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PARIS — Critics’ Week has enlisted a new backer, Leica, the centenary German camera manufacturer, to support emerging talent whose shorts are competing at the Cannes sidebar.

As part of the sponsorship, Leica will give a prize for the best short film. The award will comprise a 4000 Euros grant to help a director make his or her first feature-length film.

“For Leica it made sense to ally with Critics’ Week because it’s a decently-sized section that is highly committed to finding and nurturing great new talent,” said Tommaso Vergallo, rep of film products at Leica.

Leica will also give each director a camera so that they’ll have the opportunity to shoot a portrait of the festival, added Vergallo.

Critics Week, meanwhile, will invite high-profile cinematographers to participate in daily luncheons at its privatized beach.

The alliance with Leica underscores Critics’ Week’s recent efforts to turn the spotlight on short films, as seen with the Next Step program. Now in its second edition, Next Step is a five-day workshop organized in collaboration with the TorinoFilmLab dedicated to helping the 10 directors who are presenting their shorts at Critics’ Week to develop their feature debut.

Andrea Arnold, François Ozon, Gaspar Noé, Justin Kurzel (“Macbeth”), Claire Burger and Marie Amachoukeli (“Party Girl”) are among the filmmakers who were revealed at Critics’ Week after showing their short film, said Remi Bonhomme, general coordinator at Critics’ Week.

The second edition of Next Step, which was hosted in December, showed Cécile Ducrocq whose short “La contre allée” won this year’s Cesar (France’s Oscar equivalent). 

Ducrocq’s first feature project is “Love on the Beach,” an anthropology-themed romantic comedy  turning on a volunteer engineer who finds himself living with the sexually-hyperactive Dowayos people somewhere in the Senegalese savannah.

Other directors who participated in the second Nexstep workshop included Germany’s Patrick Vollrath, Sweden’s Isabella Carbonell, Brazil’s João Paulo Miranda, Indonesia’s Lucky Kuswandi, France’s Yann Delattre, the U.S.’s Sonejuhi Sinha, Romania’s Andrei Creţulescu, Italy’s Fulvio Risuleo and China’s Hu Wei.

Last year, Next Step also included panels with music composers to encourage directors to incorporate that aspect into their projects’ creative development, pointed out Bonhomme, who helps Critics’ Week’s artistic director Charles Tesson make the selection.

Critics’ Week gathered a solid team of experts and consultants to counsel filmmakers attending the last workshop. These included Antonio Piazza and Fabio Grassadonia, the directors of “Salvo,” Thomas Lilti, the helmer of “Hippocrate,”   Didar Domehri, producer at Full House (“Bang Gang”),  Laure Caillol, acquisition and co-production exec at Haut et Court (“The Returned,” “The Lobster”), Thomas Pibarot, head of acquisition at Le Pacte (“Timbuktu”), and Juliette Schrameck, head of sales and acquisition at MK2.

The first edition, which took place in December 2014, allowed Jonas Carpignano to emerge. His directorial debut “Mediterranea” premiered at Critics’ Week last year and was a hit.

The alumni of the inaugural Next Step also included Gaëlle Denis and Laurie Lassale who are continuing to develop their feature debut with TorinoFilmLab, and Una Gunjak who made it into the Cannes Cinéfondation.