EXCLUSIVE: Beki Probst, market director at Berlin’s European Film Market (EFM), talks about the debut of South African filmmakers at the market and how the figures compare to last year’s event.

South African filmmakers will have a presence at Berlin’s European Film Market (EFM) for the first time this year.

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily, EFM market director Beki Probst said that she was particularly pleased to be able to welcome a delegation organised by the Association for Transformation in Film and Television (ATFT), which will have a stand in the Marriott Hotel.

ATFT organised a so-called export market readiness workshops last month in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) for potential delegates to prepare them for attending the EFM in order to make the most of their time in Berlin.

The workshops were led by Dutch Indies’ chairman Hans Boscher and industry veteran Fred de Haas, who are organising the South African Indies umbrella stand at the EFM.

ATFT was launched last year to provide a platform for South African film-makers traditionally underrepresented such as blacks, women and people with disabilities.

A delegation of 12 filmmakers was supported by South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry to visit the AFM last November and another delegation is set to attend the Rio Content Market this March after the EFM.

EFM: “a department store”

While the festival’s Competition does not feature any films from Eastern Europe and only one short film is representing Russia in the whole of the Berlinale’s 2014 line-up, Probst hasn’t seen any let up in the number of participants from Eastern Europe and notes an increase on registrations with the EFM from South America and Asia.

“A few years ago, people used to think of Berlin as a market for small, arthouse films,” said Probst. “But that has changed considerably because both the number of films has increased as well as the range of genres on offer - from arthouse through family entertainment to pure genre films.

“I often compare the market to a department store where the variety of products on different floors makes it even more attractive for customers. There’s something for everybody.¨

Turning to the question of the 25% hike in the price for the festival’s standard accreditation, she explained that this increase - to €125 - “doesn’t affect the Market because you just need a Market Badge if you only want to concentrate on the Market.”

She pointed out that EFM participants attending market screenings in the five brand-new cinemas at the Zoo-Palast will be able make use of the services of a Lounge at the cinema complex, which will be shared with the Berlinale’s Generation sidebar.

“As we previously did at the Cubix cinema, we will be giving the screening slots at the Zoo-Palast to companies who are not exhibiting in one of our official EFM locations,” she added.

Healthy industry

Probst said that she is convinced of the industry’s general health by the fact that the stands and office space were fully booked by last September. Negotiations with a national stand like Cinema Italia to reduce its stand space meant that the EFM could accommodate some more exhibitors, including Italian ones, in the Martin Gropius Bau.

In addition, the EFM has been able to expand the number of offices available on the 10th floor of the Marriott Hotel.

As of the beginning of this week (Jan 20), the number of companies and offices is up this year from 2013: 483 companies compared to 452 at mid-January 2013, and 183 offices compared to 172 at mid-January 2013.

So far, the number of films submitted for market screenings has risen year-on-year from 740 to 782, and the EFM is currently preparing a schedule for 1,031 screenings in its 39 cinemas.

Meanwhile, the number of EFM accredited participants has already surpassed last year’s total at this stage - 6,458 - to reach 7,161, with another two weeks to go before the market opens on Feb 7.

Fledgling Italian sales company at Talents Market Hub

Trieste-based Manuela Buono’s fledgling sales company Slingshot Films will be one of the Berlinale Talents benefiting from a new initiative, the Talents Market Hub, which will be operating from a stand on the gallery of the Martin Gropius Bau.

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily at this week’s When East Meets West co-production market in Trieste, Buono explained that she will be presenting two films at the Market Hub.

Matteo Oleotto’s Zoran, My Nephew The Idiot, which premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival and was released in Italy by Tucker Film on Oct 31, was sold to Austria’s Polyfilm and Germany’s Movienet who will be showing the film in Berlin to their Austrian and German exhibitors.

Buono said that she is in “final negotiations” on a deal for ex-Yugoslavia and has interest in the film from distributors in Portugal, Spain, Hungary and Poland.

She is also speaking with Zoran producer Igor Princic of Transmedia to handle another of his productions.

Buono will also be at the EFM with the Italian-Argentine co-production Dancing With Maria, a documentary by Ivan Gergolet.