Filmart, Asia’s largest film and TV content marketplace, is set to virtually welcome visitors for the third time from March 14-17 and is building on the experience gained during the pandemic to bring its largest online edition to this day.
While it may be disappointing to some that the main Asian market still cannot take place in person, organizers from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) are encouraged by the growing number of international attendances.
At the time of writing, the number of exhibitors at Filmart Online is expected to reach 700, up from 677 last year, and over 3,000 buyers have registered, including a selection from remote territories that would normally find the trip to Hong Kong. prohibitive.
As in previous years, Filmart takes place just one month after the European Film Market (EFM), which represents the first Asian market of the year. Many European sellers join Filmart through the European Film Promotion (EFP), Unifrance or independently and present new titles from the Berlinale, which this year include Rimini by the Coproduction Office, Talking about the weather by Movies Boutique, lullaby by Latido Films, beautiful beings by New Europe Film Sales, and Somewhere on the chemtrails by Pluto Film.
“We are happy that Filmart continues to give us the opportunity to meet our partners from Asia and beyond,” says Julien Razafindranaly, head of sales for Films Boutique in Berlin. “As long as there is a market, it creates a moment in time and space where people can do business and interact with each other.”
Despite the online migration, he says, “We are heading to Filmart with a confident approach, in the same spirit as we normally would: with programming ready, taking meetings as if we were at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, and hoping to meet distributors that we may not yet know”.
Also on the program of Films Boutique, the Ukrainian war documentary by war journalist Loup Bureau Trenches, which premiered out of competition in Venice last year. “We share a particular emotion about this film. Loup is now back in Ukraine, where he filmed Trenchesto cover up the ongoing conflict,” Razafindranaly adds.
Spanish films have enjoyed great success in Asia in recent years, such as thrillers The invisible guest and Mirageboth directed by Paulo Oriol, which cost $45 million in China alone and were remade for India in different local languages.
Latido Films, regular exhibitor of Filmart, presents a series of genre films in Spanish such as What Lucia saw and Virus-32. “Filmart is a key Asian market even though it’s online. There is good momentum to catch up with our customers in the region and maintain the visibility of our films,” says Juan Torres of Madrid-based Latido Films.
Filmart Online attracted 24 pavilions from eight countries and regions this year, including Content Thailand, Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), Korean Film Council (KOFIC), Taiwan Content Creative Agency (TAICCA), UniJapan, EFP from Europe, Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) of the United States and various cities and provinces in China such as Beijing, Hangzhou, Guangdong and Zhejiang.
Before the pandemic outbreak, Hong Kong companies often caused a stir in their own turf, setting up some of the most extravagant and grand booths in the front row of physical Filmart. Prominent Hong Kong players continue to show their support for the online market, bringing with them new titles including Detective Vs Detectives and Just 1 day by Emperor Motion Pictures, How it burns by Entertaining Power, Escape Brothers 3 and sun of my life by Mandarin Motion Pictures, and white storm 3 and High Forces by Universe Films Distribution.
Until recently, Hong Kong had managed to curb the spread of Covid-19 but the city is in the throes of the fifth wave of the virus, with a record number of cases of the Omicron variant. While mandatory mass testing and a citywide lockdown are expected to be enforced soon, cinemas remained closed from January 7 until at least April 20, and the Hong Kong International Film Festival, which was due to open on March 31, has been postponed.
“We know that cinema closures have had a strong impact on our partners in Asia,” says Razafindranaly of Films Boutique. “A lot of them have become a bit more cautious in their acquisitions just because they won’t be able to release their films for a while.
“That said, among its very diverse population, the appetite for cinema remains strong. We can only have a positive approach every time we come to Filmart.
As a buyer, Patrick Huang of Taiwan’s Flash Forward is a familiar face at international festivals and markets. “Filmart is the perfect place to continue EFM’s ongoing discussions and preview upcoming Cannes-ready titles,” he says. “The vibe could definitely move the case forward effectively. My mind is always clearer during Filmart because we have more time to really discuss upcoming titles and not be interrupted by festival screenings or the anxious buzz critics.
His company recently acquired the Berlinale competition title Before, now and then by Wild Bunch.
Angie Wang of Chinese company Hishow Entertainment is another buyer who recognizes the strategic importance of Filmart. “It’s always a good opportunity to follow the EFM and take a closer look at Asian films,” she says. “It would be nice to meet in person, of course, but we have become accustomed to online meetings over the past two years. The biggest problem is the lack of diverse content.
In 2019, Hishow released the 4K restoration of The legend of 1900, which struck a chord with local audiences and grossed $23 million (RMB 143 million) in China. His early theatrical releases include animation Ballerina in 2017 and The imitation game in 2015.
Filmart also has a special appeal for festival programmers. “Before the pandemic, sandwiched between two major markets – the EFM and the Cannes Film Market – Filmart was very useful in maintaining privileged relationships with various film companies in Asia that might not otherwise have the same market visibility elsewhere,” says Ariel Esteban Cayer of Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal who has been based in Hong Kong since late 2019 and recently co-founded Blu-ray label Kani Releasing.
“As the pandemic era has shifted dynamics and shifted meetings online, we are grateful for Filmart’s continued efforts to connect industry players, allowing us to focus our energies on a singular part of the year and maintain programming as usual.”
Producers and sales agents are also attracted to the Hong Kong-Asia Film Forum (HAF), which has become an integral part of Filmart. The 20th edition of HAF will feature 43 projects in development and in progress, which will take place virtually from March 14 to 16 in collaboration with Filmart Online.
Flash Forward’s Huang, who is also a producer, sees HAF as an important platform. “Many of the Asian projects selected by HAF have achieved good results on the festival and commercial circuits,” he says.
“With the support of new Taiwanese funding agencies such as TAICCA and Taipei Film Commission, I am eagerly looking for new Asian projects to co-produce from the script or WIP stage and remake properties from Asia and beyond. Huang is co-producing an Indian film In the belly of a tigerwho was at the HAF in 2020.
This year, Filmart will also unite all of its online seminars and events under a new banner, EntertainmentPulse. Seminars aimed at encouraging knowledge sharing among participants will be a focus.
Notable speakers were scheduled over four days, including Jessica Kam-Engle on Disney’s content strategy in Asia, NHK’s Imamura Keni-chi on the power of documentaries, Sandbox co-founder Sebastien Borget on the metaverse and Melody Hildebrandt of Blockchain Creative Labs on NFT.