Gallic fest sees sunny side of docu craze

Event to run a day longer as exhibs, buyers increase

PARIS — The current rage for documentaries, bolstered by Cannes’ Palme d’Or for Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” will be in evidence later this month, when buyers from all over the world descend on the city of Marseilles in southern France.

While many fests and trade marts are struggling, business couldn’t be better for the Sunny Side of the Doc, the international doc confab celebrating its 15th year.

The event will run a day longer than in previous years, from June 19-22, organizers say. Some 300 buyers and commissioning editors are registered to attend, up from last year’s 284, while the number of exhibiting companies has mushroomed to 328, from 235 in 2003.

“Sunny Side is not simply a documentary market, it has become the documentary market,” boasts topper and co-founder Yves Jeanneau. “There is no other factual-programming event in the world that attracts so many international players.”

Jeanneau, who also runs the doc department of Gallic pubcaster France 2, has headed the mart single-handedly since his partner Olivier Masson died in an accident in 2001.

Jeanneau accepts that Sunny Side is profiting from the current wider vogue for docs.

He says: “The box office success of films like ‘Bowling for Columbine’ and ‘To Be and to Have’ have boosted interest in documentaries, as have the huge TV audiences of doc-fiction like ‘Pompeii.’ The Palme d’Or for ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ is a symptom of the genre’s success.”

Alongside the mart’s usual business, Sunny Side will include roundtables on sports documentaries, investigative docs and the doc-fiction genre.

Gallic helmer Regis Wargnier, Rithy Panh and other directors yet to be announced will take part in a panel discussion on “auteur” docs.

Screenings will include the BBC’s doc-fictions “Gladiators” and “D-Day.”

Broadcasters with a big presence this year include the BBC, a partner of the mart for the first time, with 13 senior execs in attendance; and the Canal Plus Group, with its own stand and reps from its theme channels Planete, Planete Futur and Planete Thalassa.

The mart also will receive its first Chinese delegation, led by China’s culture minister.

Sunny Side spread its wings earlier this year by staging the first Sunny Side Rendezvous in New York in February, an event attended by U.S. and French doc producers and about 40 execs from American TV channels.

China is being eyed as a prospective venue for a similar Rendezvous, Jeanneau says. Canada and the U.K. will have their own Sunny Side events in coming months.