Medienboard Chief: Why Cannes Is So Important for the German Funding Body (EXCLUSIVE)

Berlin-Brandenburg funding org has backed six Cannes festival films

CANNES — The reception for funding body Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, hosted by its managing director of film funding Kirsten Niehuus, in Cannes Monday brought together many of the international filmmakers whose pics it has backed. She spoke to Variety about the importance of the festival to the German funding body’s work.

Six of the films it has backed play in the festival, and the directors of several of those joined the reception, including “Amour fou” helmer Jessica Hausner, “White God” director Kornel Mundruczo, and “The Wonders” helmer Alice Rohrwacher (pictured, above left, with Niehuus).

Speaking to Variety, Niehuus commented on the value of Cannes to Medienboard. “Cannes is one of the major festivals for film art, for film culture, and we, as a fund, do from artistic films to mainstream films, and Cannes is one of the most important marketplaces to show the excellence of filmmakers,” she said. “We feel we are obliged to participate in European and world arthouse cinema, and we are very happy to be present here with six films that we have been a part of.”

The team of Un Certain Regard film “White God” with its director Kornel Mundruczo (third from right) with Medienboard topper Kirsten Niehuus (center)

This year has been a particularly strong one in terms of the participation of Medienboard films at the festival, including three in competition. “We have had happy years before but to be involved in three films in competition — that’s rather the exception than the rule,” she says.

Niehuus would rather not speculate about which of these films will pick up prizes. “I believe that if you say something, then it won’t happen. I am superstitious,” she says. “So, I see potential there, but I won’t say which one (will win).”

For Medienboard, Cannes is often the starting point for conversations and relationships that bear fruit later. “I meet with my colleagues from Europe, Latin America and other places, like Turkey, because Berlin and Cannes are the most vivid places to figure out whether we can have certain common projects and strategies that we can work on,” she says.

German actor Maxim Mehmet with Austrian director Jessica Hausner, who helmed “Amour Fou.”

New combinations and opportunities have come out of those meetings in Cannes in the past. “Yes, that was the moment when we initiated the Berlin Israeli Artist in Residency program; that was also the place where we initiated the German-Turkish Co-development Fund, together with Hamburg; and with the (Istanbul Film Festival event) Meetings on the Bridge ladies,” she said. “And this is only because it is a personal thing — you have to trust each other and know each other to come up with these ideas.”

So, in many ways, Cannes is a place to build bridges, and this led to the creation of one of Medienboard’s most successful recent partnerships — with Wes Anderson and the producing team behind “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which was backed by Medienboard and shot in the Berlin-Brandenburg region.

“The first contact with the ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ team was, for us, in Cannes, because that was when Wes Anderson was in competition with ‘Moonrise Kingdom,’ and they contacted us since they were here anyway. At that time we didn’t know if it would really happen, but it all started here.”

Martin Moszkowicz (left), chairman of the executive board at Constantin Film, Medienboard topper Kirsten Niehuus, and Thomas Kufus, producer, writer, and head of Berlin’s Zero One film.

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