European Film Promotion, a network of 37 film promotion bodies from across the continent, is gathering 29 European sales companies from nine nations under the Europe! Umbrella at the virtual edition of the Hong Kong Intl. Film & TV Market (FilMart).
For the second year running the annual event has been moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s edition, which is taking place from March 15-18, features a host of hot titles fresh off the recently concluded Berlin Film Festival, repped by leading European sales agents such as Germany’s Beta Cinema, Spain’s Latido Films, and Denmark’s LevelK.
Among the movies on offer are “I’m Your Man,” from Emmy Award-winning director Maria Schrader (“Unorthodox”), and “Next Door,” the directorial debut of German star Daniel Brühl, which both premiered in competition in Berlin, and are being sold by Beta. Other buzz titles include Maria Speth’s documentary “Mr. Bachmann and His Class,” which earned the director a Silver Bear Jury Prize after premiering in competition in Berlin, and is being sold by Films Boutique.
A year into the pandemic, EFP’s Jo Mühlberger says there are signs that the global industry is poised for a bounce-back in 2021. “There is so much energy,” he says, pointing to EFP’s participation in a string of recent events that have attracted a host of international buyers and sellers.
After the European Film Market wrapped March 5, EFP and UniFrance partnered to host the Mercado del Cine Francés y Europeo, an online market targeting Latin American buyers that was held March 8-10 as part of the Miami Film Festival. The following day, many of the same participants took part in a pre-market event that EFP hosted in the run-up to FilMart.
Such warm-up events, says Mühlberger, have become increasingly popular in the past year, as virtual meetings have replaced physical markets and more and more industry business is conducted online.
Utilizing the digital tools that have become a ubiquitous part of pandemic life, EFP has been able to present carefully curated selections of European films to international buyers, with an emphasis on new films fresh off festival premieres. “You present European titles on a silver plate to buyers, and they appreciate it,” says Mühlberger. “It really helps [them] to get ready for a market and navigate the upcoming event.”
Following on the heels of what many in the industry regarded as a promising European Film Market, Hong Kong’s FilMart offers “perfect timing to follow-up with buyers we saw during EFM,” according to Pamela Leu, of Brussels-based sales outfit Be For Films, which amongst other titles will be showcasing “Azor” (pictured), Andreas Fontana’s thriller set in the world of international banking, which recently played in the Encounters sidebar in Berlin.
Among Asian buyers, “we can feel that they are craving for movies again,” says Arnaud Chevallier, of Reel Suspects, whose FilMart slate includes Henrika Kull’s “Bliss,” which premiered in the Berlinale’s Panorama strand.
Despite the uncertainty of the past year, says Chevallier, distributors are hungry for content, particularly as the world looks ahead to the second half of 2021, when many hope to see a return to something like normalcy. “There is a new appetite for movies. It seems that…business is starting again.”
FilMart offers a chance for the Paris-based sales outfit to retool its pitch for the Asian market. After presenting Marc Fouchard’s “Out of This World” at UniFrance’s Rendez-Vous With French Cinema in January, and to European buyers during EFM, Reel Suspects will launch a new marketing campaign for the thriller that’s tailor-made for the Asian market, whose buyers “are craving these kinds of [genre] movies,” says Chevallier.
Julien Razafindranaly, of Films Boutique, which along with “Mr. Bachmann” is selling Bence Fliegauf’s Berlin competition entry “Forest—I See You Everywhere,” says patience is nevertheless more important than ever as the world tries to navigate out of the pandemic.
“Sales are coming. Maybe things take a bit longer than in the physical, live markets, where … everybody is in the same place at the same time,” he says. “When things happen online, the beginning and the end of the market is a bit blurred, and things last a bit longer.”
The virtual Europe! Umbrella is being supported by the European Union’s Creative Europe-Media Program with the backing of EFP member German Films, who for the first time is participating as both a supporter and a participant. Additional support has come from Spain’s Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales and Italy’s Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
A decade after the first Europe! Umbrella was organized at FilMart in 2011, with just a handful of sales companies in attendance, Mühlberger sees its growing popularity as a clear sign that EFP’s work in boosting the visibility of European cinema has been a success.
“We are in a position to do something which other people, or companies individually, wouldn’t be [able to do], because of the strength of our network,” he says. “I’m quite convinced that we’re doing a good job on getting the word out on European films, and the attached companies, in the international circuit.”