Indies find a haven in Munich


The Munich International Film Festival, which kicks off today, has long been considered the equivalent of summer break for the German film industry. The picturesque setting and relaxed atmosphere of Germany's second-largest fest stands in sharp contrast to the business bustle that surrounds the Berlinale.

But German distributors have begun to see Munich, now in its 25th year, as more than just a place to catch up on the films they missed at the "A" festivals. Increasingly, the industry is using the event as a platform to launch smaller titles.

"We never used to think of Munich that way, but last year we got great publicity and attention for both our films, 'The Band's Visit' and 'Runaway Horse,' " said Markus Zimmer, managing director of distributor Concorde. "It definitely helped the boxoffice of both films. 'The Band's Visit' earned €720,000 ($1.1 million), which might not sound like much, but is extremely good for a small Israeli film in Germany."

This year, Concorde returns with Barry Levinson's "What Just Happened?" The closing night film in Cannes will have its German premiere in Munich on Wednesday.

Prokino is using Munich to bow Italian mafia drama "Gomorra"; Kinowelt is utilizing the fest as a platform for its '60s German period piece "Friedliche Zeiten"; Senator has several titles in the official lineup, including "Cloud 9," "Son of Rambow" and "Young@Heart"; and tiny Tiberius Film is attempting to drum up interest for Sigourney Weaver/Kate Bosworth starrer "The Girl in the Park."

"Munich isn't Berlin, there isn't that kind of attention, but it is still a great place to launch a film for the German market," Kinowelt distribution head Georg Miros said. "Other than Berlin, Munich is the only German festival that gets the press attention you need."

The festival runs through June 28. (partialdiff)