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Entering a new market
- report from the Venice International Film Festival 2012

  Photo: Fishing for business: new Venice market.
  Fishing for business: new Venice market.
The annual Venice International Film Festival, the world's oldest, was both leaner and larger this year. Leaner because the new Artistic Director, Alberto Barbera, is moving the venerable event in the Italian city in a new direction, showing fewer films and opting for quality rather than quantity. And it was larger because he also introduced the event's first official film market.

Festival veterans found the event more subdued than usual, with fewer big stars parading along the red carpet.

For the Asian film industry, the biggest change was the greatly reduced presence of the region's work, as no Chinese language films were shown in competition for the first time in 10 years.

In fact, there were more Chinese mainland and Hong Kong media representatives than industry ones this year, with TV crews, photographers and reporters in evidence around the Lido, the seaside venue.

Photo: Gong Li ad: more Chinese stars in the media than present.  
Gong Li ad: more Chinese stars in the media than present.  
The change is attributed to the departure of former Artistic Director Marco Müller, who's a devoted fan of Chinese cinema, to the Rome Film Festival. Some delegates suggested Rome might become more attractive for the Asian movie industry.

Asked at an opening press conference if the lack of Chinese movies at this year's festival was part of his new approach, Barbera replied that this was only a matter of chance. "It is just a coincidence that there are no Chinese films in competition."

This year, some 60 films were shown (about half that of previous years), including 50 world premieres, selected from 1,459 feature films and 1,772 short films previewed.

"We were completely open to any kind of film," Barbera said. "The result of this selection process is that we have some big films from well-established film makers and some less known film makers."

"I am sure next year Chinese cinema will be present in competition," he added. "It has a great film industry, which has dominated in the past years. I assure you that it is not a lack of attention to Chinese films."

He pointed out: "there is a great [Chinese language] film in the Out of Competition category."

Hong Kong movies' positive review, award

  Photo: Stephen Fung: good reviews.
  Stephen Fung: good reviews.
Barbera's reference was to Hong Kong Director Stephen Fung's Tai Chi 0, which received generally positive reviews from press attending the festival.

Tsai Ming-liang's Diamond Sutra, Li Ruijun's Fly with the Crane and Wang Bing's Three Sisters were all shown in the Orizzonti (or Horizons) section for films focusing on the latest trends and components of contemporary cinema.

The documentary Three Sisters, a French-Hong Kong co-production, was awarded the best entry of the category.

Speaking at a press conference about Tai Chi O, Stephen Fung said: "we wanted to do something new, something that is not what you see for a traditional kung fu movie. We wanted to break barriers, to test the market."

The script had some new elements, he added. "We wanted to make a movie that is fun, young, energetic."

Photo: Peter Chan, jurist on the competition panel.  
Peter Chan, jurist on the competition panel.  
The film is the first of a trilogy, with the second part, Tai Chi Hero, scheduled to be in theatres soon, while the third is still being made.

There was also a Hong Kong presence in the form of Hong Kong Director, Peter Chan. One of Asia's most prominent commercial film makers, Chan was a juror among a nine-member panel for the main competition's films.

A leading figure in Chinese-language movies, Chan was introduced at a press conference and appeared on the red carpet.

Rationale for the marketplace

At the opening press conference, Barbera explained why he was expanding the commercial aspect of the festival by launching a film market. "Thirteen years ago [when he was previously head of the Venice festival], I felt that it was not necessary because of the digital platform and new technology. I got it wrong."

  Photo: The Lido a centre for the media.
  The Lido a centre for the media.
He said while the media continued to cover Venice, the buyers stopped coming. "Most important festivals such as Cannes and Hong Kong have markets, which is a rendezvous for people in the business," he said. "We must have a proper market, as the festival is a bridge between culture and industry."

The new film market ran for the first part of the festival, from 30 August to 3 September, in parts of the elegant Excelsior Hotel on the Lido.

