The fourth edition of Les Arcs European Film Festival involved seminars, screenings and skiing — and strengthened its reputation as a productive and enjoyable event.

Constant snowfall and the sound of exploding dynamite — helping control the risk of avalanches — all proved part of the charm of the fourth Les Arcs European Film Festival (December 15-22).

The festival attracted 670 accredited professionals from across Europe, including directors, producers, distributors and sales agents who travelled to the Alpine resort in France, showcasing new projects and hitting the slopes when time and weather permitted.

The festival opened with a screening of Italian melodrama It Was The Son (E Stato Il Figlio). “This film started as a snowflake in Les Arcs last year, featuring in the Work in Progress section,” said the festival’s artistic director, Frédéric Boyer, who introduced it alongside director Daniele Cipri and actress Giselda Volodi.

It Was The Son was one of 12 features competing for the festival’s top prize, the Crystal Arrow, alongside Baltasar Kormakur’s The Deep, which was also showcased as a Work in Progress in 2011.

The Work in Progress strand returned for a second year with 11 features seeking distribution or sales representation. “Work in Progress received wonderful feedback from sales agents with some interested in at least five projects. That is a strong ratio,” said Vanja Kaludjercic, the newly appointed head of professional events for Les Arcs.

Titles that generated buzz included Germany-Georgia-France co-production Long Bright Days, from directors Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, about two teenage girls. Others included Field Of Dogs, from Polish director Lech Majewski, and Love Eternal, a $2.9m (€2.2m) drama from Irish director Brendan Muldowney based on Japanese author Kei Oishi’s Loving The Dead.

Macdara Kelleher, co-producer of Love Eternal, said of the festival: “It is more relaxed than the likes of Berlin but has struck a good balance with screenings that you actually have time to attend and the Co-Production Village.”

The co-production market, which ran December 15-18, saw a 70% rise in participants, and included 27 titles as well as 10 projects from recent film school graduates from across Europe.

Upcoming productions included The Choice, from Italian director Michele Placido; Rocketman, from Iceland’s Dagur Kari; and action-comedy All Panthers Are Pink, a Germany-Serbia co-production that has not yet attached a director but generated serious interest.

Pierre-Emmanuel Fleurantin, co-founder and CEO of the festival who also runs Paris-based production outfit Paprika Films, said the fact the Co-Production Village had attracted big names was “a sign this event has matured. We received 140 applications this year — up from 80 in 2011 — and have included bigger projects interesting for all sales agents, with companies including StudioCanal and Gaumont attending for the first time.”

Key sales executives in attendance included Celluloid Dreams president Hengameh Panahi, Le Pacte CEO Jean Labadie, Co-Production Office CEO Philippe Bober, Fortissimo Films acquisitions executive Ellis Driessen and TrustNordisk head of sales Susan Wendt.

Spotlight on Belgium

The week saw 60 European films shown to both professionals and the public on six screens. A focus on Belgian cinema included 14 titles including offbeat comedy Happy Together from Geoffrey Enthoven and drama Private Lessons from Joachim Lafosse.

Christian De Schutter, president of promotional body Flanders Image, said: “It is great that Les Arcs has focused on new, emerging talent from Belgium, introducing them to distributors and sales agents from across Europe.”

De Schutter said he had discussed upcoming projects with several French distributors and also drew delegates’ attention to Screen Flanders, a new $6.6m (€5m) fund aimed at attracting co-productions to the Flemish region.

Screen International moderated a case study on Bullhead, the Flemish gangster drama directed by Michael R Roskam that was nominated for the foreign-language Oscar.

Bart Van Langendonck, producer and CEO of Savage Film, was joined on the panel by Celluloid Dreams’ Panahi, who sold the film around the world. Van Langendonck described the five-year process of making the film and how difficult it was to secure a sales agent, while Panahi described the struggle associated with such a “tough sell” that proved no easier to distribute even after the Oscar nod.

The week also included a VoD workshop hosted by Europa Distribution, a masterclass for film-school students by Romanian director Cristian Mungiu (who led the Les Arcs competition jury) and the annual European Cinema Ski Cup, won by Arte Cinéma deputy managing director Rémi Burah.