Berlinale's fund helps filmmakers get a step up

While other fests support “world cinema,” the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund tallies up real-world successes, most notably in the last calendar year with Claudia Llosa’s Peruvian drama “Milk of Sorrow,” which nabbed the Golden Bear in 2009 and a foreign-language Oscar nom, and Israeli-Palestine feature “Ajami,” from Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti.

Berlinale topper Dieter Kosslick says the fest has benefited from the rich offerings of new film countries and regions that had not previously been represented on the international stage. Much of that output is a direct result of Kosslick’s initiatives such as the WCF or the Talent Campus educational platform, which have resulted in the Berlinale actively nurturing young filmmakers.

For Kosslick and his team, the WCF represents “the positive effects of globalization.”

WCF project managers Sonja Heinen and Vincenzo Bugno credit local producers who have sought to assist foreign producers: “This funding has enabled the committed, culturally focused work of a new generation of German producers who support the realization of film projects outside Europe.”

Kosslick says the amount of films coming out of initiatives like the WCF and Talent Campus — which help filmmakers with their first and second works — is far more than he ever imagined.

A slew of WCF’s productions have also had world premieres at other major fests. Last year four titles screened in Cannes: Ciro Guerra’s Colombian drama “The Wind Journeys”; Raya Martins’ Philippine work “Independencia”; “Ajami”; and “Huacho,” by Chilean helmer Alejandro Almendras Fernandez.

In 2008, Yesim Ustaoglu’s Turkish family drama “Pandora’s Box” unspooled in Toronto and won best film in San Sebastian, while Kiko Goifman’s mockumentary “FilmPhobia” screened around the globe and nabbed five awards, including best pic, at the Brasilia Film Festival.

Other major fest screeners that year included Jose Luis Torres Leiva’s “The Sky, the Earth and the Rain” (Rotterdam); Josue Mendez’s “Gods” (Locarno); and Semih Kaplanoglu’s “Milk” (Venice).

“Recycle,” Mahmoud Al Massad’s Jordanian documentary about modern-day terrorism, unspooled in Dubai in 2007.

The Spanish-Peruvian co-production is one of 66 works so far to receive production and/or distribution coin from the fund, which has an annual budget of around $700,000.

The WCF focuses on pics from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia and the Caucasus. Producers can apply for coin as long as they have a German partner.

The Berlinale has screened a number of WCF pics in its main competition section in recent years, including Hany Abu Assad’s “Paradise Now” in 2005; Rodrigo Moreno’s Argentine title “El custodio” in 2006; and last year’s “The Milk of Sorrow.”

This year Iranian helmer Rafi Pitts is in competition with “The Hunter.” Pitts first competed here in 2006 with “It’s Winter” and returned last year to serve on Berlin’s first-feature jury.

In order to qualify for funding, WCF projects have to demonstrate a clear connection with the cultural identity of their region.

As Heinen and Bugno put it: “The more local, the more international. They are authentic and therefore powerful.”

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