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Experts discuss foreign-language distribution at Berlinale

A panel of distributors discussed buying and selling world cimema during a panel at the Berlin Film Festival yesterday.

James Velaise of Pretty Pictures, Ed Arantz of Music Box, Eve Gabereau of Soda Pictures, Geoffrey Gilmore of Tribeca Entertainment and Ryan Werner of IFC Films comprised the panel for an Industry Debate titled Buying And Selling World Cinema at a packed Gropius Mirror Restaurant yesterday.

The panel discussed the difficulties of reaching niche audiences in a cluttered market-place and the possibilities afforded foreign-language titles by new forms of digital distribution.

Despite the plethora of new avenues, the panel said VOD wasn’t a panacea and only worked on select titles: “Last year we made a decision to be much more selective about the foreign language films we are picking up. We’ve stopped acquiring only for VOD. In the last year and a half the VOD platform has become much more crowded and its increasingly difficult to get films recognised. Our next films for the Dardennes brothers will be only theatrical,” said Werner.

All panellists recognised the increasing difficulty of locking down TV deals and the growing importance of event films such as Pina. “Netflix is our TV network,” said Arantz. “The TV is blurring into the computer,” agreed Velaise.

Critics are still vitally important, panelists agreed, but there was still work to be done to change the perception of foreign language titles: “I think there is a transition that has half taken place, which is the disassociation of the idea of foreign language film with being an art film. Certainly some of my colleagues here have done that [Arantz released the Millenium trilogy in US to massive results]. But there is still the tendency among critics to see foreign language through an art film prism and only evaluate it in a single way.”

The panel were largely sceptical about one audience member’s question regarding the efficacy of foreign language films being made in English to try and reach a wider audience. ‘There is a natural language for a film’, said Velaise.

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