Film fest widens focus under new a.d.

ROME — The international indie biz found what it was looking for at Locarno Film Festival Industry Days, the informal but meticulously reconfigured mart that has expanded its scope within the global industry.

This year some 250 buyers and sellers flocked to the 10-day (Aug. 3-13) Swiss lakeside fest where industryites can now catch most of the festival’s entire selection in three days (Aug. 6-8) and, concurrently, attend its Open Doors co-production mart, dedicated to India this year, plus its new Carte Blanche window, which promoted works from Colombia.

While Locarno has always had a mostly European industry presence, this was the second edition of its Industry Days, launched in tandem with the arrival of new artistic director Olivier Pere last year.

“My main goal is to enhance the value of Olivier’s selection,” says Locarno Industry Office topper Nadia Dresti.

The Locarno lineup under Pere has become less Eurocentric, and one of Dresti’s priorities has been to lure companies from beyond European confines to Locarno, where newcomers included Brazilian distributor California Filmes, Russia’s A-One Films and Superfine Films from India.

India, an increasingly hot territory, played a prominent role. The Open Doors-India co-production mart, where 12 projects in the treatment stage were presented, prompted more than 400 one-on-one meetings, according to Dresti, and some 70 European co-producers purposely made the trek to meet the high-profile Indian delegation, which included Bollywood star Kabir Bedi.

The Locarno Open Doors top nod went to “The Trapper’s Snare,” a drama set against the background of recent civil war in Sri Lanka by helmer Shanker Raman and producer Rucha Pathak.

Talk was about the need for the Indian industry to break out internationally with a non-Bollywood pic, which currently seems like a tall order.

“There is a very different mindset to making movies in India,” says Sunil Doshi, an Alliance Media India exec and longtime Locarno collaborator, who selected this year’s Open Doors projects. “Producers put up the money upfront. Hence the lack of arthouse or even middle-of-the road movies. It’s too risky to make those without state support.”

Doshi says this climate is “actually very favorable for U.S. studios,” who come in and buy rights, rather than actually getting involved in the production side.

But it is less open to Europeans who want to co-produce, because they usually tap into local funds that require the film to be shot, at least in part, in their home territories.

As for Carte Blanche, clips from a dozen Colombian pics in post-production were presented, prior to sales companies asking some producers for DVDs of the works. Also attending were several fest programmers, including Tribeca’s David Kwok.

Buyers were basically able to intercept a wide range of fresh product, ranging from Colombian tyro helmer Carlos Melo Guevara’s “Field of Amapolas,” set amid the country’s heroin-producing poppy fields, to Norwegian thriller “Headhunters,” helmed by Morten Tyldum, from shingle Yellowbird. “Headhunters” unspooled in Locarno’s 7,000-seat Piazza Grande, from where “Cowboys & Aliens” had its European lunch, with talent in tow.

Julia Loktev’s “The Loneliest Planet,” starring Gael Garcia Bernal, sold by the Match Factory; and teenage drama “Terri,” by Azazel Jacobs, were among competition entries generating buyer buzz, although the recently announced lineups of Venice and Toronto grabbed the attention of some of the bigger players, who are starting to get the ball rolling on deals tied to those two pics.

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