Three IFFR-backed films in Cannes

While IFFR is strong in independent, idiosyncratic cinema, Cannes has always been a real heavyweight on the film festival circuit. This can lead to some interesting passing back and forth: did you know that every year a lot of films that originated at IFFR find their way to Cannes? Yes, that’s right – originated, because as well as showing lots of films (many of them for the first time), IFFR is also where many film projects are born – thanks in part to our Hubert Bals Fund (HBF). This year is no exception, as the Cannes film festival – which starts today – is screening three film productions developed with support from the HBF.

By Sarah Famke Oortgijsen

A little while ago, our Head of Programming Chris talked about the process a film goes through before appearing on the big screen at IFFR. Not only does IFFR screen a lot of films, but many films start out as an idea at the festival. Every year, hundreds of filmmakers visit us with their films-to-be looking to find co-producers, raise finance or ‘sell’ their project in one way or another. And we actively facilitate this, through IFFR PRO elements such as the Hubert Bals Fonds and CineMart. We hold the IFFR PRO Days during every edition of the festival, but activities in this area go on all year round.

With the Festival de Cannes just getting going – where IFFR PRO will be on the scene and several films supported by the HBF are screening – we thought this would be a good opportunity to explain what exactly this Fund can do for a film.

Hubert Bals Fund?

Hubert Bals was the founder of IFFR. He organised the very first screening in 1972, in what was then the Calypso Theater. It wasn’t exactly a roaring success: just seventeen people showed up to the very first IFFR film Postchi (Darius Mehrjui), and the official who had been asked to speak said thanks, but no thanks. We don’t need to tell you that IFFR has gone from strength to strength ever since: the last edition attracted over 314,000 visitors. But anyway, Hubert Bals. The Hubert Bals Fund was set up in memory of him in September 1988, two months after his sudden death.

‘Thanks to the HBF, I can tell the story of my generation’

The fund was his idea, and meant to support artistic, independent cinema in developing countries. The HBF provides subsidies to filmmakers from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe, for different phases of the filmmaking process: from script development to production and post-production. Some three hundred applications for subsidy are received for each selection round (two per year). The HBF has now supported more than a thousand projects worldwide, changing the lives and careers of many filmmakers in the process. Granting of HBF support often acts as a catalyst for a film project. In a kind of domino effect, the HBF can set off a chain reaction among prospective financiers. As filmmaker Nikola Ljuca found out, who received €10,000 in HBF script development support: “The HBF put my project on the map. I can finally tell the story of my generation. I suspect that co-producers and funds need confirmation from something like the HBF before they dare board a project.”

Selection process

After the passing of the deadline for subsidy applications, the HBF staff read many, many plans and watch a lot of films. This includes not only the submitted projects and – depending on the phase the project has reached – previous films by the makers. Our programmers and the Fund staff also regularly travel to those parts of the world focussed on by the HBF to stay in touch with developments and discover new filmmakers. Finally, a seven-man committee (made up of IFFR staff, film journalists, producers, filmmakers and others) select some twenty projects to receive support. This support takes the form not only of money, but also the belief and confidence placed in the project. The fact that filmmakers receive support from an institution that has already helped create so much beautiful work means a lot more than the amount of cash they receive. Once a project has been given the HBF seal of approval, it is sometimes then easier to find other financiers. Then before you know it, your film is screening in Cannes!

Festival de Cannes starts today. The films supported by the Hubert Bals Fund screening there this year are:

  • I Am Not a Witch, Rungano Nyoni, Zambia, France, the Netherlands (Script & Project Development 2014 & HBF+Europe Minority Co-production 2016)
  • A Man of Integrity, Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran (Script & Project Development 2015
  • Beauty and the Dogs, Kaouther Ben Hania, Tunisia (Script & Project Development 2015)

We will be announcing the new HBF selection next Monday.