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Unifrance launches online film fest

Showcase features work of emerging directors

As French film promotion org Unifrance’s marketing campaign says, Gauls can stink at soccer, be snobs and speak English with a terrible accent — but they’ve got a groundbreaking worldwide online film festival.

While VOD is still in its infancy in Europe, Unifrance is launching My French Film Festival, an online event showcasing 10 features and shorts from emerging directors.

“Three major trends prompted the online festival’s creation: The decline of arthouse cinemas in the world, the contraction of overseas markets for titles outside France’s top 10 films, and the aging of audiences for French arthouse films,” says Regine Hatchondo, Unifrance general director.

The feature film competition highlights many younger-skewing pics, notably Geraldine Nakache and Herve Mimran’s dramedy “All That Glitters,” Axelle Ropert’s offbeat melodrama “The Wolberg Family,” Pascal Elbe’s edgy social drama “Turk’s Head,” Nassim Amaouche’s drama “Goodbye Gary” and Christopher Thompson’s debut “The Last Summer Tour.”

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“Our primary goal this year is to help increase these films’ visibility and find alternatives to the challenges of theatrical distribution,” explains Hatchondo, adding that she doesn’t expect the fest to bring substantial revs in its first year. “It’s a long-term initiative and an invaluable marketing tool for sales companies.”

Francois Yon, co-founder of Films Distribution, which has Dominique Blanc starrer “The Other One” streaming in competition, agrees: “This initiative can help create an embryo of an audience for French films in down markets like Japan.”

“The experiment also tests VOD consumership country by country, since Unifrance will unveil subscription details post-festival,” says Yoann Ubermulhin, international sales head at Pyramide, which is handling “Wolberg Family” and Frederic Mermoud’s “Partners,” also unspooling online.

Rezo prexy Laurent Danielou concurs: “VOD revenues in France and abroad are showing a lot of promise; we’re obviously interested in knowing more about who buys what and where.

“We also think it can help new directors gain some international ground,” he adds.

Rezo is handling online fest player Lea Fehner’s “Silent Voices,” winner of the 2009 Louis Delluc first film prize.

My French Film Festival, running Jan. 14-29, will be streamed. A second edition is skedded for December.

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