Busy Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FilMart) draws to a close with several deals completed and record attendance.

Optimism is in the air as a busy Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FilMart) draws to a close today (March 25), with several deals completed and record attendance at this year’s event.

The 14th edition of the four-day event attracted more than 540 exhibitors from 29 countries and regions, which is a record, with some European exhibitors, from Austria, Croatia and Latvia, attending for the first time. It also saw enlarged umbrella stands from France, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand and more than 120 exhibitors from China alone.

“We’ve seen some new buyers from mainland China and all the signals seem to suggest that the worst is over in China and South-East Asia. Japan and Korea are still a bit soft but most of the big buyers are here,” said Albert Lee, CEO of Hong Kong-based Emperor Motion Pictures.

Lee added that traffic has remained consistent across the event, rather than tailing off by day three as it had in the past, but adds that FilMart is still seen as a precursor to Cannes. “We don’t really treat this market as a place to close deals, it’s more of an event to update people before Cannes, and in that respect it’s been very useful,” he said, echoing the sentiments of many other delegates at the event.

Rita Chuang, of Good Films Workshop, which sold Zoom Hunting to Hong Kong’s Lighten Distribution during FilMart, said it has been a busy market. “The deals finalised here we actually started discussing before we arrived — but there seems to be more interest in Taiwanese films these days.”

The market also saw deals on Mirovision’s remake of The Housemaid, which has sold to Pretty Pictures for French-speaking Europe; and Fortissimo’s pick-up of the Australian high school drama Wasted On The Young. Hong Kong’s Mandarin Films also sold the martial arts biopic duo of Bruce Lee’s master Ip Man and its sequel Ip Man 2 to Well Go USA Inc. for North America.

FilMart also hosted more than 60 networking sessions and conferences this year, including “The New Wave of Computer-Generated Animation Films: Can Independents Compete?” moderated by ScreenInternational editor Mike Goodridge. Other panelists included Jonathan Kier, senior vice president of International affairs and distribution at The Weinstein Company, and Hiroyuki Seshita, executive director of Casio Entertainment.

The recent successes of 3D films led to a series of seminars and workshop on the issues. Percy Fung, chairman of Association of Motion Picture Post Production Professionals (Hong Kong) said: “Hong Kong has the talent, capital and technology for 3D productions.” Meanwhile, Infernal Affairs director Andrew Lau questioned whether such technology can be used on a “shoestring budget”. He added: “If we’re innovative and have good ideas, then perhaps we can.” (For more on 3D in the region, click here.)

Meanwhile, running alongside FilMart was the 8th Hong Kong Asian Film Financing Forum (HAF) project market (March 22-24). The event reported a 10% increase in pre-registered financiers from mainland China and over 500 appointments, also a 10% rise on the previous year.

The event featured 25 projects from 17 territories, including 12 co-productions, the most in the history of HAF. Organisers said that pointed to the growing trend of inter-Asian film collaboration.

Kit Hung won HAF’s inaugural Wouter Barendrecht Award for his musical film project Mama Eva (HK/China/Switzerland). Dedicated to the memory of the late Hong Kong-based producer and co-founder of HAF, the award came with a $6,441 (HK$50,000) cash prize from the Wouter Barendrecht Film Foundation and the Film Development Fund. The Technicolor Award went to Sheng Zhemin’s China-France co-production Cosplay, which comes with an “in-kind” award of $25,000 (HK$194,041), and Leon Dai’s I Love You So Much picked up The Paris Project Award. It will receive $6,679 (HK$51,853) including support to participate in Paris Project 2010 and the Paris Cinema International Film Festival.

Other highlights of FilMart included the Asian Side of the Doc (ASD), sponsored by the European Union (Media International). More than 150 senior executives in film, TV and new media from Europe, North America and Asia participated and 25 documentaries were presented.

(Liz Shackleton contributed to this report.)