Promoting German film
A full auditorium, an enthusiastic audience, a high profile on local
television and radio stations – there could not have been a better
response to the first Festival of German Cinema in Moscow organised
by the Export-Union des deutschen Films (Export Union of German Film
- ExU) at the end of last year.
It screened eleven German productions together with its partners, including
the Federal Government Commissioner for Cultural Affairs and the Media,
the German Federal Film Board, the Russian Ministry of Culture, the
German Embassy and the Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes in Moscow. They
included feature films such as “Halbe Treppe” (Grill Point)
by Andreas Dresen and “Berlin is in Germany“ by Hannes Stöhr,
as well as Andreas Veiel’s documentary “Black Box BRD“
(Black Box Germany). The German directors and actors who travelled to
Moscow met an audience that was eager to engage in discussion –
and the Russian film loan companies are also interested. After seeing
“Halbe Treppe” and Sandra Nettelbeck’s “Bella
Martha” (Mostly Martha), which had already been sold in Russia
before the festival, people were curious to see more.
Organisation representing the interests of German film
The Export-Union des deutschen Films is not in the business of buying
and selling films. It presents them. ExU’s remit is to represent
the interests of German film, like “Unifrance” does for
French films in France. The institution catalogues all the German productions
notified to it, puts people in touch with one another, helps to select
German productions in line with the criteria of any particular festival,
organises joint stands for German producers at TV fairs and puts on
film festivals around the world – usually in close cooperation
with Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes. As well as the Moscow festival,
festivals were also held in Rome, Madrid, Paris, London, Warsaw and
Los Angeles last year. In addition, the ExU attended a number of festivals
in cooperation with other institutions, including in Francisco (“Berlin
& Beyond”) and, in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art
in New York, the screenings of “New German Films”.
History and tasks
The Export-Union was founded in 1954 as an umbrella organisation for
the Association of German Feature Film Producers, the Association of
New German Feature Film Producers and the Association of German Film
Exporters. Today, it has the legal status of a company with limited
liability. The German Federal Film Board is one of the shareholders.
Along with the ten permanents members of staff in Munich, the ExU has
representations in nine foreign countries. The ExU’s representatives
abroad, whether in Argentina, China, Great Britain, Japan or the USA
– cultivate contacts to the local film and TV industry. They act
as cooperation partners, for example, in organising German film events,
and also advise German film-makers, for example about filming on location.
The Export-Union represents all German film productions, and thus not
only the works of established film-makers, but also of young film-makers.
That was how the “Next Generation” initiative came to be
set up. Within this programme, a selection of film-college productions
has been shown at Cannes since 1997, each with a maximum length of ten
minutes, and they are also screened at German film festivals. The “Munich
Screenings” created a European forum for German exporters of arthouse
The ExU’s activities at European level include cooperation in
the organisation European Film Promotion ( EFP), of which it is a founding
member. This cooperation, which currently involves 21 national agencies
with similar tasks, develops projects for the joint presentation of
European film productions at international level.
The Export Union’s current budget is approx. EUR 3.25 million.
This amount comes from the export fees of copyright owners when they
sell their films abroad and funding from the Film Promotion Institute
and the Federal Government Commissioner for Cultural Affairs and the
Media. In addition, the Union receives EUR 250,000 from six large film-funding
agencies of the Federal Länder. The institutes founded an advisory
committee in 1997 to pool their efforts in order to create a higher
profile for German film abroad.
Just before the turn of the millennium, ExU came in for criticism from
the industry. Two appraisals, one commissioned by the then Federal Minister
of Cultural Affairs, Herr Naumann, and the other by the ExU itself,
concluded that the institution’s structures were too inflexible
and that it was not very effective. After Tom Tykwer’s film “Lola
rennt” (Run Lola Run) had been ranked around 30th in the USA for
eleven weeks in 1999, leading to international interest in seeing more
productions by young German directors, the critics largely fell silent.
“The marketing”, said one of the appraisals, can “generally
be only as good as the product.”