Siddharth Sinha’s Hindi-language drama Twosome picked up the Hubert Bals award for most promising feature film project at the close of a busy three days of networking and project meetings at India’s Film Bazaar (Nov 24-26).
Written and to be directed by Sinha, Twosome is a dark tale of two women – one a single working mother fighting to keep her apartment, and the other a young woman who falls in love with a pimp. The project is being produced by Paris-based production outfit Trompe Le Monde, founded by soccer player Vikash Dhorasoo and former music producer Pierre Walfisz.
Sinha was one of ten Indian filmmakers who had projects selected for the main section of Film Bazaar, an event organised by India’s National Film Development Corp (NFDC) which aims to bridge the gap between the Indian and international filmmaking communities.
His project was also one of four – along with Onir’s I Am, Ben Rekhi’s Keep Off The Grass and Sandeep Varma’s Manjunath – that has been selected to take part in next year’s Cinemart. The NFDC will support the producers of all four projects to attend the Rotterdam film festival’s projects market in January.
In addition to the financing side of Film Bazaar, six projects took part in Screenwriters’ Lab, four were analysed in a Work-In-Progress Lab, and a slate of five Indian and five European projects were work-shopped at MEDIA programme-backed initiative Primexchange.
All this activity, in addition to a series of presentations and seminars, resulted in a whirlwind three days of networking at the Goa Marriott resort. Now in its third year, the event is starting to grow and draw an interesting crowd of Indian filmmakers and financiers, and Western sales agents, producers and distributors.
In addition to filmmakers with projects, Indian delegates included up-and-coming directors such as Ashim Ahluwalia and veterans such as Shaji N. Karun. Western delegates included The Match Factory’s Gabor Greiner, Janet Brown of New York-based Cinetic Rights Management, Optimum Releasing’s Dan MacRae and the Cannes film festival’s Christian Jeune. In total, 350 delegates attended the event compared to 317 last year.
“I’m really impressed – events like this in India usually have some kind of political agenda, but this is just a great platform for filmmakers to meet international buyers,” said director Dibakar Banerjee, who has a couple of mainstream hits under his belt but is trying something different with subversive love story LSD.
One of the recurring themes of the event was whether Indian-themed projects originating in Europe – and Indian projects aiming for the European market – actually need to be set up co-productions or financed by both sides. India now has co-production treaties with the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Brazil, but they haven’t been used much, as Indian and overseas producers are still in the process of learning how to work with one other.
“The culture here is to fully finance rather than co-produce,” explained Mumbai-based lawyer and consultant Dina Dattani, who gave a presentation on the treaties. “However, with the recession filtering into India, even the large studios are starting to look at ways to share risk and reward.”
The co-production question was also explored at Primexhange, during which a group of Indian and European filmmakers and producers discussed how their projects could be positioned to work in both regions. “It’s still early days, but it does feel like we’re on the cusp of something in terms of the Euro-Indian relationship,” said Optimum Releasing’s MacRae.
Jeremy Gawade of UK law firm Lee & Thompson added that Indian financiers remain focused on local-language product, but that the situation is slowly starting to change: “It became apparent while we were here that people are starting to produce for urban audiences with projects that are not aimed at the mass market and might have international appeal.”
Although no deals were announced during the three days, several projects that participated in the previous two editions of Film Bazaar have since gone into production. Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely, which took part last year, is now in post-production and looks like a contender for festivals in 2010, while Rajesh Shera’s Ocean Of An Old Man, which took part in 2007, was recently acquired for North American distribution by Global Film Initiative.
Film Bazaar is held during the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which this year opened with Chinese director He Ping’s Wheat on November 23 and wraps December 3 with Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces.