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Lovers 2022 - Lovers Goes Industry

Industry Report: Distribution, Exhibition and Streaming

New (and old) distribution opportunities for LGBTQIA+ movies in an ever-changing environment

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The evolution of queer cinema and the need to expand audiences formed the focus of discussion at Turin’s Lovers Film Festival

New (and old) distribution opportunities for LGBTQIA+ movies in an ever-changing environment
(l-r) Cosimo Santoro, Christophe Mercier, Pavel Bicek and Eddie Bertozzi during the panel

Turin is host to a “vibrant community of filmmakers”, according to Paolo Manera, the director of Torino Film Industry and the Film Commission Torino Piemonte, who introduced, on Saturday 30 April, the final session of Lovers Goes Industry 2022, a networking forum for those working in the LGBTQIA+ section of the film industry which unspooled in parallel to the 37th edition of the historic Lovers Film Festival. Eighteen feature films designed for cinemas, shot in 2021 and accompanied by producers from the UK, Germany, the USA and Sweden, alongside 13 TV series, 49 short films, 30 documentaries, 85 commercials, and various reports, TV works and music videos have all been offered up by the region, in which the Turin-based festival - alongside the Production Days event unfolding within Torino Film Industry (whose 40th edition unspools at the end of November) - “forms part of an ecosystem” also including the Torino Film Lab and the Media Desk (indeed, Silvia Sandrone gave a talk on the event’s dedicated industry day to promote the opportunities made possible by the 2021-2027 Creative Europe MEDIA programme).

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It was into this fervent atmosphere that guests of the third edition of Lovers Goes Industry, curated by Flavio Armone and Valerio Filardo (read our interview), stepped foot. Nine projects graced the agenda, consisting of four feature films, four shorts and one TV series, the latter presented in video form from Taiwan by queer American director Erich Rettstadt and entitled Tales of Tea, an electrifying (judging by its images) anthology musical comedy series, consisting of 30-minute episodes and showcasing drag performers from all over the world.

“The industry has changed a lot since the Nineties”, stressed Cosimo Santoro, a distributor and producer via his own firm The Open Reel, who took part in the panel discussion New (and old) distribution opportunities for LGBTQIA+ movies in an ever-changing environment. “The few directors who made queer films were more creative, they revealed a hidden world, it was an artier form of cinema. Today, projects are more structured and the numerous LGBTQIA+-themed festivals which have sprung up in Italy help to promote these films and act as a reference point for many urban gay communities”. London-based distribution and international marketing consultant Christophe Mercier, whose previous collaborations include Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, echoed these sentiments: “They were indie films with gay elements to them. Now there’s greater access to finance for LGBTQIA+ films, lots of queer films are being made and maintaining their quality isn’t easy”. Mercier gave the powerful example of Joyland, Saim Sadiq’s first work telling a local story of sexual revolution which was also the first Pakistani film to be chosen for the Cannes Film Festival’s Official Selection.

For his part, Pavel Bicek - who founded the distribution brand Queer Kino and directs Mezipatra QFF in the Czech Republic, which is the biggest queer film festival in central and Eastern Europe - uses Xavier Dolan as an example of a gay cinema auteur whose films have become mainstream. Eddie Bertozzi, meanwhile, head of acquisitions and marketing for Italy’s Academy Two, reminded attendees of the importance of geographic and cultural differences. “Pakistan isn’t France”. At a certain point in time, in several countries, breaking the mould was an important thing, “now it’s clear that stories have undergone an evolution, they’re more about investigating desire and shepherding it through a world of emotions”. Bertozzi didn’t hold back on criticising Italian cinema, which is still held back, bar one or two exceptions, to conservative clichés and offers up the usual flamboyant gay stereotypes in an attempt to reassure wider heterosexual audiences.

Whilst Mercier spoke about the need to guarantee “entertainment” in order to win over bigger audiences, Bertozzi didn’t feel gay films should solely target gay audiences or be exclusively addressed to LGBTQIA+ communities. Bicek emphasised that when selecting films, it’s mostly artistic quality that’s important, and works which portray a wide range of factors characterising life in a particular geographic area.

Last but not least, the four experts participating in the panel discussion tackled the topic of promotional and distribution strategies, “in a market where cinemas are struggling after 3 years of pandemic”, Bertozzi stressed, whereas platforms are continuing to grow and boasting budgets so consistent that they can impose new media chronology windows. “Audiences who frequent cinemas are more selective now, and when distributing films we need to understand what should be watched on the big screen and what should be seen on TV”.

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(Translated from Italian)

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