Record numbers of Asian film-makers brought feature film and documentary projects to the Paris Project co-production event.

Independent Asian film-makers with international ambitions have long turned to France to find co-producers and sales agents. Thailand’s Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Cambodia’s Rithy Panh and China’s Wang Chao, Guo Xiaolu and Lou Ye are just some of the directors to have tapped into public and private French funding over the past decade.

A new generation of Asian directors, as well as Wang who attended with his latest project Looking For Rohmer, was out in force at the latest edition of Paris Project in July. The three-day event, held within the auspices of the Paris Cinema film festival, aims to connect first and second-time directors from across the globe with French producers and sales agents.

“More than 350 professionals from 140 companies attended and about 500 meetings were organised altogether,” says Paris Project head Vanja Kaludjercic.

Among the selection of 26 projects this year were two Hong Kong titles: Flora Lau’s tragi-comedy Bends and Tsang Tsui-shan’s documentary Flowing Stories, exploring the depopulation of her home village in Hong Kong’s new territories.

The two productions were invited to Paris Project as part of Paris Cinema’s focus on Hong Kong cinema this year, and a resulting exchange deal with the Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum.

“It is difficult for us to get to know French producers when we’re so far away in Asia, so it was a really good opportunity for us to meet so many in a short amount of time… We did get a handful of serious leads but have since partnered with Hong Kong’s Distribution Workshop,” says Bends producer Melissa Lee of Shadow Puppet Productions.

Flowing Stories producer Teresa Kwong of River Vision Production echoes these sentiments: “We have been to quite a few Asian project markets but this was our first time at a project market in Europe. It gave us the chance to learn about the European - and especially French - film market’s ecology, to see how it runs and how Asian subjects are viewed by the market.”

‘It’s difficult to get to know French producers when we’re so far away in Asia, so this was a really good opportunity’

Melissa Lee, Shadow Puppet Productions

In terms of concrete deals, Indian director Gurvinder Singh and producer Kartikeya Narayan Singh of Mumbai-based The Film Café signed an accord for their Punjab-set political drama The Fourth Direction with Paris producer Catherine Dussart of CDP, whose previous credits include Rithy Panh’s The Sea Wall, which starred Isabelle Huppert, and Pavel Lungin’s Poor Relatives.

Taiwan’s Taipei Film Commission brought three projects to Paris Project as part of a workshop on the fringes of the event.

US-Taiwanese film-maker Tom Shu-yu Lin presented No More Shall We Part, about the unlikely relationship between a security guard and the teenage daughter of a bank robber he shot dead.

“Tom Lin had participated in several project markets in the past including in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Busan but it was the first time he was confronted with a European point of view, which is quite different from that of the Asian public,” said Wang Yalun, the Taipei Film Commission’s international development manager.

Other Asian projects included Ruined Heart! Another Love Story Between A Criminal And A Whore from the Philippines’ Khavn De La Cruz, and Secret Of My North Korean Father from South Korea’s Jero Yun, which was presented as one of the latest projects to be developed at the Cannes Residence.

As well as looking for finance for Taiwanese films, Wang was also pushing the island as a halfway house for French producers seeking to work in mainland China.

She says the 2010 Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement (ECFA) accord between Taiwan and China, enabling co-operation between the two territories, and the recent co-production deal between France and China have set the scene for a three-way co-production structure.

The first picture to be made under the ECFA accord, Lin’s Starry, Starry Night, a co-production between Taiwan’s Atom Cinema and China’s Huayi Brothers, was shown at Paris Cinema.

“We think there is strong potential for productions involving China, Taiwan and France,” says Wang, who hopes to return to Paris Project next year with another batch of upcoming Taiwanese films