Awards winners announced as Rotterdam’s co-production market draws to a close.

Pia Marais’ Layla Fourie won the Arte France Cinema Award for best project as CineMart, Rotterdam’s co-production market, closed last night (February 3).

Marais, who won a Tiger Award in 2007 for her debut Die Unerzogenen, scooped a $13,851 (€10,000) prize for the drama, which is set in present day South Africa and revolves around a single mother who works as a polygraphist in a casino. Layla Fourie is backed by Frankfurt-based Pandora Film production, South African outfit DV8 and Dutch production company IDTV. It has $690,673 (€500,000) of its $3.4m (€2.5m) in place.

Meanwhile, Anocha Suwichakornpong’s By the Time It Gets Dark won the Prince Claus Fund Film Grant, worth $20,726 (€15,000). The jury, chaired by documentary film-maker Bregtje van der Haak, was impressed by the “unconventional episodic storytelling” of Suwichakornpong’s proposal – a highly personal take on contemporary Thailand. The award, now in its tenth year, is given to a CineMart project by a film-maker from Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Caribbean, to support early-stage development.

Suwichakornpong’s feature debut, Mundane History, is also competing the IFFR 2010 Tiger strand.

The four-day CineMart event saw 33 projects from 24 countries  presented to buyers, sales agents and potential financiers.

In the run-up to this year’s festival, some had questioned whether the specialist fare championed by Rotterdam has traction in a marketplace increasingly wary of non-mainstream cinema; and firm deals were thin on the ground in this week.

However, the industry delegates in town were upbeat about the co-production market. With many producers claiming that they were confident they would close the financing on their films soon.

“CineMart was brilliant for us, intense and effective,” commented Hot Property’s Janine Marmot, who was presenting Simon Pummell’s trans-media project, Brand New-U. The $690,673  (€500,000 project), which already has UK Film Council development funding, is being put together by Hot Property together with British outfit Illuminations Films and Dutch company, Submarine.

Another title generating buzz in the CineMart was Belgian auteur Patrice Toye’s Erased, which arrived in Rotterdam with 55% of its financing already in place. The film’s producer Nino Lombardo of Prime Time said Erased was on target to complete its financing in time for a summer shoot. It tells the true story of pregnant Belgian girls whose babies were taken from them and sold.

Ryan Kampe of New York-based sales and production outfit Visit Films, said: “For people who appreciate cinema, Rotterdam is still a place that introduces a lot of new film-makers and shows a lot of work that’s pretty groundbreaking. That’s the kind of cinema we want to be associated with and so it makes sense to be here.”

Visit is handling sales three festival titles Oliver Hermanus’s Shirley Adams, Sophie Deraspe’s Tiger competition contender Vital Signs and Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers.