Connecting Cottbus pitches a winning event

By Cathy Meils in Cottbus
    The Cottbus film festival's secret weapon, the Connecting Cottbus pitching forum, has matured into a reliable platform for outstanding talent, both known and new, to provide a hint of films that might wind up on the Cottbus schedule within the next few years.

    The link is so firmly in place that the Cottbus festival (filmfestival.pool-production.de ) programmed at least 12 films from directors and producers who had gone through previous editions of Connecting Cottbus (www.connecting-cottbus.de ). Cottbus festival director Roland Rust calls the films "CoCo babies."

    For Connecting Cottbus artistic director Gabriel Brunnenmeyer, this year's event could be summed up in a single word: "Super!" Her team selected 13 films from 54 applicants. The forum also invited the winner of the previous year's Cottbus festival to present the opening pitch. This year producer Kira Saksaganskaya of Rock Film pitched Russian director Alexei Uchitel's lyrical circus romance Lilliputians.

    With over 140 industry professionals in attendance, competition for one-to-one meetings was fierce. Standouts included Hungarian director Ibolya Fekete's family tale of the 20th century, Mom and Other Loonies in the Family, produced by Gabor Garami for Cinema-Film Kft.

    Bulgaria's white-hot team behind Dzift, director Javor Bardev and writer Vladislav Todorov, presented another strong conceptual project, Zincograph which combines black comedy with psycho-thiller elements in a political framework.

    Poland drew attention with Solstice, a Hartley-Merrill prize-winning script set on the eve of the summer solstice during World War II, from director Michal Togalski and produced by Prasa i Film.

    Brunnenmeyer expects a two-thirds success rate from the projects, based upon previous results. From 2008's forum, one third of the films are in production and another one third are in development.

    "Every year it's getting to be more and more of a family," Brunnenmeyer told FNE. This year, about half of the participants were returnees. She pointed to the mix of experienced filmmakers with young producers, many of them already garnering awards and attention -- such as Lithuanian director Saulius Drunga who captured international attention when he won the Media New Talent Award at Cannes in 2007. He's an example of "the strong directorial approach" that Brunnenmeyer sees at this year's CoCo.

    As for the audience, Brunnenmeyer has to turn away people in order to maintain the atmosphere of familiarity. She noted an increase in world sales representatives, as well as an expanding geographical focus. "We are all really not in competition. We are really a network. That is the great thing about Eastern Europe," she said.