Australian sales agent Antony Ginnane and exhibitor Robert Ward have formed a theatricaldistribution joint venture, IFM/Filmways, which will focus on acquiring foreign-language pictures.

“The majority of the films we distribute, 75% if not higher, will be foreign-language pictures,” said Ginnane. “We are particularly looking for work by great auteurs or foreign-language films with a twist”.

The new venture launches with the May 28 release of Katyn, which is typical of their taste. The war drama won best film at the Polish Film Awards and was Poland’s entry in the foreign-language film category of the Oscars in 2008. IFM/Filmways acquired the film from TVP SA.

“There are many arthouse distributors in Australia but they want to swim in slightly safer, less confronting waters than us,” said Ginnane

The “crazy prices” asked by some of the sales companies representing auteur directors, and the big overheads of some independent distributors, also discourage this sort of material getting released theatrically, he added.

The pair’s second acquisition is Alain Zalourn’s French-Canadian comedy The Cop, The Criminal, And The Clown, acquired from Park Entertainment. They are also considering an English-language South African film.

Ginnane runs IFM World Releasing, which is based in LA and Melbourne, while Ward is a shareholder of about 25 screens in regional centres which operate under the Filmways moniker.

When Ginnane accepted the presidency of the Screen Producers Association of Australia last year he indicated he would be stepping up his Australia activities.

He intends to film three Australia-Canada co-productions in Tasmania in the second half of this year. All will have the theme of big national disasters with budgets ranging from $700,000 to $2.8m (A$1-4m).