The dream of a pan-European distribution network fordocumentary films is set to become a reality this November as the NetherlandsFilm Fund DocuZone initiative expands to cover two hundred cinemas in nineEuropean countries.

Backed by the European Union's Media Plus programme, localfunders and private partnerships, the European Docuzone (EDZ) will use thelatest digital cinema technology to create the world's largest digital network.

Going live across the weekend of November 12th and 13th, theparticipating cinemas will host a series of simultaneous pan-European premieresfollowed by satellite-linked question and answer sessions with the relevantdirectors.

Further details of EDZ will be announced at its UK Launch tobe held on August 28 at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Amy Hardie,managing director of Docspace, the scheme's UK partner, will announce that theMEDIA Plus Programme has invested over Euros2.2m for the first two years ofthe three year project which has a total budget of over Euros6m.

EDZ announced that French distributor, Novocine, run by Etienne Ollagnier, has joined the group, filling an obvious hole in the network. The full list of EDZ partner countries now comprises Austria, Belgium,France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and the UK. UKcinemas forming part of the network include the Ritzy in London, the GlasgowFilm Theatre and the Filmhouse in Edinburgh. Scottish Screen and the ScottishDocumentary Institute have provided matching funding within the UK and EDZ willshortly be advertising three jobs.

"The ability to premiere a film to 200 screens in ninecountries simultaneously used to be the reserve of the Hollywood majors,"claims Hardie. "Through the EDZ network, this opportunity is now available toproducers and distributors throughout Europe."

The films selected to screen over the initial weekendinclude Jos De Putter's The Damned AndThe Sacred from The Netherlands, Matej Minac's Nicholas Winton-The Power Of The Good from Slovakia andSergio Trefaut's Fleurette from Portugal. The UK title is likely to be JeremyGilley's Peace One Day which had itsworld premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival this week. Clips from all of thefilms will be shown at the Edinburgh launch on the 28th.

The organisation aims to distribute at least 12 Europeandocumentary films in the first year and has plans to expand the initiative toinclude shorts, animation and low-budget features. A programme of documentarieson extreme sports will be shown in January.

"At a time when major US studios are negotiating about howto get digital cinema rolling, we are actually building the first pan-Europeandigital distribution network," explainsKees Ryninks, managing director of EDZ. "The reduced cost of digital cinematechnology combined with the growth in popularity of cinema-releaseddocumentary films such as Fahrenheit9/11, Touching The Void and Etre EtAvoir convinces us that our timing is perfect."