Film Bazaar 2012 Wraps as India's Gateway to International Collaborations

Cannes director of film department Christian Jeune
National Film Development Corporation India

While promoting new talent, in its sixth year the event is becoming the first port of call for international players interested in Indian cinema beyond mainstream Bollywood.

GOA – The sixth edition of Film Bazaar concluded in Goa with organizers National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) claiming the event saw an upsurge in delegates – 750 from 32 countries - over last year's 635 delegates from 40 countries. But the fact that Cannes Film Festival director of film department Christian Jeune chose the Film Bazaar as a venue to announce that India would be the guest country at Cannes 2013 indicated the Bazaar is gaining traction as an essential platform for international industry professionals to connect with India's diversified film business. In essence, if you want to discover life beyond the mainstream Hindi language Bollywood industry, Film Bazaar would be a good place to learn about what NFDC's marketing log line defines as the “Cinemas of India.”

“There is a lot of undiscovered talent out there that could move to the next level given the right platform for facilitating coproductions,” said NFDC MD Nina Lath Gupta, adding, “In fact, next year we will also launch the Doc Bazaar in April in Delhi specifically for documentary film-makers as that genre needs a much-needed boost.”

This year's Film Bazaar selected 26 finalists in the coproduction market seeking potential international partners while 11 projects featured in the five-year old PrimExchange program (funded by the European Commission's Media Mundus initiative and implemented by Berlin-based based Primehouse GmbH in co-operation with NFDC).

When it comes to buyer buzz, last year's event saw Fortissimo Films acquiring Ship of Theseus, the directorial debut by theatre director turned film-maker Anand Gandhi. It went on to premiere at Toronto and other festivals as did another Fortissimo acquisition Miss Lovely by Ashim Ahluwalia which premiered at Cannes. That sort of high profile buyer buzz seemed missing this year but it was made up for with another kind of buzz: a growing understanding of setting up international coproductions.

As one of the more prolific producers reflecting a new cinema sensibility with titles such as Anurag Kashyap's two part epic Gangs of Wasseypur and Vasan Bala's Peddlers (both featured at Cannes), Guneet Monga's presentation on her upcoming slate was a case study in how Indian projects can connect with diverse international partners. Monga's Sikhya Entertainment alongwith Kashyap's banner AKFPL has produced its next title, Ritesh Batra's Dabba (The Lunchbox) with 60 percent financing from NFDC and Indian film fund DAR Media with the balance from Germany and France including Franco-German broadcaster Arte. At Bazaar, Sikhya Entertainment warmed up to An Indian Kiss, a PrimExchange project by Italy's Dugong Production. Based on a concept by Indian actress Nandana Sen and anthropologist Franco La Cecia, the documentary will discover “why there are no French kisses in Indian cinema.”

U.K.-based producers Michael Ward and Colin Burrows chose Film Bazaar to announce the launch of their banner Beautiful Bay Entertainment whose planned slate includes an Indian adaptation of the classic play Arms and the Man. The project features acclaimed Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah who directed an Indian stage version of the original George Bernard Shaw comedy. “This is the first time I attended Film Bazaar and I must say it has been useful to understand how Indian cinema is evolving,” said Burrows who has worked on other Indian projects in various capacities.

Cinemart Rotterdam selected four Indian producers from all sections of Film Bazaar to attend the Producers’ Lab held alongside the Rotterdam International Film Festival: Aditi Anand of Little Red Car, Vivek Gomber of Zoo Films, Anusha Rizwi of Third World Films, Nilesh Navlakha of Navlakha Arts and Holy Basil Combine.
Film Bazaar’s new partner Dubai International Film Festival selected Biscuit Dour (Biscuit Race) by Mostofa Sarwar Farooki for the Dubai Film Market, held alongside the Dubai Film Festival.

But when it comes to assessing the commercial potential for India's new wave indie scene, the jury is still out. “You have to be here for the long haul,” advised Fortissimo Films senior VP, acquisitions and development, Chris Paton, adding, “There has to be a sustained effort to develop the market because you never know when the breakthrough film comes along.”

The potential for new distribution outlets, especially Video-on-Demand, offered food for thought though Germany-based VoD consultant Phillip Hoffman cautioned, “When it comes to arthouse cinema, even a VoD market like Europe can be challenging given the audience preference for other genres, from horror to comedy.”
For now, a growing presence on the festival circuit, as seen at Cannes this year, offers some encouragement as Indian cinema celebrates its centenary next year. As a long-time India observer, Toronto festival artistic director Cameron Bailey, who earlier only attended its launch edition, was all praise for the event, “Film Bazaar has got me thinking – start of a golden age?”