Canada's National Film Board (NFB) will launch an International Co-production Unit (ICU) with the goal of developing key partnerships and framework agreements with international broadcasters and other organisations.

NFB chairman Jacques Bensimon said that the move was precipitated by cutbacks at public-sector institutions internationally. "The NFB has a duty to spearhead the movement to recover the ground lost by the public sphere in recent years. Not only to recover this ground but to enlarge it. We don't want to deny the essential role played by private industry but, rather, to work with it."

The new ICU will handle all the NFB's international co-production initiatives, whether majority or a minority co-producer. Keeping with the mandate of the NFB, the co-productions will focus on general-interest subject matter and be designed for general consumption.

Four co-productions are underway with various French producers, including two with Paul Saadoun of 13 Productions: Autopsy Of A Utopia, an exploration of the virtual world that has developed on the Internet over the past 10 years; and Les Casques Bleus, a documentary on the possibility of making peace in the world. The other productions are Qui Sait', a study of the latest theories of modern physics, co-produced with Arnaud Hantute of La Compagnie des Taxi-Brousse; and Oceans, which explores beneath the Arctic Ocean, co-produced with Stephane Milliere of Gedeon Programmes and Jean Lemire of Glacialis Productions.