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Alessia Acone Talks ‘Eclectic’ CineMart Selection, Engaging Emerging Professionals and ‘Staying Real’: ‘The Trend Is Diversity’

Ahead of its 41st edition, International Film Festival Rotterdam’s industry event CineMart isn’t interested in uniformity.

“The trend is diversity,” says head of IFFR Pro Alessia Acone.

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“We feature different themes, different production structures and different filmmakers. We want to make sure we can represent many things at the same time. This year, more than ever.”

The “eclectic” lineup of projects includes Aisling Walsh’s “Lucia,” about the only daughter of James Joyce, two-time Tiger Short Competition-winner Beatrice Gibson’s debut feature “La nuit,” Barbara Rupik’s animation “Cherub,” produced by Madants, previously behind “The Silent Twins,” and another animated film “Cloud of the Unknown.”

“We go from a bigger-budgeted film to a collectively written story and animations coming from two different sides of the world. From biographic stories to arctic expeditions, from dreamy landscapes to car chases,” observes Acone.

“A new set of awards, courtesy of Eurimages, proves that this year’s selection is made out of projects that dare to push boundaries, talk about personal and relevant matters, and experiment – also with different formats.”

In “Another Journey Without Women,” Illum Jacobi will go all the way back to 1918, when an expedition led by Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen explores new lands in Greenland. Loïc Hobi will focus on a “queer action hero,” racing his Honda in “Bad Gays.”

“What makes ‘Bad Gays’ controversial is that it exists in an industry that grants radical and queer movies only a niche presence. Queer culture was always created as a reaction to oppressive environments, to then change those through transgressive joy,” says Hobi.

A Distant House Smokes on the Horizon
“A Distant House Smokes on the Horizon”

“We are thrilled to have a pit stop at CineMart and will invite fearless partners for a wild ride. Switzerland is about to lose its virginity with this film and we are about to open up some festivals’ asses.”

Welcoming returning “Tiger talents,” such as Gibson, Shangze Zhu – behind “A Distant House Smokes on the Horizon” – or Si En Tan, producer of Daniel Hui’s “Other People’s Dreams,” CineMart is also focusing on engaging “more and more” emerging professionals. Able to benefit from the brand new collaboration Launchpad, created alongside Locarno, Thessaloniki, Tallinn and Karlovy Vary.

“There were many discussions about how to engage newcomers. We have been already doing it through other programs, mostly focused on producers, but we wanted to reach out to professionals coming from other backgrounds: film funds, sales or distribution,” states Acone.

“Now, they will have this whole network of festivals available to them, because accessibility has been the biggest problem so far.”

Despite some new touches, a “tailor-made approach” is still one of CineMart’s basic rules, assures Acone.

“We want to make sure everyone feels heard, welcomed and taken care of. Filmmakers really need a safe place where they can open up about their projects and feel comfortable standing under the spotlight.”

“We were intentional about launching ‘Other People’s Dreams’ through CineMart. As a producer who has been attending IFFR Pro over the past few years, I think this is one of the most thoughtful markets in Europe,” says Si En Tan.

Bad Gays
“Bad Gays”

“This is, indeed, a good place for films that are more daring. We thought it would be the perfect market for one that captures the marginalized and invisible communities.”

“It stands out as a pivotal platform for independent filmmakers seeking to introduce original projects to the industry,” adds Zhengfan Yang of Burn the Film, also behind “A Distant House Smokes on the Horizon.” Francisco Márquez, producer at Pensar con las Manos, chimes in: “CineMart brings us to meet producers who are open to risky films,” he says, readying to present Eduardo Crespo’s “The Wind’s Cave.”

“Crespo’s work moves on a delicate border between fiction and documentary. This is an intimate and humanistic story, far from anything ‘spectacular.’ CineMart, and the IFFR, embrace these kinds of projects and offer them a platform to expand.”

While an immersive program is included in the market set-up “more than in previous years” – “all immersive projects in development are included in a competitive section, as well as the newly added work-in-progress program,” says Acone – CineMart Spotlight, combining 20 selected feature-length and immersive projects, will also make a triumphant return on Jan. 29, followed by Darkroom Spotlight the next day.

“The feedback we got last year was that something was missing. CineMart Spotlight is a very informal living-room conversation, but it sets the tone for how we see the whole market experience,” she notes.

One that will include discussions about impact production, in collaboration with ACE Producers, genre films at festivals and, most importantly, the challenge of trying to balance one’s career with a private life.

“The idea is to express that it’s important to be grounded and conscious of our own well-being. I became a mother seven months ago, so I really feel it’s important. I feel very connected to this topic on a personal level, as well as a professional one,” she adds.

“Current challenges are to stay real and to adapt to the current social context. It will be necessary for our platform to remain a forerunner in giving a spotlight to diverse formats and stories, and foster international cooperation.”

CineMart will take place from Jan. 28-31.

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