One of the major winners at last year’s Berlin Film Festival — and widely distributed worldwide — was a quiet, intimate Paraguayan drama, “The Heiresses,” one of the latest fruits of the World Cinema Fund, a program nurtured by festival chief Dieter Kosslick.
Kosslick is being honored at the Berlin Film Festival with Variety‘s Achievement in International Film Award.
This year there are a record six WCF-supported films in the Berlin festival, including South Africa’s “Flatland,” which opens the Panorama section. In addition, nine WCF films will screen at the European Film Market as part of the WCF Screenings.
Films supported by the fund are not obliged to premiere at Berlin, nor do they receive preferential treatment at the festival. Many premiere at other events, such as Thailand’s “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives,” which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
When Kosslick set up the fund in 2004, building on his previous experience as head of funding institutions such as the European Film Distribution Office and Filmstiftung NRW, he “advocated the creation of a different initiative, far away from a Eurocentric point of view and with a distinct cultural-political and artistic identity,” says Vincenzo Bugno, WCF’s project manager.
The idea was to partner German producers with producers and filmmakers from regions with weak film infrastructures, such as Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Central Asia and Southeast Asia, in order to fund movies made by directors from those regions. WCF Europe was later set up so other European producers could participate.
For Bugno, a key aspect of the fund is to support “films that have a strong link with their regional cultural identity.” One of the joys of working at the WCF is that “there is an incredible creative power, energy and innovative spirit” in these regions, he says. And “generally, the quality of the projects is very high, particularly if we talk about their artistic value and storytelling, but often also about the professionalism of the producers,” he says.
The WCF is careful not to adopt a “neo-colonial” attitude to the regions it deals with. “It is very important that before submitting a project to the WCF we speak to the producers, and if possible also with the directors, in order to understand the soul of project,” Bugno says. “We never — really never — try to change the cultural identity of a project, or say it would be better to make it more accessible to European audiences.”
This attitude is shared by the European producers who partner with the projects, he adds.
The fund continues to evolve and one tool that helps it do so is the WCF Day during the festival, which acts as a “collective brainstorming event,” Bugno says. This year the WCF Day, to be held on Feb. 13, will focus on Brazil and building audiences.