European Film Promotion Brings Berlin Festival Winners and Leading Sales Companies to FilMart

European Film Promotion (EFP), an international network of film promotion institutes from 37 countries, is heading back to Hong Kong’s FilMart for its in-person return.

“It wasn’t clear if the reopening of the market [post-pandemic] will immediately lead to business, but people want to reconnect with local companies,” observes deputy managing director Jo Mühlberger.

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This year, 28 sales companies from five European countries will be joining EFP’s Europe! Umbrella (22 onsite and six online). Most of them hail from France, as Unifrance won’t have its own stand, explains Mühlberger.

“Some could say it’s naïve to go there so soon, but these professionals know what they are doing. They really have something to offer, including Berlinale winners. In some Asian territories, awards still sell,” he says.

Among the titles presented this year, eight were awarded at the German fest, including “The Plough” by Philippe Garrel (pictured), sold by Wild Bunch, and crowd-pleasing “20,000 Species of Bees” by Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren (Luxbox). “Disco Boy,” “Orlando, My Political Biography” and “Midwives” by Léa Fehner will also be featured.

“At the moment, it’s much more difficult to sell films to Asia. Particularly China, which used to be an important buyer of European cinema, is currently not so active. We truly hope this is going to change again,” says EFP managing director Sonja Heinen.

“It’s important to have stable visibility of European cinema outside of Europe. EFP tried to maintain it also during the pandemic,” she says, mentioning regular online meetings and showcases.

But in-person meetings are at the top of everyone’s list, observes Nicolai Korsgaard, sales director at TrustNordisk, which received EFP’s film sales support for “Handling the Undead” by Thea Hvistendahl.

“My biggest priority is to meet all the buyers I haven’t been able to see for the last three years. At least not in 3D!,” he jokes.

“We haven’t sold a lot to this region in the past few years, but I can feel the demand is coming, especially for our animation films, action and thrillers. Another priority is to see who is still out there and who’s not. This territory has been always changing and now I expect it to have changed even more.”

That’s where EFP comes in, offering much-needed guidance.

“I remember going to the AFM for the first time, noticing that everyone was wearing a tie. All the Europeans were more ‘arty.’ Then I went to Hong Kong and saw them in the corner, shyly going: ‘Hello?’ It was eye-opening, seeing these established companies, realizing that nobody was waiting for them,” says Mühlberger.

“We are closely following what the discussions are and what people are doing. What does it mean business-wise, censorship-wise? Next to family entertainment, we are dealing with arthouse films, and they are often ‘on the edge’ when it comes to censorship. This is the uncertainty within the sales outlets. What is the subject of censorship and what is not? Sometimes, an outsider struggles to understand it.”

Also, in order to make it in the competitive market, sometimes it pays off to join forces. Or to share the same booth.

“Everyone knows what to expect when you approach Wild Bunch and what to expect when you approach TrustNordisk. Suddenly, it’s not a competition anymore. This ‘sharing’ of clients, in a shared environment, can be very fruitful,” he says.

“We have created a brand — if you are looking for European films, come straight to us and we will help you out. And if the company you were looking for isn’t there, you can run into someone else.”

While the business might be still on the slower side, there is a lot of enthusiasm, assures Mühlberger.

“I am always enthusiastic! I am happy when everyone at our booth is happy,” he laughs.

“We want our participants to reconnect with the people they know, to meet new people, to find business partners in Japan or South Korea, but also in other territories where the interest for European cinema is growing, also thanks to new distribution models. Taiwan is getting more active, Vietnam. Acquisition-wise these are still niche markets, but niche markets can be interesting too,” he notes.

The Europe! Umbrella at FilMart is supported by Creative Europe – MEDIA Programme with backing from ICAA – Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales.

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