Latest from Euro auteurs seek U.S. exposure

Fest seen as gateway into North American marketplace

HOLLYWOOD — In an annual transatlantic migration that traditionally sees several North American pickups for European films, more than 100 Euro works or co-productions are set to unspool during the Toronto Intl. Film Festival.

Among the familiar Euro auteurs who will show their new works at Toronto are Ireland’s Neil Jordan (“The Good Thief”) and Jim Sheridan (“In America”); Poland’s Agnieszka Holland (“Julie Walking Home”); Spain’s Pedro Almodovar (“Talk to Her”); France’s Patrice Leconte (“L’Homme du Train”) Claire Denis (“Friday Night”); Iceland’s Fridrik Thor Fridriksson (“Falcons”); Finland’s Aki Kaurismaki (“The Man Without a Past”); and Brits Mike Leigh (“All or Nothing”), Ken Loach (“Sweet Sixteen”) and Stephen Frears (“Dirty Pretty Things”).

New films from recent Euro breakouts also will be in abundance, including “Lilya 4-ever” from Swedish helmer Lukas Moodysson (“Together”); “Morvern Callar,” Scottish director Lynne Ramsay (“Ratcatcher”); “Once Upon a Time in the Midlands,” Britain’s Shane Meadows (“Twentyfourseven”); “Heaven,” Germany’s Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”); and “The Sea,” Icelandic thesp-helmer Baltasar Kormakur (“101 Reykjavik”).

Filmmakers and producers make a special push for Toronto, as it’s seen as an important gateway into the North American marketplace. While many Euro pics this year were snapped up at earlier fests — mainly at or after Cannes — plenty more are looking for U.S. distribution.

Aiding in the efforts to make Euro films resonate at the Canuck fest, and others, is European Film Promotion, a 20-country European body that has organized events at Toronto for six years running.

“When we started in Toronto in 1997 we were associated with a mere 50 films and had 14 members,” EFP managing director Renate Rose says. “Last year Toronto screened 114 European films and our membership has increased by 50%. This growth points to a renewed sense of artistic purpose in Europe, but film as art is not our sole mandate. We see promotion and marketing as an economic necessity. Promotion is a long- term investment for us.”

EFP traditionally has focused its Toronto efforts on introducing new helmers but this year the promo body’s main event is the Sept. 10 panel “Cinema in a Time of Global Unrest: Do Filmmakers Face New Agendas and Responsibilities?”

Among the panelists set to participate are British thesp-helmer Peter Mullan (“The Magdalene Sisters”), Italian director Emanuele Crialese (“Respiro”), Danish director Susanne Bierho (Dogma pic “Open Hearts”) and Norway’s Unni Straume (“Music for Weddings and Funerals”), all of which have films unspooling in Toronto.

EFP organizers hope the filmmaker summit, which takes place one day before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, will spark some political debate. The panel will be held at Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel and will be moderated by film critic Emanuel Levy.

Another notable Euro presence at Toronto will be a six-pic spotlight on French helmer Robert Guediguian, which includes the preem of his latest, “Marie-Jo and Her Two Loves.”

First-time director Edoardo Ponti, son of Sophia Loren and Italian producer Carlo Ponti, will preem his “Between Strangers” at Toronto. And French thesp-helmer Lucas Belvaux will world premiere a three-film pic epic (“La Trilogie”).

French co-productions are particularly ubiquitous at Toronto this year, with many films helmed by non-indigenous talent, such as Abbas Kiarostami’s “Ten,” Elia Suleiman’s “Divine Intervention,” Larry Clark and Ed Lachman’s “Ken Park” and Brian De Palma’s Gala pic “Femme Fatale.”

“In the last four years, the number of co-productions has easily doubled, both among Europeans but also outside. It seems literally every French- speaking nation has a co-pro with France,” says Los Angeles County Museum of Art film curator and EFP’s panel programmer Ian Birnie. “The difference over the past is the decline in Euro puddings — these are director-drivenco-productions.”

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