Biz healthy as kudos awarded

Paris — Tunisian helmer Kaouther Hania’s “Challatt of Tunis” nabbed one of the International Projects Showcase awards at Sunny Side of the Doc, which wrapped Friday in La Rochelle, France.

Produced by Paris-based shingle Avenue B and Tunisia’s Cinetelefilms, “Challatt of Tunis” follows Hania on the trail of an man who was imprisoned for having mutilated women and freed from jail in the aftermath of the Tunisian revolution.

“Challatt” is backed by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture’s Arab Documentary Film Program, which is a partnership with the Sundance Institute, and the Doha Film Institute, among others.

Other International Projects Showcase winners include China’s “Surfacing at 175,” from SunTV, in the history/sciences category; South Korea’s Bitter Sweet Joke, from Gongbang Prods. in arts/culture; and Gaul’s Lutece 3D, from Sequana Media in the 3D & cinema section.

Trouble Prods.’ “Lugo, The Paraguan Challenge” (Italy) and Boda Media Group’s “Here Comes Uncle Joe” (South Korea) nabbed kudos in the under-30 category, while the U.S.’s “Mapping Conflict,” produced by WNET PBS New York and Fork Films, won for best cross-media project.

Each of these winners received a €2,000 grant from an international jury.

Jeanneau pointed out the International Project Showcase has yielded some positive results since its launch three years ago. Alejandra Sanchez is one such success, having pitched her documentary feature “Agnus Dei” two years ago in the Showcase and finding a French co-producer and a distributor. Pic was selected for the IDFA’s Doc For Sale section in 2010.

In its 22nd year, Sunny Side of the Doc drew 1,743 participants, a 10% climb on 2010, as well as 455 companies, 290 buyers and commissioning editors from 63 countries.

As a result of Sheffield Doc/Fest Market shifting its dates from November to June, Sunny Side of the Doc attracted fewer British and American attendees than in previous years.

But Jeanneau said the climb in Middle-Eastern, Latin American and Asian participation, on the rise since the creation of Latin Side and Asian Side of the Doc, made up for the drop in Anglo-American attendance.

“We had feared that Sheffield would really hurt Sunny Side of the Doc but we got a sense that the market was in good shape,” said Charlotte Uzu, head of international development at Les Films d’Ici (“Waltz With Bashir”). “It’s still an important market to find co-production partners and discover some interesting projects. We had some good meetings.”

Tian Hai, CEO of China’s production company Rare Media said attending the mart was “encouraging and stimulating.” Hai added that he had initiated talks with French broadcasters and would travel back to France in the fall for follow-up meetings.

Sunny Side of the Doc is also where French and international networks discuss what’s on their programming slate and tell producers what they’re looking for.

While French-German net Arte, French cabler Canal Plus and Gallic pubcaster France Televisions announced they were upping their budgets for docs, Finnish broadcaster YLE said it would be freezing documentary pre-acquisitions and co-productions. Over at NHK, international co-productions exec Shin Yasuda explained the Japanese broadcaster’s programing schedule was finally back to normal after months of turmoils following the March earthquake. Yasuda said NHK was particularly interested in documentaries dealing with nuclear energy, ecology and alternative lifestyle, the U.S. election and “some good Asian stories” to fill its slot dedicated to non-Japanese docs.

As Jeanneau summed it up, “what buyers really want in this competitive market are documentaries that have a crossover appeal and can create an event on the small screen or in theaters, thanks to the exclusivity of their subject matters or shooting locations, the originality of their treatment or because they’re backed by popular auteurs.”

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