French fund backs pix by Saleem, Najjar, Porumboiu, Puenzo

PARIS

Films by Iraq’s Hiner Saleem, Palestine’s Najwa Najjar, Romania’s Corneliu Porumboiu and Argentina’s Lucia Puenzo are among 14 selected by Gaul’s World Cinema Aid, a recently-created fund that aims to support filmmakers from developing countries.

Cambodia’s Rithy Panh (“S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine”) also made the cut with his project “L’Image manquante,” which is co-produced by Paris-based CDP.

“As we live in a world where freedoms are being challenged and violated in many countries, the World Cinema Aid has a civic mission to support not only those films that are artistically ambitious, but also those that are politically and socially engaged,” said Eric Garandeau, prexy of national film org the CNC, which co-manages and co-finances the fund with cultural body the French Institute.

The pics will receive between €60,000 ($74,082) and $185,205 each, totalling $1.7 million. Launched this year, the World Cinema Aid replaces Fonds Sud and Aid to Foreign-Language Films funds, and boasts an annual budget of more than $7.4 million to support between 40 and 60 projects annually.

The projects were selected from 81 submissions by a committee presided over by Tunisian producer Dora Bouchoucha, and two vice presidents: Argentinean multi-hyphenate Santiago Amigorena and Georges Goldenstern, topper of Cannes Film Festival’s Cinefondation.

Each pic must have a French co-producer to be eligible.

Saleem’s “Aga” is co-produced by Agat Films; Najjar’s “Eyes of a Thief” is co-produced by Mact Prods; Porumboiu’s “Un Intervalle de 9 minutes” is co-produced by Les Films du Worso; and novelist-turned-filmmaker Puenzo’s “Wakolda,” based on her latest novel, is co-produced by Pyramide Prods. Najjar’s “Eyes of a Thief” was selected by the Sundance Institute screenwriting lab in 2011.

While the fund aims to support emerging filmmakers, it also backs directors who are already critically acclaimed.

Puenzo’s debut “XXY” won the jury prize at Cannes’ Critics’ Week and her second film, “El Nino Pez,” opened the Panorama section at Berlin.

Saleem’s “Vodka Lemon” won Venice’s San Marco prize, and Michel Piccoli’s “Beneath the Rooftops of Paris” earned a Leopard nod at Locarno.

Porumboiu’s last film “Police, Adjective” bowed in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard and won both the jury prize and Fipresci nod.

The fund’s next selection committee will meet on Oct. 8 and 9.

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