Mami Wata

Funding, Labs & Project Markets Round-Up 2023: Asia, Africa & Middle East

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For the last edition of 2023, Streamlined is staying true to it name and purpose by streamlining all the news out of the autumn 2023 season of labs, project markets and funding announcements in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Funding for cinema from these regions through government subsidies and film festivals still appears to be centred in Europe, South Korea, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. African cinema is being supported by European funds including Berlin’s World Cinema Fund, Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund and various French initiatives, but now has a new source of support in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Fund. (The image above is from Nigerian filmmaker C.J. “Fiery” Obasi’s Mami Wata, which received distribution support from Berlin’s WCF)

Streamlined’s first edition of 2024 will take a closer look at this Saudi fund, which along with the Doha Film Institute in Qatar, is becoming a significant source of funding for independent cinema. For now, here’s a recap of activity in 2023.

Asia & Middle East Project Market Circuit Ramps Up

Now we’ve finally returned to physical events (it’s difficult to believe but this time last year we still had some pandemic-related travel restrictions), Asia’s labs, workshops and project markets circuit has become busier than ever. I don’t have time to do this right now, but if we added up the value of all the cash and in-kind awards handed out by various project markets and their sponsors over this past autumn festival season, we would see that a significant chunk of funding has emerged for independent cinema in the region, on top of the subsidies provided by a growing number of governments in the Global South.

While Busan, Hong Kong and Taipei Golden Horse film festivals have long had project markets, and Japan now has Tokyo Gap Financing Market, the circuit has recently been expanded with the launch of TCCF Pitching and the Philippines’ QCinema Project Market (see below for recent news). India has Film Bazaar and China now has both Shanghai’s SIFF Project and Pingyao Project Promotion. We can probably also expect to see new events being launched in the fast-growing market of Indonesia over the next year.

Most of these events are taking place between early October and mid-December, which is effective in the sense that they are feeding films into the European and North American winter/spring festival season, starting with Sundance, Rotterdam and Berlin and running through to Cannes, Venice and Toronto. But it makes for an intensely over-loaded autumn schedule in Asia that could maybe benefit from seeing a few events move into spring.

There’s a similar circuit evolving in the Middle East, unfortunately truncated this year by the Israel-Hamas War, which prompted most festivals to cancel or delay this year’s edition. Red Sea International Film Festival and its Red Sea Souk went ahead (more on that next month) as did El Gouna Film Festival and it CineGouna Platform, albeit in a smaller and postponed format..

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