A foreign affair

New company will help pix find U.S. distribs

NEW YORK — Sandy Mandelberger of Intl. Media Resources and Wanda Bershen of Red Diaper Prods. have teamed up to form a new company designed to help foreign films find distribution in the U.S. theatrical, cable and homevideo markets.

Known as American Premieres, the company’s first presentation will be “Dutch Treats: New Films From Holland,” which will run from Dec. 12 to Dec. 18 at New York’s Cinema Village Theater. The series of eight new features includes Mike van Diem’s “Character,” the Netherlands’ submission for this year’s best foreign-language film Oscar.

American Premieres also has received a commitment to present a Belgian film week program in 1998 that will be sponsored by Wallonie Bruxelles Images and Flanders Imager.

Box office potential

The weeklong run at Cinema Village is aimed at demonstrating the box office potential of the Dutch films with the hopes of finding a U.S. distributor for one or two. Mandelberger and Bershen are arranging meetings with arthouse distribs for the films’ directors and producers, who will be in New York for the program.

“Recent films such as the Oscar-winning ‘Antonia’s Line’ and George Sluizer’s ‘The Vanishing’ have increased the profile of Dutch films internationally, but a remarkably small percentage of Dutch films are seen by the American public,” said Claudia Landsberger of Holland Film, the sponsor of “Dutch Treats.”

After the New York presentation, the films that do not find a theatrical distributor will be included in a 15-city semi-theatrical national tour that will be administered by American Premieres. Following the tour, Mandelberger and Bershen will try to sell cable and homevideo rights to the Dutch pics.

“This is not simply a cultural program,” says Mandelberger. “This is a pro-active promotion effort to address the alarming decline of foreign-language films in theatrical distribution.”

Foreign film experience

Through his company Intl. Media Relations, Mandelberger has been actively involved in selling American independent films in foreign markets. The 10-year-old company presents the Independents Showcase at the Cannes and Berlin markets and recently launched the Soho Screenings in London during the week before Mifed.

The former program director for CUNY-TV, Bershen has been involved in bringing foreign-language films to the U.S. for more than 20 years. As director of the international film festival co-sponsored by the Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Bershen helped bring new films and directors to the U.S. from many countries, with an emphasis on the post-1989 cinema of the former Soviet Union and Central Europe.

Through Red Diaper, which she founded in 1995, Bershen has programmed American independent films for festivals abroad and presented non-theatrical tours of Israeli and Palestinian films.

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