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Social Docs Dominate Lau Haizetara

'Whales,' 'Cause of Death,' 'Dead Slow Ahead' standouts at docu co-pro forum

“Too Much Noise for the Whales,” “Cause of Death: Unknown” and “Dead Slow Ahead” were standout docs at the San Sebastian Festival’s 10th Documentary Co-Production Forum.

Unveiled Thursday at a pitching session atended by a large contingent of TV broadcasters and international sales company execs, most projects emphasized a predominance of social-issue productions, coming at their subjects from very different angles.

Arturo Cisneros’ “I Know Where the Money is, Mom,” a Spain-Mexico-France co-production, with Germany network Arte Geige attached, adds humour and irony to its investigation of the reasons and social effects of the current economic crisis on the lower classes.

In “Talidomida: el farmaco maldito,” Alfonso Domingo portrays the fight of Spain’s thalidomide victims against German pharmaceutical company Grunnethal.

Also, Norway’s “Cause of Death: Unknown” raises questions why the pharmaceutical industry is making concerted efforts to manufacture illnesses for which their drugs are the only solution. Helmer Anniken Hoel started to investigate after her sister Renate’s sudden death in 2005.

Per buzz, “Cause of Death,” which has already tapped finances for 72% of its Euro514,000 ($667,500) budget, is one of the documentaries with the biggest potential to lure international investors because of its border-crossing nature.

Experts at the event saw potential international market lure for ecological docu “Too Much Noise for the Whales,” set up at Madrid-based Silenzio Films, with France TV already on board.

However, it is getting more and more complicated to have international success, said Salma Abdalla, managing director at Vienna-based Autlook Films.

In Spain, despite the production sector’s dire straits, some documakers are still finding local investment. Mallorca-based prodco Quindrop’s project “Sand Spies. Target Spain,” the untold story of a group of Spanish Republican exiles at the service of U.S. military intelligence in Spain — whose “great documentation work” was praised by Spanish pubcaster TVE’s exec producer Andres Luque — has completed 52% of its budget.

But the project looked very limited to the Spanish market, per Sophie Chegaray at France 5.

Also backed up by Balearic Islands’ broadcaster IB3, Catalonia’s TV3 Jordi Ambros showed interest in buying “Sand Spies” as a completed doc.

TV3 will probably also enter auteur docu “Dead Slow Ahead,” the praised portrait of a trip on the merchant ship Fair Lady on the open Ocean, produced by Barcelona’s Nanouk Films.

Despite the troubled situation of the international TV market, there is good news at the horizon for documakers with the arrival of new players such as Netflix, CNN and HBO, who “are putting big money into documentaries, although they want more commercial products,” Abdalla said.

The 10th Lau Haizetara Documentary Co-Production Forum was backed by Basque producers org IBAIA.

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