Documentary meeting running June 21-24 puts the accent on Asia this year.

Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud’s aquatic extravaganza Oceans picked up the Sunny Side of the Doc’s Best International Documentary Award at the opening ceremony of the four-day meeting in the French Atlantic port town of La Rochelle on Monday night.

French World War II coloured archive documentary series Apocalypse, watched by an average 6.5 million viewers when it was broadcast on France 2, won the Best International Ratings Award.

The ceremony, onboard a former weather ship which now serves as maritime museum, marked the start of the 22nd edition of the documentary market which will welcome 1,100 documentary professionals from 52 countries, including 280 commissioners and buyers.

The Best International Pitching Showcases (BIPS), at the heart of the market, have been divided into six categories this year.  Alongside the existing History and Science, Art & Culture, Young Talent and Cross Media categories, two new sections, devoted to investigative documentary and 3D and Cinema, have been added.

Projects include UK-based Tourist with a Typewriter’s The Runner, directed by Saeed Taji Farouky and about a Saharan long-distance running champion; French director Michel Noll’s Crossing the Line about North Korean defectors, produced by Paris-based ICTV Solferino Images, and the animated Clash, about illegal immigrant workers in southern Italy, from Germany’s Weydemann Bros.

Beyond the pitching sessions, this year’s edition puts the spotlight on Asia. Big delegations from China, Japan and Korea are in attendance at the market for the first time.

Related events include a panel discussion on the documentary market in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, led by Hong Kong-based Chen Ping, founder of the controversial commercial network Sun TV, which was banned on mainland China in 2009 due to its outspoken talk shows.

Other events include a forum on the rise of 3D documentaries and how to fund them and a joint MEDIA and Europa Distribution conference, sponsored by Gaumont Pathé Archives, on strategies used by distributors to get documentary features into cinema theatres.

Ten films will screen in the Grand Ecran Documentaire selection, open to public and professionals alike, including Jerome Cornuau’s Facing the Killer Volcano, about an eruption in Japan in 1991, and Phil Grabsky’s The Boy Mir – Ten Years in Afghanistan.