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Régine Hatchondo and Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre - Unifrance

MyFrenchFilmFestival: promotion on digital territory

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Régine Hatchondo and Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre - Unifrance

Unifrance, the agency that promotes French cinema abroad, is launching the first edition of online festival MyFrenchFilmFestival (January 14-29, 2011). Unifrance’s president Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre and managing director Régine Hatchondo discuss this internationally ground-breaking project.

Why did you create the online MyFrenchFilmFestival?
Régine Hatchondo: French cinema still has a great image internationally. It’s a sort of alternative to US hegemony. But French films have become harder to distribute, circulate and sell, because the proliferation of multiplexes has undermined arthouse theatres everywhere, including in Europe. And French films are not seen as multiplex fare, but as auteur cinema. This image is both a strength and a weakness. Digital is an important issue because we must reach out to new, younger audiences. Over the last ten years, we’ve overlooked 15-35 year-olds. We need to seek out young audiences with their own modes of communication.

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Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre: It’s an important stage in implementing our policy of presence abroad. For the moment, it’s an experiment. We’re very confident and very cautious because we can’t gauge the impact of the project, but this type of initiative is essential.

How did you choose the films in the line-up?
Hatchondo: We’ve selected ten features, ten shorts and a heritage film. Our aim was to show debut and second films. They had to have been released in France after January 1, 2009 and not sold to more than five territories. Subtitles have been provided in nine languages (German, English, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese and Russian; with a Korean version on the KT website) to widen the target audience. The selected films can be viewed via video-on-demand for a charge of €1.99 per feature outside France (where the price is aligned with national VoD sites to avoid unfair competition), with the exception of Latin America and Russia where access is free. Packs and subscription systems are also offered.

We want to open a window for films that are harder to sell. From the rights-holders to the distributors, directors and sellers, everyone has made a real effort. We were worried, for example, that we’d have to block Belgium because all the films were sold there. But local distributors were very open. And the artists joined in too, for the platform includes about 40 interviews.

What prizes will be awarded by the festival?
Hatchondo: The three films crowned by Internet users, foreign bloggers and the international press will be shown for six to nine months on Air France’s long-haul flights. Eventually, we’d like to find a way of distributing the winners in theatres. We also want to create a community of film enthusiasts to whom we will then pass on information about our off-line festivals. For that reason, we’ve created a competitive game, French Film Epidemic, on the festival’s Facebook page.

What are your expectations for this first edition?
De Clermont-Tonnerre: Even though they haven’t been sold to more than five territories, the selected films were very well received by the press, enjoyed success in theatres and won prizes (notably the Louis-Delluc Prize). We want to give them a second life, try to introduce them to viewers who haven’t had the chance to see them. But we’re not expecting any miracles from this first edition: it’s a long-term project.

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