CineMart opens screen doors to artist influence

Fest Traveler: Rotterdam Film Festival 2012

Rotterdam’s artistic credentials are at the fore in this year’s CineMart, the fest’s venerable co-production market. Five of the 36 projects are by artists moving onto the bigscreen, reflecting a marked upswing in submissions from the art world.

“We received around 465 projects and many were by visual artists turning into filmmakers. It was quite noticeable this year,” says Jacobine van der Vloed, CineMart’s senior coordinator.

Riding this wave, the mart is organizing a panel on the blurred boundaries between art and film. This will look at what motivates artists to explore narrative cinema, how projects originating in the art world can learn from existing film financing and distribution models, and vice versa.

It is already clear that art projects bring alternative finance into the mix. “Some of them already have galleries and museums attached,” van der Vloed says.

Leif Magne Tangen, of art-oriented production company Vitakuben, sees a new appetite in the market.

“Everything changed with Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the Thai filmmaker and artist who won Cannes in 2010. You can see that more independent producers are looking towards projects that cross this bridge between contemporary art and filmmaking.”

His experience at last year’s mart was that funders can be more open to the risk than other co-producers.

“They are looking for projects that could open up something new within the film industry.”

This year he is presenting “Murmansk Kirkenes” by Norwegian artist Knut Asdam, which will tell parallel stories from two places in Europe’s extreme north. The aim is to meet possible co-producers, arts institutions and curators who know Asdam’s work, plus people with experience producing sub-zero cinema.

Alongside this art film trend, the CineMart selection also acknowledges that a significant part of the industry remains risk averse. Hence the presence of helmers with track record, such as Athina Rachel Tsangari (“Attenberg”), Ruben Ostlund (“Play”) and Kelly Reichardt (“Meek’s Cutoff”). There’s also a 3D project from Russian filmmaker Alexei Popogrebsky (“How I Ended This Summer”).

Ostlund’s producer, Erik Hemmendorff, confirms th e widely held view that CineMart is not a deal-closing market but a place to launch projects and build relationships. It’s also a way to get expert feedback. “We do CineMart because we think the project takes an enormous step during those four days.”

Christine Alderson of Ipso Facto Films in the U.K. agrees.

“CineMart is the perfect launch for a lower-budget arthouse film. It creates some often needed heat under the project that can kick-start a project’s financing process.”

She is hoping to turn Andrew Hulme’s dark London drama “Snow in Paradise” into an international affair.

“There is so little support for all but a handful of favored directors in the U.K. I think that some of the French and German sales agents are much stronger than the British with this more edgy festival/crossover material.”

Scarcity is also on the mind of Cedomir Kolar of Paris-based ASAP, who is producing Aktan Arym Kubat’s follow-up to “The Light Thief.” “Arthouse films have less and less possibilities to be financed. Everywhere and on all platforms. So as long as a window like CineMart exists, it’s perfect.”

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