Back in 1962, the German directors who signed the Oberhausen Manifesto (the birth point for the 'New German Cinema') were among the first to recognise film festivals were becoming the main launch pad for directorial talents. The acclaim given to various short films at international festivals, said the Oberhausen collective, showed "the future of the German film lies in the hands of those who have proven that they speak a new film language".
In a world where Wong Kar Wai, Alexander Sokurov or Michael Haneke can outperform many Hollywood directors at the box office, we have all learned to speak that language - with subtitles, anyway. Even when a film does not travel too far beyond the red carpet, careers can still be boosted, thanks to feedback from acquisition scouts and critical word of mouth.
Take Australian film-maker John Hillcoat, whose film The Proposition debuted to rave reviews in Toronto two years ago, but performed disappointingly at the UK and US box office: that festival platform ensured Hillcoat - who had made just two films in the previous 20 years - landed the plum job of directing 2929 Productions' adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, set to star Viggo Mortensen, which is due to shoot in Washington State next spring.
Further down the pecking order, the chances of stumbling across new talent is reduced by the sheer number of films; the pressure on journalists to see high-profile 'newsworthy' titles; and the sense that, if something was really good, it would already have been the subject of a bidding war (as Cristian Mungiu's soon-to-be Palme d'Or-winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days was in Rotterdam).
The Berlin competition threw up few new directorial stars this year, although David Mackenzie should find things a little easier in future after Hallam Foe. The Forum, though, showcased emerging talents in Serbia's Srdan Golubovic, with his second film, The Trap, and Arkansas newcomer Jeff Nichols with Shotgun Stories.
Karlovy Vary, where the pickings can be slim, yielded a promising debut from Norway's Bard Breien with The Art Of Negative Thinking, a black comedy about disability. Two documentaries from the Transylvania International Film Festival in Cluj, Romania also impressed: Beyond The Forest, by Austrian film-maker Gerald Igor Hauzenberger, a compelling view of Romania's last surviving German-speaking Saxons; and American Nina Davenport's Operation Filmmaker, about an Iraqi jack-the-lad who attaches himself to various US film-makers, which has gone on to screen in Toronto and at other festivals.
The ever-reliable Motovun in Croatia yielded one highly efficient slasher thriller (already a hit in Austria), Dead In Three Days, whose director Andreas Prochaska has a bright if bloody future.
Old favourites fared less well. At Cannes, Quentin Tarantino and Emir Kusturica began to edge perilously close to the relegation zone, and even the mighty Wong Kar Wai received a yellow card from most critics. However, Turkish-German director Fatih Akin moved up a division with The Edge Of Heaven, and Julian Schnabel straddled arthouse and mainstream with The Diving Bell And The Butterfly.
The most promising newcomer was the other Romanian, Cristian Nemescu, who made California Dreamin'. Sadly Nemescu died in a car crash before he could finish editing his film, let alone see it win the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes.
|The global Arthouse In Figures - MEXICO: Top 10 arthouse films, 2007*|
|Title (Origin) Distributor||Gross|
|1 The Violin (Mex) Canana Films||$937,998|
|2 The Lives Of Others (Ger) Zima||$608,889|
|3 The Girl On The Stone (Mex) Videocine||$563,867|
|4 The Painted Veil (US-Chi) Gussi||$507,211|
|5 Shiver (Sp) Zima||$486,637|
|6 How Much Do You Love Me' (It-Fr) Azteca||$448,207|
|7 Paris, Je T'Aime (Fr-Liech-Ger) Zima||$445,095|
|8 Water (Can-Ind) Filmhouse||$339,071|
|9 Copying Beethoven (US-Ger-Hun) Gussi||$289,178|
|10 Fur: An Imaginary Portrait Of Diane Arbus (US) Gussi||$223,846|
|*To Nov 18. Source: Screen International/Nielsen EDI. ARTHOUSE/a:thaus/n: Arthouse films are those directed by foreign indie film-makers such as Pedro Almodovar, David Lynch, Hector Babenco and Abel Ferrara. Although the local industry has a long arthouse tradition, young film-makers making low budget, director-led films struggle to find distribution and tend to be self-distributed. They include Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light (ND Mantarraya) which has made $137,866 to date, and Francisco Vargas' The Violin (Canana). Chiara Arroyo|
|GERMANY: Top 10 arthouse films, 2007*|
|Title (Origin) Distributor||Gross|
|1 My Fuhrer (Ger) X-Verleih||$7.4m|
|2 Hunting And Gathering (Fr) Prokino/Fox||$7.1m|
|3 La Vie En Rose (Fr-UK-Czech) Constantin Film||$4.4m|
|4 The Edge Of Heaven (Ger) Pandora Film||$3.8m|
|5 Four Minutes (Ger) Piffl Medien||$3.5m|
|6 Irina Palm (Bel-Ger-UK-Fr) X-Verleih||$3.2m|
|7 Ein Fliehendes Pferd (Ger) Concorde||$2.7m|
|8 Shoppen (Ger) X-Verleih||$2.7m|
|9 2 Days In Paris (Fr-Ger) 3L||$2.3m|
|10 Saint-Jacques... La Mecque (Fr) Schwarz/Weiss||$2.2m|
|*To Nov 14. Source: Screen International/Nielsen EDI. ARTHOUSE/a:thaus/n: Range from borderline cases such as Brokeback Mountain to director-led films, often with a social or political message. The size of the release is often irrelevant. For example, Prokino's Hunting And Gathering (Ensemble C'Est Tout) by Claude Berri is presently on release on 166 prints - in its 12th week - and has taken more than $7m (EUR4.7m). Martin Blaney|
|JAPAN: Top 10 arthouse films, 2007*|
|Title (origin) Distributor||Gross|
|1 Marie Antoinette (US-Fr) Toho-Towa/Tohoku Shinsha||$15.8m|
|2 Love Never To End (Jap) Toho||$11.8m|
|3 I Just Didn't Do It (Jap) Toho||$9.9m|
|4 Dai Nipponjin (Jap) Shochiku||$9.4m|
|5 Sakuran (Jap) Asmik Ace||$7.2m|
|6 Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer (Ger-US) Gaga||$5.5m|
|7 Zou No Senaka (Jap) Shochiku||$3.7m**|
|8 An Inconvenient Truth (US) UIP||$3.7m|
|9 Megane (Jap) Nikkatsu||$2.8m**|
|10 Little Miss Sunshine (US) Twentieth Century Fox||$1.3m|
|*To Nov 12. **Still on release. Source: Screen International. ARTHOUSE/a:thaus/n: Figures are not available in Japan for truly limited releases, even for a film such as The Mourning Forest which won the Grand Prix in Cannes but had a very limited release at home. This list focuses on higher profile 'mainstream arthouse' releases that do not fall into typical marketing models and are not based on TV shows. JASON GRAY|