It is difficult to judge the success of the business done at the Cannes marketplace outside the context of the weight of hope, even expectation, that preceded it.

After relatively flat markets at Toronto, AFM and Berlin, there was some hope Cannes would provide a necessary kick for business.

Such hope was not entirely irrational. The numbers attending the market rose 2% with a strong presence from emerging - or re-emerging - territories such as Russia.

The reordering of the buyers market following the demise of New Line International suggested a healthy jockeying for position among potential replacements on the Croisette.

The Competition held some promise on paper and four titles now have US releases: Sony Pictures Classics has picked up Waltz With Bashir, IFC took both Grand Prix winner Gomorrah and Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale, and New Yorker bought Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Three Monkeys.

But most deals were concluded at the end of the market, and the initial promise did not generate much real business at the market itself. The early talk of a battle royal for the rights to Steven Soderbergh's Che fizzled out after the four-hour screening.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to see that external conditions were going to make this a difficult market.

While filling the New Line hole was a theme, the market was not really geared up to match that need in full, although, as we shall see, top-tier US buyers were able to do strong business. Then there was simply the hangover from previous slow markets which led to a glut of product.

Ever present, of course, were those all too familiar themes of a business in transition, from the advent of digital technologies to the effect of a potential US actors' strike.

And then there were those seemingly marginal external factors which in the rarified environment of Cannes had a significant effect on business. These included the dollar exchange rate, a widely noted hike in prices at restaurants and shops, and even the gloomy weather.

Despite early rumours that buyers were out in Cannes for a shopping spree, reality soon kicked in. Grand figures were rumoured for Ari Folman's remarkable Waltz With Bashir which screened early in the festival, and feverish speculation mounted about buyers and prices for Che. Yet excitement melted away in the unseasonal rain.

The familiar Cannes cliches of buyers circling hot product or of screenings lit up by mobile phones signalling the start of a bidding war were rarely employed.

Same old, same old

Instead the market eased itself into a familiar pattern - solid but hardly spectacular with little in the way of a big splash.

Rather than a shift in the markets, Cannes was a continuation of recent trends, albeit with rather more interest than recent flat markets. Taken in that context, the judgement on the market should be rather kinder. The top-tier US sales companies, for example, fared well.

Focus Features International reported strong sales on Gus Van Sant's Milk, starring Sean Penn as the assassinated gay rights campaigner Harvey Milk, and the Coen brothers' upcoming dark comedy A Serious Man, among others.

Focus sales chief Alison Thompson said: 'We've had a really great market. The Focus brand is such that people keep on coming back and doing business with us. The quality of the films is high - and they get made.'

Even given an understandable desire to talk up the brand, Thompson is surely right to point out the massive advantage of commercial dependability in a largely cautious market.

That sense of reliability certainly benefited Summit, which was as strong as ever. At Cannes it was selling Terrence Malick's Tree Of Life and concluded a sale on Disaster Movie to the new five-territory Alliance network.

Inferno virtually sold out on The Women and Hachiko: A Dog's Story. Lakeshore was close to selling out its Fame remake, IM Global was launching sales on Bunraku and Mandate International, QED International (selling Oliver Stone's George Bush biopic W), Icon Entertainment International, Hyde Park International and The Weinstein Company International were quietly concluding a raft of deals on their high-powered slates.

Paramount Vantage was expected to have done steady business on its slate, including Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 sequel.

There is still a sense, however, that the big changes that will follow the demise of New Line will have to wait until future markets, and the would-be beneficiaries were in Cannes preparing for that future.

Relativity Media chief Ryan Kavanaugh was one of several players looking to tie up output deals in the wake of the New Line closure, and was busy closing long-term partnerships in major territories, which should bear future fruit.


The non-US companies announced plenty of business, though recent limiting factors such as the caution of Japanese buyers were evident.

Wild Bunch, as ever, was able to boast a number of deals on a very strong slate.

Highlights included Radu Mihaileanu's The Concert whose deal with The Weinstein Company marked only the third time a French film had been pre-sold to the US for more than $1m.

Eye-catching deals and new projects were announced from the usual international favourites such as HanWay and Fortissimo.

In fact, most companies said that business had been solid. Bill Stephens, sales head of Germany and UK-based K5 International, spoke for many when he said: 'It has been a festival where most deals are the big films going to the big distributors, but if you're doing smaller films it just takes a little more work.'

The ever-increasing internationalisation of the business helped, with a number of sales companies venturing beyond their traditional local fare.

'Our company previously only dealt in Korean and Asian films, but is now handling a South American one (the Competition film Lion's Den),' said Youngjoo Suh, head of Korea's Fine Cut.

'This Cannes was good for us since we were able to do deals with a variety of different buyers.'

The reordering of the international map has become an increasing theme at markets. At Cannes, the Latin American Film Co (Lafc) - a three-year-old joint venture between Eduardo Costantini of Costa Films and Harvey Weinstein of The Weinstein Company - announced it had established a new strategic partnership with The Otero Group in Brazil.

Julia Otero of The Otero Group will act as the senior partner of Lafc in Brazil and focus on the development of future projects to be shot in the country. Otero will also aim to secure tax incentive funds and evaluate potential investors to further expand the company.

The studios have been making those global connections for some time and Twentieth Century Fox's Fox International Productions (FIP) made its mark at Cannes, signing a production deal with Fuji TV in Japan to remake Alexander Payne's Oscar-winning Sideways.

FIP is focusing initially on production in Japan, Germany, Russia and India, and is looking to work with local producers and directors in developing projects in those territories.


