"We want to maintain the exclusivity of being in CineMart and to give more space and attention to the projects," says CineMart manager Marit Van Den Elshout, of the 36 projects being showcased at this year's event.

She talks regretfully about having to "kill a lot of our darlings" and to exclude projects that may well have been included in past editions. "With the current situation in the film industry, with the many co-production markets and projects around, we wanted to select in a sharper and more rigorous way," Van Den Elshout says.

CineMart has an enviable record in selecting projects that go on to screen in major festivals. Cannes, Venice and Toronto titles from last year that passed through Rotterdam include Paper Soldier by Alexei German Jr, Lion's Den by Pablo Trapero, Better Things by Duane Hopkins, A Country Teacher by Bohdan Slama and Liverpool by Lisandro Alonso. If few of these titles have gone on to be big international hits, that says more about the problems facing arthouse distribution than it does about any deficiencies in CineMart's selection process.

The attendance in Rotterdam this month of sales agents such as Fortissimo Films, Wild Bunch, The Match Factory, The Works International, Bavaria Film International, MK2, Coproduction Office Films Distribution, Coach 14 and Elle Driver suggests the industry takes the event very seriously.

This year's selection is eclectic in terms of budget, nationalities and genres. The most expensive feature being presented is thriller Pioneer from Norwegian director Erik Skjoldbjaerg at $5.2m. The lowest budget is Straw Man from China's Peng Tao at $333,000.

With films from 26 countries, projects from relative newcomers such as Belgian maverick Dimitri Karakatsanis (White Lie) sit alongside those from established talents such as Nobuhiro Yamashita (My Back Page) and Zhang Yuan (Executioner Garden).

There is Czech animation project Alois Nebel, a graphic-novel adaptation which is being made through Prague-based Negativ, and CineMart is showcasing Gina Kim's remake of 1960 feature The Housemaid which is being made by through South Korean powerhouse Mirovision.

"There are quite a few dark projects, about girls killing their grandmothers and killing their mothers," Van Den Elshout jokes when asked about themes in this year's selection. Projects such as UK director Nicola Mills' Greengrass and Turkish director Belma Bas' Zephyr are both dark family dramas.

"We try to make sure we have a strong and diverse selection of projects," says Van Den Elshout. "The atmosphere we can create in Rotterdam is very important for the success of CineMart."