At Documentary in Europe 2009 with ITVS's Cynthia Kane

Posted on July 14, 2009

Documentary in Europe consists of film screenings, matchmaking meetings, seminars, master classes, producers' meeting commissioning editors as well as a pitching workshops and sessions. Held annually in Bardonecchia, Italy, professionals from around the world gather to network with colleagues and discuss the latest documentary projects. International Programming Manager Cynthia Kane gives her take on this year's event. 

Situated in the Italian Alps about one hour North of Torino (aka Turin––think Fiat and the Shroud), Bardonecchia is a charming, albeit quiet, town in summer, making it a fantastic place to focus on documentary. In winter, I’m told that it’s a far different scene––packed with skiers, snowboarders and glamorous Italians. Most people know Bardonecchia as one to the sites of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. Although the event doesn’t officially begin until Wednesday, many participants arrived early this week to attend the Pitching Forum. 

There were several successful pitches from the past––including two ITVS International docs: THE MOSQUITO PROBLEM & OTHER STORIES, produced by Martichka Bozhilova and directed by Andrey Paounov, and JOURNALS OF A WILY SCHOOL, produced by Debu Bhattacharyya and directed by Sudeshna Bose. In total there were 23 projects during the two days of the Pitching Forum. I also kept busy by attending a matchmaking/development session with 14 projects that were pitched and discussed at length. This session was the most interesting to me since I’ve never seen most of the projects, thus it had many good possibilities for International Call 2010.

There were not only filmmakers and producers from Europe, but from various parts of the world – including three fantastic projects from India, a Malaysian filmmaker tackling topics related to Japan and several filmmakers with dual citizenship. Maria Yatskova, a U.S.-Russian-Azerbaijani filmmaker was present with a fantastic project, Cententariansof Azerbaijan. Her previous film, Miss Gulag, won multiple awards and has been broadcast, quite literally, around the world. Filmmaker Tomas Sheridan is a U.S.-Italian citizen living and making films in Scotland. His documentary Archive of Dreams opened the week’s screenings along with Bjarte Thoresen and Bente Olav’s When Castro Seized the Hilton

The Indian filmmakers and producers had enormous difficulties this year getting visas due to the G8 summit––taking place near Rome, nowhere near Bardonecchia in the North––so go figure. Nilotpal Majumdar, director of the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute in Kolkata, where DocEdge is hosted each January, was unable to come at all in the end. One pitch, English is Easy, was done by Skype by its filmmaker/producer Sayak Bhattacharya. Thank the gods for 21st century technology! There was much talk of 360-multiplatform strategy in both Matchmaking and the Pitch. 

Not all the filmmakers are thinking this way, but the majority have either well-designed 360 elements or are at least in the idea stages of how to enhance a core documentary (very much in line of the thinking at ITVS). And several Italian broadcasters were present––Lorenzo Hendel and Luca Franco of Rai 3, who launched a new creative doc strand two weeks ago with Raffele Brunetti’s Hair India––and the young and brilliant Davide Scalenghe of Current-Italy, sister channel of Current-U.S., but with a twist. They show both short form as well as long form documentaries and is one of the most watched channels in the country. Current-U.S., I am told, is looking to make some changes due to the success of the Italian model. Finally we were fed fully and richly in intellect, body and soul (yes, unbelievable meals and Piemontese wines – oh yeah!) A week very much worthwhile. 

-Cynthia, ITVS International Programming Manager


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