As distinct from public agencies in the United States which provide virtually no support for the development and marketing of American films, the European Union has through its refined network of funding agencies been supporting films made in Europe. This includes but is not restricted to the Brussels based MEDIA program, the European Film Promotion, federal initiatives like The German Federal Cultural Foundation, public state agencies like the large North Rhine Westphalia Film Foundation, public broadcasters like WDR or the famed French – German arte television and film consortium, to name but a few. In the case of the World Cinema Fund production backing is also granted to film makers from developing countries. This support which amounted to more than a $ 1 billion for members of the European Union covers a wide range of activities in film development, production, and distribution. This includes the training of film makers, funds for production, distribution assistance, restoration of old theatres and films, and the promotion of European films outside Europe. EFP serves 31 organizations which represent with few exceptions countries which are members of the European Union. These organizations select the films they want to present abroad.
Through its Film Sales Support program (EFP) which started in 2004, it has to date supported the promotional campaign of 530 European features, documentaries and animated productions of which about one half have been sold for distribution. This includes funds for screening films at established film festivals and markets including Sundance, Toronto, Rio, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Pusan and the American Film Market. In 2009 165 films received support. Among other activities carried out by EFP are SHOOTING STARS at the berlinale, the annual presentation and networking of the most promising new acting talent, Producers on the Move has introduced since 2000 219 young creative producers to the international press and industry in Cannes, and a new BRIDGES EUROPE – TURKEY program facilitating the distribution of European films in Turkey and of Turkish films in Europe. The EFP Industry screenings in the United States were started in 2005 with screenings in June in New York and in November in Los Angeles introducing films to prospective buyers and distributors. Productions are selected by the participating country. Karen Arikian serves as the EFP consultant in New York (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Three features were presented this year. STRICKEN directed by Reinout Oerlemans, a controversial yet very popular Dutch film with numerous awards and high box office returns in the Netherlands. The wife, Carmen, of an upscale wealthy couple working in advertising is suddenly struck by breast cancer and goes through all possible treatment modalities before dying. The husband, Stijn, responds by withdrawing into a second life defined by sexual obsession and alcohol though promising periodically to return. Both the cancerous life of Carmen and Stinj’s sex drive is presented rather graphically which may be a problem for commercial theatrical distribution in the US. HIS AND HERS by Ken Wardrop is a most appealing documentary guided by his opening quote “A man loves his girlfriend the most; his wife the best and his mother the longest”. The film consists of sequenced interviews from the youngest female toddler to the oldest women facing death, seamlessly following one another in the stages of female existence… youth, friend, lover, wife, mother, grandmother, and widow. Though there is much talk about men, as if women in the Irish society define themselves through men. No male living figure is shown (except for one peaking into a room for a split second). HIS AND HERS received the first awards and may find a niche in the US market, possibly on TG4’s new international on line service or through DVD sales to the Irish community. For other platforms the Irish accent may pose a problem. THE SILENCE, the first feature film by Baran bo Odar, completed EFP’s private screening program. It is a thriller focusing on the disappearance and possible murder of a bike riding girl on the same spot and date a young girl was raped and killed 23 years earlier. A likely connection is suspected by an investigator. The film meets in a close to perfect fashion technical and substantive criteria, features superb acting but avoids the predictability traps and melodramatic turns of standard film making. Of the three THE SILENCE probably has the best chance of finding commercial distribution.