Nothing made the point about the globalised nature of the film business better than the Indian interventions on the Croisette.

India came to Cannes talking big numbers, which was a welcome relief in a generally cautious atmosphere.

Reliance Big Entertainment, owned by India's massive Reliance ADA Group, signalled its intention to become one of the most aggressive players in the global film business.

The upstart studio unveiled its debut slate of 69 pictures in nine languages at Cannes, along with plans to invest $1bn in its film business by the end of 2009.

Reliance followed this by news of tie-ups with A-list Hollywood stars and US studios, including a home video output deal for India with Universal Pictures. It unveiled plans to provide development funds to the production vehicles of seven Hollywood stars, including Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment and Tom Hanks' Playtone Productions.

In other Indian announcements, completion bond outfit Infinity Film Completion Services launched a film financing and production company which is producing Colours Of Passion from The Rising director Ketan Mehta along with a slate of martial arts movies.

The new outfit, Infinity Filmed Entertainment, plans to produce four to five features a year for the next two years for the international market.

And Lionsgate formed a wide-ranging joint venture with Eros International for distribution in India.

What Indian companies offered was a pointer to the international future. And that may be the theme of Cannes 2008 - a positive step forward but yet to reach a clear destination.

Cannes market in figures
5,613: films shown
2%: increase in attendance
101: countries represented
1,604: screenings
70: more screenings than 2007
36%: of films shown digitally
18%: of market participants from US
62%: increase in Russian presence
Source Marche Du FIlm

The breakout hits

Of Time And The City (UK) Many wept on viewing Terence Davies' poignant love letter to his native Liverpool. Acclaimed as a masterpiece, it mixes archive footage, rare photographic stills and Davies' own documentary takes, a hand-picked soundtrack and poetry narration by the director. One of the sensations of the festival.

Blind Loves (Slovak Rep) The buzz began on Slovak director Juraj Lehotsky's funny and tender documentary Blind Loves with reports of a mini buying war ahead of its first screening. The Directors' Fortnight film follows four blind people as they experience love in their everyday lives.

O'Horten (Nor) Sony Pictures Classics picked up what could be the most commercial of Norwegian director Bent Hamer's offbeat oeuvre, which includes Kitchen Stories and the English-language Factotum. Funny and sad, with echoes of Aki Kaurismaki and Monty Python, the Un Certain Regard title follows the strange twists and turns of a man's life once he retires.

Moscow, Belgium (Bel) The debut feature from Belgian film-maker Christophe van Rompaey showcased Barbara Sarafian as a forty-something mother involved with two men. Sales agent Bavaria has sold a slew of territories, including Canada (to Mongrel Media) on the Critics' Week title.

Versailles (Fr) A parable for these credit crunch days, the debut feature from French writer and director Pierre Schoeller impressed critics with its juxtaposition of the wealth the name Versailles suggests with the bread-line existence of some of the inhabitants of the French suburb.

Wendy And Lucy (US) A fine performance from Michelle Williams anchors Kelly Reichardt's quiet and detailed US indie that played in Un Certain Regard. Williams portrays a young woman who realises she cannot even afford to look after her dog. This third feature from Reichardt should help build her international reputation.

The Pleasure Of Being Robbed (US) The charming and assured feature debut of US director Josh Safdie was the acclaimed closing-night film of Directors' Fortnight. It drew comparisons with the French New Wave for its portrayal of a likeable young woman, played by co-writer Eleonore Hendricks, who enjoys stealing for the sake of it. Tony Manero (Chile-Br) Pablo Larrain's gritty Directors' Fortnight title about a serial killer in 1970s Santiago with a love of disco scored a raft of sales at Cannes, including to the UK's Network. Critics and buyers responded to the character study about one man's murderous obsession during the darkest days of the Pinochet regime.

Louise Tutt

The breakout talents

Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender, director and actor

Hunger, the first turn behind the lens for Turner Prize-winning UK artist Steve McQueen, won the Camera d'Or for best first feature and the Un Certain Regard Fipresci prize. Michael Fassbender plays real-life IRA prisoner Bobby Sands who starved himself to death in prison as a political protest against the UK government in 1981. Born in Germany and raised in Ireland, Fassbender has already snagged the role of Heathcliff in John Maybury's upcoming adaptation of Wuthering Heights. IFC has US rights to Hunger.

Arta Dobroshi, actor

Lorna's Silence, the fourth film from Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne to screen in Competition at Cannes, may not have excited the critics as much as their previous works, but their leading lady certainly did. The luminous Kosovan-born Dobroshi won plaudits for her less-is-more performance.

Rebecca Hall, actor

Hailed as a welcome return to form for Woody Allen, the romantic comedy Vicky Cristina Barcelona also gave us a new star in UK actress Rebecca Hall. No mean feat considering Hall appears on-screen alongside charismatic superstars Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.

Ari Folman, director

The Israeli film-maker used animation to revisit his memories of the 1982 Lebanon War to devastating effect in competition title Waltz With Bashir. There was nothing cartoonish about the way the documentary confronted the horrors of war, and Sony Pictures Classics has scooped US rights.

Thomas Clay, director

Few viewers of UK director Thomas Clay's violent The Great Ecstasy Of Robert Carmichael from 2005 could have predicted such a mature sophomore effort. But the Thailand-set Soi Cowboy, screening in Un Certain Regard, won plaudits for Clay's singular cinematic flair, and comparisons with David Lynch and Carlos Reygadas.

Louise Tutt.