The forum will gather in one place film directors, producers, fund directors and people in charge of festival selections March 12-14 in Sofia.

    It has become a tradition that Sofia Meetings is the venue where pitching, i.e. the public presentation of a film project before an audience of film producers for a debut, second and third feature film of young European filmmakers, takes place. Festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Karlovy Vary and Moscow count very much on identifying the new cinematic trends at similar fora, and also to ‘discover' new directors.

    This project has been implemented in Bulgaria since 2004 as part of Sofia International Film Festival. The projects that were presented in the first year turned out later one of the most often awarded European films: "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" by Cristi Puiu won the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes in 2005 heralding thus the rise of Romanian cinema, and also the Hungarian film "Delta" by Kornel Mundruczo, which was in the official competition at Cannes in 2008. The ratio of the successfully implemented film projects is high, but the actual objective of the event is to act as a springboard for independent European cinema towards successful implementation and distribution.

    In fact some of the most interesting Balkan filmmakers from Serbia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia have taken part in the annual pitching since 2004. But of course, Sofia Meetings' greatest contribution remains to new Bulgarian cinema with the opportunities to meet world film producers, people in charge of festival selections and film distributors all in one place. At special Balkan Screenings officials charged with the selection of films for the festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Kotbus, Tallinn, Moscow, Thessaloniki, San Sebastian, Karlovy Vary and Warsaw are able to watch unfinished Bulgarian and Balkan films. Owing to this practice the young Bulgarian cinema has had a very successful record of festival awards in recent years: "Investigation" by Iglika Trifonova, "The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner" by Stephan Komandarev, "Mila from Mars" by Zornitza Sophia, "Zift" by Javor Gardev, "Lady Zee" by Georgi Djulgerov, "Stolen Eyes" by Radoslav Spassov, "Monkeys in Winter" by Milena Andonova, "Christmas Tree Upside Down" by Ivan Tscherkelov and Vasil Zhivkov, "Georgi and the Butterflies" and "The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories" by Andrey Paounov and "Whose Is This Song?" by Adela Peeva.

    Producers of international and national film funds hold one-to-one meetings with the authors of projects that are interesting for co-producing, and the likes of Nick Powell (Richard Branson's associate at Virgin from the very beginning, producer of the feature film "The Crying Game" and currently Director of the UK National School of Film and Television), Simon Perry (one of the most successful British producers and Director of the Irish Film Fund) and Karl Baumgartner (who has produced films by Emir Kusturica, Aki Kaurismaki, Chen Kaige, Leos Carax, Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov, including "The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner" by Bulgarian director Stephan Komandarev) come to Sofia Meetings regularly.

    This year the Sofia Meetings programme includes also round table discussions and various trainings. The forum takes off on March 12 with working sessions and closed door screenings of Bulgarian and Balkan films.

    The pitching process will encompass this year documentary cinema in line with the ‘Sunny Side of the Doc' initiative, which is in fact one of the most respected markets for documentary films that holds annual sessions in various European capitals. They have chosen Sofia as host city also because of the Best Documentary Film Award, which last year went to the Bulgarian film "The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories" by Andrey Paounov. The "Rendezvous with Sofia" conference for co-productions organized in partnership with Sofia Meetings has the ambition to present the current practices of distribution of feature and documentary films in Central and Eastern Europe.

    The traditional distribution channels hinder the development of the film market in Eastern Europe, which creates the need of an alternative solution. That is why the focus of discussions will be laid on the state-of-the-art distribution channels, such as Video on Demand and Cinema on Demand. This alternative means of distribution are yet to be established because they offer consumers the opportunity to watch new films via their cable TV operator or Internet provider, with film airings taking place only once and in exchange of a small fee. The new platforms are expected to give a chance to the local producers and directors to discover their new audience in a new way.

    Jerome Paillard, executive director of the Cannes Film Festival's Marche du Film (the world's biggest film market) and Roberto Olla, Executive Director of the Secretariat of Eurimages, will arrive for the sixth edition of Sofia Meetings. For the first time directors from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey and Albania will present projects for films within the framework of the Sofia CineLinks Sarajevo project.

    Here are some of the directors who will present their film projects at this year's edition of Sofia Meetings: Radu Jude from Romania, Jan Cvitkovic from Slovenia, Kakha Kakhabidze from Georgia and a very powerful Bulgarian presence in the face of Boris Despodov, Andrey Paounov, Stephan Komandarev, Dimiter Mitovski and Konstantin Boyanov. Huseyin Karabey from Turkey, whose film "My Marlon and Brando" is in the programme of the 13th edition of Sofia International Film Festival, and Chapour Haghighat, whose film "The Firm Land" is in the international competition, will present their new film projects, as well.

    The German Robert Bosch Fund will run pitching trainings for Bulgarian film projects they have selected parallel to Sofia Meetings. They will organize also a meeting with German film producers, who will arrive in Sofia to discover young Bulgarian filmmakers and encourage them to take part in co-productions.

    Sofia Meetings will take place March 12-14, 2009 at the Military Club in Sofia with the support of the MEDIA programme of the European Union, the National Film Centre, Nu Boyana Film, the Municipality of Sofia, etc. We shall give you more details at the special press conference dedicated to that event, which will take place Monday, March 9, at 11 a.m. at MATTI club.

    For further information, please, contact

    The Press Office of Sofia International Film Festival

    Svetlana Damyanova

    Mobile: +359 885 901 296

    Tel: +359 2 9166029

    +359 2 865 90 15

    Preslava Preslavova

    Mobile: +359 888 659 819

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