Thessaloniki Film Festival presents the Balkan Fund

As it seeks to broaden and strengthen its role in Southeastern Europe, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival (TIFF) on Monday presented the results of its latest venture: the Balkan Fund. The fund, an initiative launched last year to promote script development in the region, is very much a practical extension of the festival’s Balkan Survey screening section that has, in the few years it has been running, attracted international interest to the TIFF. From a business perspective, the Balkan Fund is a clever move on the part of the festival to tap into some of the creative energy of the region. Indeed, while other festivals, such as Rotterdam, Amiens, Locarno and Goeteborg, run similar programs, the TIFF is the first to cover this geographical neighborhood. Moreover, in return for its efforts, the TIFF will have the right to host the premieres of the films it has supported, while its mention in the film’s credits and promotional material will advertise it at other international film festivals, helping it to develop its role outside the circuit covered by big festivals such as Cannes and Venice. There are certain criteria that projects must meet in order to apply to the fund. The first is that the film must be from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Greece, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey or a co-production between these countries. All projects must be feature-length fiction films with cinematic release ambitions; the development and production country must belong to the above mentioned and defined group of countries; the project has to be original, authentic and directly connected to the history and culture of its country of origin; and last, but not least, the Balkan Fund will only support projects with a realistic and complete development and production plan and which do not have funding from other sources. The Balkan Fund is run by Christina Kallas and Lucia Rikaki, a film director and producer who takes care of the fund’s administration and management. The fund managers will report directly to TIFF Director Michel Demopoulos and will be further supported by Alexis Grivas (journalist, DoP and head of coordination of the TIFF), as well as Thierry Lenouvel (film producer and head of the development fund of the Festival of Amiens). In its fledgling year, the fund showcased 11 screenplay drafts that were presented to a jury comprising Georges Goldenstern (supervisor of the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinefondation and ex-director of film for the Arte channel), Gunnar Bergdahl (director and producer, ex-director of the Gothenburg Film Festival, Sweden), Leonard Crooks (supervisor of the Glasgow Film Fund), Dunja Klemenc (producer) and Christina Kallas (artistic director of the Balkan Fund, screenwriter, producer and professor at the Berlin Film Academy). The three-day pitching session, held over the weekend on the festival’s premises, provided young filmmakers with an opportunity to argue the merits of their work to an audience that also included members of the international press and prominent distributors, investors and producers. The cinematographers were also able to meet with the investors and discuss the possibility of collaboration. «Many scripts were sent to us and we had to preselect 11 of those that deserved distinction,» explained Kallas at Monday’s award presentation.» I believe that the participation itself and the dialogue between colleagues was a positive experience for all the participants,» she added. A 10,000-euro purse was presented to each of the following projects: «Small Crime» by Christos Georgiou (writer, director and producer) and Srdjan Koljevic (co-writer and co-producer); «The Journey» by Artan Minarolli (writer, director and producer); «Grbavica» by Jasmila Zbanich (writer and director) and Damir Ibrahimovic, and «The Coat» by Kutlug Atlaman and Gulen Hurley. The pitching sessions were heard by the following producers and production and/or distribution companies: Montecinema Verita Foundation (FMVC), Philippe Avril from the French production company Unlimited, Thanassis Karathanos from the Berlin-based Twenty-Twenty Vision, British producer Paul Raphael for Starfield Productions, the Irish independent production company Samson Films, France’s Rezo Films, Karl Baumgartner from the German distributors and producers Pandora Film, the German fellowship program Nipkow Programm, the UK film financiers Invicta Capital, Italy’s Downtown Pictures, the Cottbus Festival of European Cinema, the French National Center for Cinema (CNC), Eva Kammerer of the Arte German-French cultural network, France’s Cine-Sud Promotion and the France-based production company A.S.A.P. Films.