Organisers invited 250 international buyers and sales agents, and set up new facilities at the hotel, including a digital video library and private screening room. Some 193 key distributors returned to Venice this year. There were claimed to be 1,100 professionals that included producers, film commissions and institutions and exhibitors from 62 countries.

Barbera conceded the turnout was not huge, but said it exceeded expectations.

Done deals

Photo: Ryasik: people are coming and going.  
Ryasik: people are coming and going.  
Several films in different sections were sold during the market, including deals done by the Taipei Film Commission.

With Venice's international stature, as well as its timing as the first festival in the autumn calendar, it could become a new place to do deals.

Traffic at the market seemed light, but the seminars were quite well-attended. Among the most prominent stands was Roskino, which promotes Russian films worldwide.

"The mart is still not well-known, but people are coming and going," said Anna Ryasik, Roskino's Film Festivals and Market Manager. "It is okay."

Roskino also sponsored the market's opening dinner, while the Russian Film Commission's Eleonora Granata Jenkinson moderated a panel under the theme buying and selling world cinema: new media as next steps in global distribution in the new-media age.

At the Taipei Film Commission stand, Jennifer Jao, Commission Director, was upbeat about the market. "We go to Berlin, Cannes, Toronto and Hong Kong film festivals," she said. Venice, one of the top festivals, is in a good position because of the timetable. "There are several months between Cannes and Berlin, so there are good opportunities. It is important to be here, to be visible."

  Photo: Jao: market is recommended.
  Jao: market is recommended.
"We expect [in the Venice market] we can bring our young generation of film makers," Jao added. "This is a good opportunity for us. I expect more [Chinese mainland participation] next year and Taiwanese films."

Jao said delegates were happy about this year's programme. "A lot of people are coming here. It is important to meet other people in film making, from different regions."

The new market is a really good idea, added Jao. "It will grow stronger. I would recommend it."

Seminars turned out to be a feature of the new market. Speaking at a talk on The Challenges between Europe and Asia, panelist Nicole Mackey of Fortissimo Films, said the two film industries (those of Europe and Asia) must get to know each other to increase business.

Fortissimo, an international film, television and video sales organisation, is based in Amsterdam, with offices in Hong Kong, London and New York.

In a later interview, Mackey also discussed the importance of Internet-based media. "It is huge everywhere," she said. "Whether you can make money from it is another matter."

Photo: Mackey: importance of film.   Photo: Getting the news out: market of improvement.
Mackey: importance of film.   Getting the news out: market of improvement.

While Pay TV is significant for many countries, Video on Demand (VOD) has not matured, she said.

However, she stressed the importance of a film having a theatrical release if it is to be sold in other forms.

Venice officials were upbeat about the new market, and its prospects. Film Market General Director Pascal Diot said he was getting good feedback, with people happy to have a fixed place to meet and work. Next year, the market will likely have improved working areas, more screening rooms, and even more international panels, which proved popular this year.

The Venice Film Festival ran from 29 August to 8 September.

from special correspondent Garry Marchant, Venice

Contact Person

Anna Ryasik, Manager for Festivals and Market
Tel: (7) 495-690-31-88, (7) 495-690-50-09
Fax: (7) 495-609-95-56
Email: annaryasik@gmail.com, info@roskino-sef.com
Web: http://www.roskino.com
Taipei Film Commission
Jennifer Jao, Director
Tel: (886) 2-2709-3880, Ext 101, (886) 2-2709-3905
Email: jenniferjao@taipeifilmcommission.org, service@taipeifilmcommission.org
Web: http://www.taipeifilmcommission.org
Venice International Film Festival
Pascal Diot, General Director for Film Market
Tel: (39) 41-2726-595, (39) 41-5218-711
Fax: (39) 41-5218-800, (39) 41-5218-854
Email: pascal.diot@labiennale.org, cinema@labiennale.org
Web: http://www.labiennale.org

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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