Foreign Affairs

by Matthew Curtis
February 16, 2006 12:30 AM
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Anybody try to program an International film without American distribution lately? Talk about a rude awakening! Apparently the prestige of being showcased in a nationally and internationally recognized and respected festival, the possibility of winning an Audience Award for Best International Feature, and the exposure to national press and assorted specialty distributors just doesn't mean much anymore. It's simply all about the cash. Some of these foreign production companies and distributors are asking outrageous sums of money for rental fees, and part of the problem is that some very well-heeled domestic festivals are paying them and ruining it for the little guys. A fellow programmer recently complained to me that she had to pay 1500 Euros for a screening of a new Italian film, and the justification from the print source was that another festival had just paid it, so why shouldn't they charge that much? Well maybe if their rental fee was a third of that, their film would get featured in many more fine festivals, generating enough buzz and earning numerous honors to attract the attention of the national media and distributors. Not to mention perpetuating the desire in this country to see quality films that happen to be subtitled. And they wonder why foreign language films are a tough sell to even art house audiences outside of a couple of major markets?

--Matthew

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