Armed with hot competition title Italian For Beginners plus the next projects from Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg, Scandinavia's Trust Film Sales closed a host of deals in smaller markets this week to emerge as the most prolific sales agent at Berlin.
Closing multi-title packages to Israel's Shani Films, Greece's ArtHouse and Canada's Filmtonic after its sale of Italian to Miramax, Trust's flurry of activity was seen as a bright spot in an otherwise quiet European Film Market (EFM). Miramax also picked up market title Everybody Famous! and Sony Pictures Classics took competition film Beijing Bicycles, but, at the market's new home, the well-received enlargements to the cafe meeting area only encouraged talk about the lack of buzz titles.
Many see the event more as a platform for non-English-language fare and for sales to smaller markets ahead of the main business at the AFM. Indeed, at the EFM's new home, the US indie and UK stands were tucked away and almost forgotten.
Over at the festival, the slick, mainstream and far from original filmmaking of opening film Enemy At The Gates carried over into the competition, where films such as Chocolat or Malena had a superficial, feel-good gloss. Over a week into the festival, few films had made an impression on the assembled international press. Steven Soderbergh's Traffic was a notable exception.
Most reviewers name Italian For Beginners as a possible Golden Bear-winner, although its crowd-pleasing qualities might work against it. Nevertheless, even Turkey's talented Ferzan Ozpetek aimed for a wider audience with Le Fate Ignoranti than with his previous films. The film's Margherita Buy could be a candidate for the best actress award, along with Emma Thompson in Mike Nichols' Wit, which profoundly moved many festival-goers.
Argentinian newcomer Lucrecia Martel's La Cienaga is one example of a film outside the mainstream, as are the two Japanese titles, Go Riju's Chloe and Masato Harada's Inugami. However, few see them as serious contenders for major awards.
The mainstream trend is even found in Lin Cheng-sheng's finely crafted love-story Betelnut Beauty and Korean title Joint Security Area from Park Chan-Wook. John Boorman's The Tailor of Panama, Patrice Leconte's Felix Et Lola and Spike Lee's Bamboozled all have similar problems.
Martin Blaney IN BERLIN contributed to this report