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Rescued From Bankruptcy, Fortissimo Films Set for Sales and PR Comeback in Berlin

Rescued From Bankruptcy, Fortissimo Films Set
Courtesy of Black Ant Films

Two years after China’s Hehe Pictures rescued it from receivership, former Asian industry powerhouse Fortissimo Films is making a full return to the international film sales business. The revived and revamped company will debut next week at Berlin’s European Film Market, and will also launch an international film marketing services subsidiary.

In its former incarnation, Fortissimo played a major role in growing Asia’s art-house film business and launched the careers of dozens of Asian auteurs. Although it operated out of Hong Kong, the company was legally registered in the Netherlands and filed for bankruptcy there in August 2016. Hehe Pictures backed the acquisition of the company from Dutch bankruptcy administrators in February 2017.

The new Fortissimo will keep its Amsterdam office, but decisions will now be made from Beijing by a team headed by former IM Global executive Clement Magar, Fortissimo’s general manager. Gabrielle Rozing, who was instrumental in keeping Fortissimo alive as a brand after the company exited Dutch bankruptcy administration, is general manager of the Amsterdam office. Charlotte Henskens is director of sales.

Hehe Pictures has substantial backing from China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba. The company is an investor in “So Long My Son,” by Wang Xiaoshuai, which premieres in competition next month at the Berlin Film Festival. “So Long My Son” is represented by Germany’s Match Factory.

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Fortissimo’s own Berlin slate includes three films in advanced post-production. They are Chinese crime film “Vortex,” directed by Gan Jianyu (“Some Time Native”) and produced by Cao Baoping (“The Equation of Love and Death”) and starring Da Peng; Chinese drama “The Return,” the directorial debut of actress Qin Hailu (“A Simple Life,” “The Pluto Moment”); and magical-realist picture “Emile,” directed by Liao Zihao.

Fortissimo PR is the new marketing services subsidiary, and builds on Magar’s previous experience with IM Global’s Beijing-based Go Global publicity unit. It will focus predominantly, but not exclusively, on Asian titles, Chinese press and Chinese brands. It is currently handling publicity for the Japanese drama “We Are Little Zombies,” which is playing at Sundance and Berlin, the Kyrgyz musical “Song of the Tree,” and the Costa Rican drama “Dos Fridas.”

The revived sales company re-acquired a portion of the old Fortissimo’s library. At present it boasts a catalog of about 60 titles, including “Tokyo Sonata,” “Rainbow Song,” “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child,” and the Alex van Warmerdam collection.

Fortissimo’s Berlin lineup also includes films which made recent festival appearances: Turkish satirical comedy “Siren’s Call”; Zhang Yang’s documentary “Up the Mountain”; Taiwanese LGBT drama “Meili”; and Chinese youth thriller “Enigma of Arrival” (Busan IFF). Also upcoming is the female driven-drama “The Pencil” by Russian screenwriter Natalya Nazarova, and upcoming thriller “Chronology” by Ali Aydin.

Hehe Pictures was previously an investor in Stephen Chow’s smash hit “The Mermaid.” It was also a backer of last year’s Chinese Oscar-contender “The Hidden Man,” directed by Jiang Wen.