Paris Cinema aims to offer French cinema-goers a taste of the latest films from festivals around the world. Festival director Aude Hesbert explains the festival’s ethos and plans for this year’s edition.

Since 2003, film festival Paris Cinema has offered the French capital a showcase of new films as an introduction to the summer season. It aims to be the linke between the latest crop of Cannes entries and the wider cinema-going audience.

This year’s edition, which runs July 3 - 14, will be offer a large range of sections including a tribute to Japan and its now famous Paris Project, on July 5 - 7, which will introduces producers from all around the world to potential French partners. Festival Director Aude Hesbert tells us more about it.

People use to consider festivals as a good reflection of current cinema. Do you share this point of view and what makes Paris Cinema different ?

Paris Cinema stands far from the madding crowd. We do not try to compete with main festivals such as Cannes, Locarno and Venice. The films we show are mostly the ones we love but we do not care if they have been either in or out of competition anywhere else. For instance, we are proud to show films that have competed at Cannes two months ago because this will be the first time ever they are to be seen by a real audience. Since we started, in 2003, we have tried to build an identity in a place which has a strong cinema heritage and doesn’t need any more cultural event to attract people. Last year, we welcomed 75,000 people with close to 100% occupancy rate for most of our evening’s screenings.

Paris Cinema also pays tributes to other countries. What made you choose Japan this year ?

Everything started with an exhibition project around film-maker Akira Kurosawa’s centenary, which turned into a major survey organised with French Cinematheque. Our main goal is to showcase Japanese cinema as European audience sees a very small number of the 400 films that are made over there every year and even fewer mangas, which represent 90% of that production. We also decided to ocus on directors Koji Wakamatsu and Sadao Yamanaka as well as to welcome as guests of honour actresses Shinobu Terajima and Rinko Kikuchi. Paris Cinema will be showing over 100 Japanese films.

What are the key facts and figures about Paris Cinema ?

People can buy a £25 (€30m) Pass which allows them to attend ten days of screenings at ten different venues. There were 37 of them when we started in 2003. Statistics show that every Pass owner uses it 13 times. Our budget is £1m (€ 1.2m), which is tiny when compared to the average film festival budget of around £3m to £4m (€4m - €5m). French distributors trust us and even ask us to show some of their films. In 2010, we will be working with Walt Disney and Paramount Pictures for the first time so we will have the French premiere of Toy Story 3 in 3D and will also pay tribute to director M. Night Shyamalan, whose latest title The Last Airbender will open in France on July 28. Paris Cinema will start with a screening of Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and will be closing with Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drewe.

Besides being a public event Paris Cinema also has an industry focus through Paris Project. How does it work ?

Paris Project is a market that aims to provide foreign films with French financing. When we started in 2003, we focused on six projects. This year we got 320 scripts from all around the world, from which was selected 22 to develop. Of that, 14 are in production and eight are in post-production. About half of the filsm usually finds a deal. OVer the years, we have built relationships with Asian countries,including South Korea which has many similarities with France including strong public funding. In 2009, 250 professionals attended Paris Project and we expect more this year.

How does Paris Cinema deal with the Internet ?

Facebook and Twitter allow us to keep in touch with a younger audience throughout the year. This year, we have also made a deal with Festival Scope, which already works with the film festivals in Taormina, Torino, Melbourne, Munich and Buenos Aires. This site will allow professionals to get more of Paris Cinema through the Web. For instance, we will be showing a selection of self-produced Japanese productions, interviews with film-makers and. perhaps in the future, films we cannot show in Paris Cinema. Then Festival Scope will be allowed to run negotiations between buyers and sellers who pay £83.5 (€100) to suscribe for a one-year professtional access. We also have a bloggers and a students juries, which is a good way to involve a younger audience and to make buzz through the Web for free.