Cottbus celebrates 10 years of Connecting producers and films


    CoCo, as it's fondly referred to, celebrates its 10th anniversary, with German heavyweight funding bodies waiting to hear pitches from ten lucky Central and East European producers.

    CoCo would be Connecting Cottbus (taking place November 13-14), the brainchild of Cottbus's artistic director Roland Rust. Ten years ago, this correspondent recalls Rust assembling a small group of influential German funders to pitch Cottbus as a meeting point between Germany and its neighbors to the east and southeast. Now producers beat a path to Cottbus, looking for films to fund.

    And Germany's funding bodies are supporting the Cottbus initiative.

    "It's the only German-based forum gostering co-production with Eastern Europe," says Oliver Rittweger of Leipzig-based regional film fund Mitteldeutsche Medienfoerderung (MDM), stressing the importance. "This is the exception."

    Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg's funding consultant Brigitta Manthey agrees. "It's had quite a big impact." The fim funders point out that Cottbus has an unusually high success rate. This year's festival line-up includes Connecting Cottbus alum The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner, a Bulgarian/German/Hungarian/Slovenian production. Other films that pitched at Cottbus include recent Slovak hit and awards-winner Music and the new Czech film Three Seasons in Hell.

    This year's Connecting Cottbus participants, including producers from the Baltics, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary, heard encouraging statistics about German funds. Moderator Martin Blaney pointed out, "Some German producers are doing more films outside Germany than inside."

    "Co-productions are something we like to support," Manthey says. Medienboard distributes 30 million euros annually. Rittweger says, "More than half our films are with East European countries." MDM will hand out 12.5 million this year. Germany's newest fund, the two-year-old German Federal Film Fund (DFFF), established to replace private media funds after tax incentives were eliminated, has a three-year mandate to distribute 60 million euros per year, with the prospect of extension through 2012.

    Connecting Cottbus may have succeeded beyond its expectations. German producers will find themselves vying with dozens of producers from across Central, Eastern, and Western Europe, for films and chairs in the over-flow crowds descending on Cottbus this week.