Scaling the Great Wall
Eye, the Netherlands Film Commission and the Film Fund attended June's Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF), both to underline commitment to cultural exchange and to source future commercial opportunities.
A core element of SIFF activity was the signing of the Belt and Road International Film Festival Alliance, designed to create a favourable landscape for cultural exchange between China and the signatory territories through the medium of film. Eye International Head Marten Rabarts was there to represent The Netherlands.
"The Alliance isn't about the commerce of cinema, it's about the cultural exchange that cinema makes possible," Rabarts underlines. "For Eye it is an exciting new instrument to be part of, connecting with festivals and audiences in China. But at the same time it was very interesting to see the new connections being made between the signatory parties. That is also part of the intention of the alliance, very much to create a network within the group of signatory territories. From Nepal to New Zealand, Ireland to India, we were connecting in a new way under the umbrella of the Belt and Road programme in Shanghai."
"It complements the work that the Fund and the Commission have been doing, building business relation ships with China," he adds. The Netherlands Film Commission was one of 11 European commissions at the SIFF market, attending under the aegis of the European Film Commissioners Network. "We understand, coming back each year, that there is growing trust between China and The Netherlands, and with the other European countries. This year brought excellent meetings with leading producers in both Shanghai and Beijing. It gave us insight into how the Chinese produce and finance their films and the increasing demand among Chinese producers to film outside China," says Film Commissioner Bas van der Ree.
After back to back meetings in Shanghai, how soon will Van der Ree be welcoming Chinese production crews to the endless skies and waters of the Lowlands, or the country's docklands. "It is not like we are selling cars. We can't put a number on this yet, but we are building access to China, and people know about us, and they know how to reach us. In three to five years I am very confident that this will happen, and many Chinese productions will be shoot ing in The Netherlands, making use of the facilities, the locations and Incentive."
The Netherlands Film Fund's International Consultant Ellis Driessen was in China to further relations with the Chinese industry, focussing mainly on children and animation films. Chinese exhibition outlets are desperate for excellent product from this sector, Driessen notes, and this is something the Dutch can supply in abundance, as evidenced by the recent sale to China of Lemming Film's My Giraffe (see Short Cuts, page 35).
Driessen was also there to prepare the ground for a future conference in Beijing between Chinese and Dutch professionals from the family entertainment industries, which will entail panels on policy, key notes on production and distribution and B2B meetings between producers, writers and directors. "The Foreign Office has made monies available for a joint initiative of the Dutch Embassy in Beijing, the Literature Fund and the Film Fund."
Meanwhile, support has been approved for the partici pation of two Dutch children film/animation producers (to be named) in the upcoming Bridging the Dragon's Sino-European project lab, which commences mid-November in Beijing and concludes early 2019 in Europe. The event comprises an immersive workshop and thinktank for projects suitable for SinoEuropean co-production.
Back in Shanghai, a number of Dutch films were screened at the festival, including the new SIFF Belt and Road sidebar selection of Craving by Saskia Diesing. "In addition to which The Long Season by Leonard Retel Helmrich won SIFF best documentary, which was another huge highlight for us," concludes EYE's Rabarts. NC
SEE NL Magazine #32 September 2018 / Venice, TIFF & NFF Issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by Eye International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.