x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Film fund puts Arab world in the picture

The Life: There are immense opportunities to work on projects from the Arab world, says Alessandra Priante of Eurimages, the European fund that co-produces films.

Alessandra Priante of Eurimages is also the Italian cultural attache for the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain. Sarah Dea / The National
Alessandra Priante of Eurimages is also the Italian cultural attache for the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain. Sarah Dea / The National

Alessandra Priante, vice president and a representative for Italy at Eurimages, a European fund that supports film co-productions, participated in the fund's first board meeting outside its home turf during the ninth Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) last week. Based in Abu Dhabi, Ms Priante is also the Italian cultural attache for the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain.

Why is it significant that 25-year-old Eurimages, based in Strasbourg, France, held its first board meeting outside Europe here?

Seventy delegates from 36 member countries were exposed to DIFF. Around 90 per cent of the fellow delegates have never been to the Arab world. We wanted to create a fertile land of contacts and allow DIFF to see how we work for their eventual own work on setting up funds.

Last year Eurimages changed its laws to allow collaboration with a non-European director so long as a project has at least two European co-producers. How big is the room for Eurimages to collaborate with projects from the Arab world?

There is immense potential for exchange. Since the change of rules, we have partially funded Kurdish film Bekas and Iranian film A Separation. There is more and more interest for content from this part of the world, but this place needs a proper production structure.

What do you mean by that?

Here film directors are involved in everything, including raising money. That should not be the case. There has to be a proper producer. There are not many producers in the Arab world, not more than the fingers on my hands. It is so important to have a co-producer, and from another culture. That brings an added value to the story and makes [the project] travel. The Kurdish film had a Swedish and Finnish collaboration.

What are the challenges for the film sector here?

It needs a lot of nurturing. Grants at film festivals are crucial. Nurturing a filmmaker does not mean giving them a financing contract that requires copyright ownership and completion bonding guarantees. A completion bonding guarantee works like a loan. A production structure also does not mean giving facilities alone, but requires training of the producers who will understand the industry, know the right people and give time.

As of October, Eurimages has co-produced 51 projects. How does it recoup money?

We work pro rata and pari passu [ranking equally]. We recoup in the first instance and if the film does not make money, we do not take [the filmmaker's] house. We fund up to €500,000 [Dh2.4m], and before we do that the project must already have 50 per cent of the financing confirmed and a distribution and a foreign sales contract. At this board meeting we evaluated 35 projects and selected 14. These have all-European co-producers and directors. There will be some big names. We fund features, documentaries, first time directors and animation. We do not fund short films.

ssahoo@thenational.ae