World Cinema Fund takes center stage

Fund has brought coin to 80 projects

The World Cinema Fund has become one of the Berlinale’s most significant initiatives on the global stage. With a modest annual budget of some ?500,000 ($680,000), the WCF has granted production and distribution coin to a total of 80 projects — chosen from more than 1,400 submissions — from Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central and South East Asia since its inception in 2004.

Among the highest-profile pics to have benefited from WCF support are last year’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Uncle Bonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” from Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul; “Ajami,” Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s Oscar-nominated tale of Arabs and Jews in the Tel Aviv district of Jaffa; Claudia Llosa’s Peruvian drama “The Milk of Sorrow,” which won Berlin’s Golden Bear in 2009; and Hany Abu Assad’s Oscar-nominated “Paradise Now,” one of the first films to receive WCF funding and which went on to sell in more than 50 countries after premiering in Berlin.

All of the WCF-backed films completed so far have screened in cinemas or in international film festivals.

For WCF project managers Sonja Heinen and Vincenzo Bugno, the international success of the initiative is evident

The WCF provides funding grants for production as well for distribution in Germany.

A maximum of about $135,000 in production funding is available to directors from the WCF’s focus regions who have a German partner. WCF supports films with budgets ranging between $270,000 and $1.35 million.

In addition, German distribs can receive up to approximately $20,000 for distribution support when releasing a WCF-backed pic.

In its most recent round of funding in November, the WCF slated more than $200,000 films for four productions, including some $68,000 for “By the Fire,” from Chilean helmer Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, and $54,000 for fellow Chilean filmmaker Esteban Larrain’s “The Passion of Michelangelo.”

“Araf” (Somewhere in Between), Yesim Ustaoglu’s Turkish drama about two adolescents dealing with love and anguish, picked up $40,600, as did Moroccan helmer Leila Kilani for “Sur la planche.”

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