Sofia Catering For Industry's Needs By Martin Blaney

in 10th Sofia International Film Festival

by Martin Blaney

As well as being an 11-day feast of world cinema with 148 feature, documentary and short films screened for the local cinema-going public, the Sofia International Film Festival (SIFF) is also increasingly being recognised as an important meeting place for the international film industry to discuss new film projects.

The so-called Sofia Meetings have joined the circuit occupied by other project markets specialised in Eastern European cinema such as Connecting Cottbus, Sarajevo’s CineLink, Thessaloniki’s Crossroads, and – most recently – the B2B Industry Meetings in Belgrade.

Now in its third year, the Sofia Meetings – which were held from March 17-18 at the Bulgarian capital’s Red House – provided the forum for fourteen second feature film projects to be pitched to around 50 international producers and film funders from Western and Eastern European countries.

The 2006 lineup included three filmakers who were having their feature debuts screening in the SIFF’s International Competition: Macedonian-born Sergei Stanojkovski (Kontakt/Contact), Bosnian Nenad Djuric (whose first feature Nebo Iznad Krajolika/Skies Above The Landscape had a rousing world premiere on March 16), and France’s David Lanzmann (Doo Wop).

Fifty per cent of the new projects in the Meetings’ main selection were by young women filmmakers who had made names for themselves at international festivals in the past four years with their award-winning feature debuts such as Slovenia’s Hanna A.W. Slak (Slepa Pega/Blind Spot), Russia’s Marina Razbezkina (Vremya Zhatvy/The Harvest Time) and Kazakh filmmaker Gulshad “Guka” Omarova (Schizo).

The Meetings were also used by Belgrade-based Art & Popcorn and Germany’s Icon Film to present Serbian filmmaker Stefan Arsenjevic’s feature project Love And Other Crimes, which had previously been introduced to prospective partners at this year’s Rotterdam’s CineMart and the Berlinale Co-Production Market. Arsenjevic had been one of the young filmmakers who had contributed a short to the omnibus film project Lost & Found which came to the SIFF last year after its world premiere opening the Berlinale’s Forum.

In addition to the main programme of ten projects, another four filmmakers were asking partners hopefully to “show them the money”: Macedonian-born Aneta Lesnikovska with her “mockumentary” about the making of the first Balkan Dogma film, Does Its Hurt?as a Bulgarian-Macedonian co-production; local Bulgarian filmmaker Viktor Chouchkov Jr. with the project Tilt about a group of friends in the new Bulgaria; Serbian Darko Lungulov’s Belgrade/New York-set love story Here And There; and Russian director Alexei Fedorchenko’s “Russian Wonder Story” The Railway, his next feature after the widely praised “mockumentary” Pervye Na Lune (First People On The Moon).

(The screenplay for The Railway by Alexander Gonorovsky was pronounced the best out of almost 900 scripts entered for the ‘Our Contemporary’ competition last year)

After a day of intensive pitching the Meetings’ participants including such distinguished industry figures as the Irish Film Board’s Simon Perry, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung’s Manfred Schmidt, Cannes Producers Network’s Julie Bergeron, Binger FilmLab’s Marten Rabarts, the Balkan Film Fund’s Lucia Rikaki, and Bavaria Film International’s Olaf Aichinger were asked to vote on the best pitch of the 2006 Meetings.

Those attending decided on Hanna Slak’s presentation for her children’s film Teahwhich will be produced by Dunja Klemenc of Studio Maj and Gustavfilm as a co-production with partners in Poland and Denmark from this June.