“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral” director Mike Newell and actor Jason Wong (“The Gentlemen,” “Dungeons & Dragons”) are launching the Kingston International Film Festival (KIFF) to support independent film makers in a post-pandemic world. Taking place June 24-26, the festival is a 50:50 partnership between Blue Elephant Films and Rose Theatre which aims to address a decline in the independent film industry by establishing a new platform for emerging talent and creating opportunities which will link new filmmakers and industry experts. KIFF also received early support from Oscar-winning actor Dame Vanessa Redgrave and “Star Trek” actor Marina Sirtis.
The Festival announcement comes in the wake of a BFI report which revealed that investment into the independent film industry in the U.K. has dropped 45% and that just twenty-two films accounted for 78% of UK film production spend. KIFF will be headed by festival directors David Cunningham and Christopher Haydon and will take place in venues around Kingston, hosting screenings, events and workshops.
“KIFF is a more practical, a more solidly founded and optimistic way of going forward for the film industry than the often-ostentatious approach of other film festivals,” said Newell. “The industry is crying out for a festival such as this, that is passionate about championing emerging independent talent, particularly those starting out, to help create opportunities for talent that is too often overlooked.”
Leonine Studios has appointed Sarah Bremner and Keri Putnam to its advisory board. Bremner is a former president of Array Filmworks, the independent distribution company launched by Ava DuVernay, who handled oversight of the company’s productions slate including titles such as Ramin Bahrani’s Oscar-nominated “The White Tiger” and The CW’s hit series “Naomi.” Putnam spent the last decade as CEO of the Sundance Institute which saw a 300% revenue increase during her time in charge. She also oversaw the Sundance Film Festival.
Cinemas in Hong Kong have received financial support in the city government’s fifth round of pandemic relief funding for business. The scheme provides a one-off subsidy of HK$50,000 ($6,410) per screen to each licensed cinema operator. The maximum subsidy per circuit is $1.5 million ($192,000). The government said that all 64 venues had applied, and that money was disbursed on Tuesday. The city’s cinemas have been repeatedly closed on government order and were shuttered through the 2021 New Year and Chinese New Year holiday seasons. Seating restrictions and concessions bans also applied when they were open. With the government pursuing a zero-COVID policy, and the city suffering the beginnings of an omicron wave, Hong Kong cinemas are currently closed again. – Patrick Frater
The Doha Film Institute’s Qumra event dedicated to fostering fresh Arab film fare through mentorships and curated networking with top industry execs has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns. It will run online for the second consecutive year. The DFI’s online edition of Qumra 2022, set for March 18-23, will feature its customary one-on-one sessions, as well as roundtables, meetings, and other networking opportunities for selected projects and their teams. – Nick Vivarelli
South Korean content (games, film, music and TV) exports rose by 16% in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, to reach $11.9 billion, according to data from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism published on Monday. Games was the largest export component, worth $8.19 million and was up by 23% compared with 2019. Smaller segments grew their exports at a faster rate: likely reflecting the “Parasite” effect, films grew by 43% and was trailed by cartoons with 36% export growth and broadcasting by 29%. Growing exports cushioned the blow felt by the sector from COVID. While overall revenues across the content sector barely budged, weighing in at $107 billion, film suffered an overall 54% decline reflecting the closure of cinemas. Animation and music sectors also suffered double digit declines. Online games and cartoons were the winners, enjoying a COVID dividend both at home and in export markets. – Patrick Frater
“Music School,” a new musical feature starring Shriya Saran and Sharman Joshi, has gone into production in Hyderabad, India with added health and safety measures to confront a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the area. A dedicated team has been appointed to the sanitation of the studio, any outside shooting locations and all vehicles used by the cast and crew. A full-time general physician has also been hired to be present on set for any potential medical emergencies and all those on set must practice social distancing, wear masks when not on camera and take weekly COVID screenings. Produced by Yamini Films and written and directed by Papa Rao Biyyala, the film tells the story of two teachers who fight to inject life into an otherwise boring school system.
Shriya Saran, Sharman Joshi