07/11/2013

South Mediterranean film distribution: What next?

Cross-regional film distribution so far, and two European initiatives to possibly imitate

Events and Festivals, Industry, Euromed Audiovisual News

South Mediterranean film distribution: What next?

Film professionals, including members of new South Mediterranean film distributor network MEDIS, discussed film distribution in the South Mediterranean region at the Montpellier Mediterrean Film Festival on October 31.

Moderated by Daniel Ziskind, the European representative of Egyptian production house Zad, the conference welcomed South Mediterranean distributors Hania Mroué, director of the Metropolis cinema and the MC Distribution in Lebanon, Mohamed Layadi from Marrakech Spectales and Le Colisée cinema in Morocco, Imane Masbahi from Channel 4 in Morocco, as well as representatives of innovative European distribution initiatives: Fabienne Hanclot from the Association for the Diffusion of Independent Cinema (ACID) and Philippe Pazzio from Universciné, the VoD platform specialised in independent film.

They started by giving a broad overview of film distribution in the SouthMediterranean region to an audience of film professionals from both shores of the Mediterranean, as well as locals and students.

"The Metropolis cinema was a success because I knew there was an audience for this type of [non-American] films," said distributor and cinema operator Hania Mroué. While the creation of this cinema was a success in Beirut, it still required finding new films to screen, no easy feat given that a large part of the films coming out in Lebanon are American, which is why she founded her company MC Distribution.

The story is somewhat similar in Morocco, explained Mohamed Layadi and Imane Masbahi. After deciding to renovate Marrakech's Le Colisée cinema to European standards, Mohamed Layadi's cinema had its golden age between 1995 and 2001. When he expanded his activities to distribution in the late 1990s, simultaneously with the arrival of piracy and two multiplexes in Morocco, he wanted to show different films in Moroccan cinemas. The Moroccan state's activities in supporting national film production and multiplex theatres allowed the public to discover cinema, their cinema, and to become cinephiles. Morocco is thus a shining example of film production of the region, as 15 to 20 films are produced there each year. 

As for Imane Masbahi from Channel 4, who specialises in the distribution of Egyptian films in Morocco, she managed to convince the Mégarama multiplex to schedule Egyptian films, and later Arab and Moroccan films. The initiative has been a success, as proven by Brahim Chkiri's film Road to Kabul, a film that played for one year and nine months in film theatres around the country.

"The Euromed Audiovisual II programme enabled us to expand distribution to Arab films," said Imane Masbahi who, like Hania Mroué, received support for her distribution activities from the Euromed Audiovisual II programme's Euromed Cinemas project, and regrets that this aid was not renewed under Euromed Audiovisual III.

But the new association of South Mediterranean film distributors MEDIS hopes to further boost Arab film distribution, reminded its President Mohamed Layadi during the Q&A session about the association.

But do alternative distribution models already exist in Europe that South Mediterranean distributors might reproduce?

According Fabienne Hanclet from the Association for the Diffusion of Independent Cinema (ACID), the challenge is to create demand.

While films are usually programmed in France according to the demand in Paris, as distributors do not dare take risks without financial support, ACID instead works with films that don't yet have a distributor by screening them at Cannes. After feedback from exhibitors, the association then looks for distributors for these films.

In this way, Moroccan director Hicham Lasri's They Are the Dogs was presented in the ACID programme in May 2013 and as a result found a distributor in France. (Lasri's film The End was supported by the Euromed Audiovisual I programme.)

And what of online distribution via video-on-demand (VoD)? Is it an alternative to piracy?

The current VoD market shows mixed result in the South Mediterranean region. It works much better in the Gulf than in Lebanon, for example, said distributor Hania Mroué.

But the Universciné initiative could be reproduced in the South Mediterranean region. Universciné groups independent producers and distributors who distribute their catalogue online -- including films from the South Mediterranean region -- across several platforms in Europe.

Why not in the South Mediterranean?

 

35th Cinemed International Mediterranean Film Festival in Montpellier – more news:

 

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