Locarno’s new Step In initiative, which focused in its first edition on the visibility of European auteur cinema in Eastern and Central European countries drew a mixed response from the attending distributors, exhibitors and sales agents.

While some festivals told Screen that they particularly welcomed the opportunity to be able to speak with sales companies about the question of festival fees, among other pressing issues, in the Sunday afternoon workshop, other participants expressed disappointment in the structure of the opening information session which left some more confused than enlightened.

And yet others noted that the issues – although burning ones for players in this year’s first focus region – have been the stock challenges facing the European film industry for the past 25 years without any lasting solution having been (yet) discovered.

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily, Marketa Hodouskova, general delegate of the International Confederation of Art Cinemas (CICAE), said that one of the issues which had been of urgent importance for her table of exhibitors, distributors and sales agents was the question of minimum guarantees. “The most important thing for the sales agents is also getting reports and knowing what is happening to the films,” she explained. “Then they can compare the career of the film with previous titles and also compare the different national markets.”

“People agreed that there are few digitally-equipped cinemas [in Central and Eastern Europe], but my table suggested that distribution by Blu-ray is acceptable,” Hodouskova noted. “Moreover, there was the feeling that piracy for auteur films, and  arthouse films in general, is limited in this region.”

She added that the participants in her group were impressed by “the openness of the representatives from the sales agents who expressed an understanding for the problems of the exhibitors and distributors on the national level. In the end, it comes down to the need for lobbying local institutions for more support,” she said.

At the same time, Screen learnt after the Step In Day on Sunday (Aug 5) that the initiative’s organisers are now looking to have a follow-up of the discussed issues and conclusions presented sometime in the near future at another festival dedicated to this particular region.

Meanwhile, during the information session, Ena Dozo, industry manager of the Sarajevo Film Festival, revealed that there are plans for the Operation Kino initiative, which is currently in collaboration between the Sarajevo, Sofia, Transilvania and Istanbul film festivals, could be extended to include partners in Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Ukraine and Lithuania.

Furthermore, on the sidelines of the three-day event, Screen learnt that Cineworx Filmproduktion, the production arm of distributor Cineworx, is currently co-producing the documentary El Tiempo Nublado by Arami Ullon in Paraguay. Cineworx’s forthcoming releases include Sightseers by UK director Ben Wheatley, which was screened on the Piazza Grande on Aug 5, and Jannicke Systad Jacobsen’s comedy Turn Me On, Goddammit.

In addition, the Viennale will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year between Oct 25 and Nov 7 with a 40-title retrospective dedicated to Fritz Lang, the director of Metropolis, M and the Dr. Mabuse films, as well as a tribute to Michael Caine with the veteran actor personally present as the festival’s guest of honour.

Looking at this year’s attendance, Industry Office chief Nadia Dresti said that this year’s Industry Days will have seen around 250 buyers participating as well as representatives of national film institutes from Central and Eastern Europe and such key figures as MEDIA Programme unit head Aviva Silver, European Film Promotion’s managing director Renate Rose, and Telefilm Canada’s executive director Carolle Brabant.

Over 30 buyers and sellers were attending the Locarno festival and Industry Days for the first time this year, ranging from the US companies Myriad Pictures, New Yorker Films, Zeitgeist and Shoreline through France’s Metropolitan/Davis Films and Germany’s Neue Visionen Filmverleih and Elster Film to the UK’s Salt and eOne and China’s Huayi Brothers Media Corporation and Hong Kong’s Media Asia.

The Industry Days also saw Italy’s Claudia Bedogni returning as Head of Acquisitions and Co-Productions for Rome-based Satine Film, which is developing projects from Saudia Arabia and elsewhere as well as acquiring Miguel Gomes’ Berlinale Competition title Tabu and Sundance winner Beasts of the Southern Wild for theatrical release in Italy.