Once upon a time there was Mifed, the historical Milan movie market, sector prototype and precursor.
Still lamented but now inexorably departed.
Its closing marked the end of an era.
Having said this and filed the subject away, the fact remains that, since then, the autumn period has become a “no man’s land” which is open to other possible competitors seeing as the American Film Market in Santa Monica (5th -12th November), which should have replaced Mifed, has been unable to satisfy the requirements of operators as its programming is too strongly oriented towards the US theatrical industry and its products.
As a result, some participants do not feel represented and are looking for other showcases in Europe, Asia, even Latin America.
In the brief period of time spanning the end of the summer and mid-fall, a number of events are competing for this role; festivals that aim or aspire to or, through their natural evolution, now occupy (albeit partially) Mifed’s role: in chronological order they are Venice, Montréal, Toronto and Rome.
With regard to the Venice Film Festival, it has long been known that it wants the Industry to grow alongside the festival (does anybody remember when the impossible Milan-Venice twinning was proposed?). Distributors and buyers, mainly from Europe, due to the type of movies presented, are “” more or less “” happy to come to the Lido, but everyone knows the limits of this venue: inexistent or scarce structures, poor and very expensive accommodation capacity, a very restricted selection of titles (presented in the sundry sections of the festival, around two hundred titles, if that).
“Until there is a new “Movie Palace” it will be impossible to talk about a real market for Venice”, says Sesto Cifola“.
“We continue to participate, as Rai Trade, holding screenings for our clients in the existing movie theaters. So far, there has been no political will to create a more structured space”¦”.
Then there is the Montreal World Film Festival (23rd August “” 3rd September): partially overlapping with Venice, for several years it has enjoyed excellent press but has also had some moments of crisis which it may have left behind.
But its most serious handicap is that it is not English speaking.
Despite its proximity to the United States, Montréal, capital of francophone Quebec, ends up becoming a local festival and market, and thus of little interest outside this linguistic area.
The Toronto International Film Festival (4th-13th September), known as the Festival of Festivals, was created as a non-competitive festival for the public, a showcase for quality movies which are carefully selected from all over the world by a skilled group of professionals.
It has grown exponentially over time in terms of quality, the number of films presented (around 400) and media response.
The Americans are happy to attend, arthouse movies from all over the world are fully represented (with Asian and Latin American products leading the way), as well as up-andcoming filmmakers and well-established names.
Movies which have already passed through the other festivals are accompanied by a growing number of world premieres.
This year, Spike Lee made the sensational decision to choose Toronto over Venice for the premiere of “Miracle at St. Anna”.
Last year Silvio Soldini’s “Giorni e nuvole” began its journey here.
“Toronto is an excellent market”, confirms Lionello Cerri, the producer of Solidni’s movie.
“Compared to Venice, with which it shares a lack of proper market organization, it is an excellent place for making contact with US buyers”.
In fact, Toronto does not have an official market although one has emerged spontaneously.
It has become an unmissable event for distributors, exporters and buyers who go there safe in the knowledge that they will be able to view and handle quality products, “guaranteed” by the good work carried out by the selectors.
The dates are also marked on the calendars of Italian exporters.
“I am a regular visitor”, says Sesto Cifola.
“Even without a tag sanctioning its existence, this is a market of international importance.
There are lots of movies, plus the people representing them: obviously the buyers are there as well, so business transactions can take place. The difference is that you meet clients in the bar.
It is all very informal, but it works”.
Paola Malanga, acquisitions manager for Rai Cinema, says that Toronto is “a strategic event for the North American market”, where it is possible to meet in a “relaxed, fluid” environment, and to finally have the time to see movies, “good movies”. “Let’s hope it doesn’t become just another market”.
Adriana Chiesa, who praises the organization, the theaters and the public, complains about the festival’s “one way direction: if your movie hasn’t been invited, there is no point going. Therefore it works better for buyers than sellers”.
However, she confirms that, with the AFM increasingly oriented towards home video productions and becoming more and more “Americacentric”, Toronto offers the best window on the US for Italian or European arthouse films.
After being spread around the city for decades, a Movie Palace will soon be ready in Toronto to host the festival: is this a prelude to other changes in the organization of this market?
Rome (22nd -31st October) should, therefore, not waste any time if it wants to occupy the position to which it aspires: a lot was done to attract international distributors and buyers at the first two editions. Our own exporters were asked to invite their top clients.
The Business Street was deemed a success in terms of attendance, contacts made and business deals concluded.
“It is the only market connected to a festival held at this time of year that can include non-festival movies”, Cifola reminds us. “For now, the hotels on Via Veneto and the numerous movie theaters in the area are sufficient. Rome has a unique charm: it is not difficult to persuade foreigners to come here. But the best thing would be for the market to find itself some structured areas to rent to the various companies for their offices.”
As long as the political “disorientation” of recent months is not repeated which resulted in a lot of wasted time and gave the outside impression that there would not be another Festival or another Business Street.
“Many people made other arrangements for those dates and this year’s market could suffer a setback”, confirms a very disappointed Adriana Chiesa.
“In the space of just two editions, Rome has created a market and the expectation that it could replace Mifed, successfully filling the void left by that event, which the AFM has failed to do”.