Seille, a producer at Arizona Films, who was screening Tan Chui Mui’s “The Year Without Summer” at the market.

The three-day co-production and sales mart unveiled a clutch of projects by up-and-coming filmmakers whose prior pics have often seen major fest play.

Mexican Contreras, who was pitching “I Dream in Another Language” at Paris Project, won a flurry of fest awards for “Blue Eyelids,” topped by the 2007 Grand Jury nod at Sundance.

“I Dream in Another Language,” a $1.5 million Netherlands-Mexico co-pro, follows a young linguist who travels to Mexico’s Southern jungles to prevent the imminent extinction of an indigenous language.

Argentina’s Fendrik, who unveiled suspenser “Smoke Men,” saw his previous films, “The Mugger” and “Blood Appears,” screen in Cannes Critics’ Week.

One the mart’s few genre films, “Smoke Men,” a Buenos Aires-set thriller, received wide interest from sales companies and potential co-producers.

“While we continue to look for well-polished artpics, we’re also opening up to singular genre films like ‘Smoke Men’ that has an auteur quality and a commercial appeal,” said Eric Schnedecker, who handles international sales and acquisitions for Paris-based outfit UMedia.

According to Raphael Berdugo, topper at EuropaCorp-owned Roissy Films, “Festival prizes don’t mean much anymore, as far as commercial potential.”

Adds Berdugo, “What really draws audiences is a solid concept and a good, entertaining script — ‘Smoke Men’ fits that bill.”

Another Paris Project buzz film was Caetano Gotardo’s debut “The Moving Creatures,” produced by Sara Silveira’s Brazilian company, Dezenove.

UMedia has inked a three-year multi-picture deal with Silveira’s shingle and was one of the sales companies expressing interest in repping “Creatures.”

Budgeted at $1.45 million, “Creatures” is a poetic drama weaving three tales exploring grief and motherhood. Pic will receive Brazilian federal funding and already has a cast lined up.

For Thomas Pibarot, Le Pacte acquisition topper, the strength of this year’s Paris Project was breadth and diversity of genres repped by its lineup of films in development.

As local production industries worldwide continue growing, Paris Project is attracting ever more industryites looking for the next arthouse hit, explains Thibaut Bracq, who heads the event.

This year, the film mart registered 200-plus participants and 473 meetings – 114 more than last year.

Meanwhile, 70 companies attended screenings of eight pics in post-production, up from four last year. Four pics were prior mart projects. Argentinian helmer Victoria Galardi’s family dramedy “Cerro Bayo,” from the co-director of “Lovely Loneliness,” sparked good buzz.

Other highlights included Chinese drama “People Mountain People See,” Cai Shangjun’s follow up to “The Red Awn” which won the Pusan fest’s Fipresci nod; and “Hard Labor,” helmed by first-timers Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra, whose short film “A Stem” nabbed Cannes 2007’s Kodak Discovery prize.

MK2 acquisition-sales exec Juliette Schrameck said she’d spotted a few interesting films she will want to see again once completed.

“Since most films are first or second features, it’s important for us to see them finished before taking decisions,” explained Schrameck.

“But since so many films are flooding the market, it’s important to get an idea of what films we should keep track of and make a first selection at Paris Project.”

b>John Hopewell contributed to this report./b>

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