Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Countdown to Cannes 31 Days: UFA

31 days to Cannes gives me 31 days to profile international sales agents of my choice.  As they announce the festival entries April 15, I want to begin with UFA whose name opens vistas into film history and today has a film tipped for the festival:

Die Komenden Tage aka The Days To Come by Lars Kraume produced by Badlands Film and by the venerable UFA Studio, the lives of a middle-class Berlin family unfold from the present day into a realistic near future, a time of great uncertainty and change as siblings deal with their hopes and fears as they face their future in a destabilised world.

Besides this, they are producing one of my all times favorite novels, a property handled in the 90s by German uber agent Sigrid Narjes (Above The Line Agency).  Together we tried unsuccessfully to find interested US coproducers. The Physician, based on Noah Gordon’s international bestseller was first published in English in 1986.  in 1987 it sold more than 6,000,000 copies in Germany alone and in 2004 was voted by German TV viewers as one of the top 10 books of all times (They read in Germany!).  I won't reveal the story which no synopsis can do justice. 
By reviving the UFA brand as one of the world’s most successful and historic brands in cinema production, Bertelsmann, RTL Group and FremantleMedia are also sending a clear message about the importance of cinema in the digital age.

UFA Cinema is a company in the UFA group, one of the most famous and renowned German film and TV companies and the largest producer of audiovisual content in Germany. Universum Film AG, (originally Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft) better known as UFA or Ufa, was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema from 1917 to 1945. After World War II, UFA continued producing movies and television programs to the present day, making it the longest standing film company in Germany.  UFA was created during November 1917 in Berlin as a government-owned producer of World War I propaganda and public service films. It was created through the consolidation of most of Germany's commercial film companies, including Nordisk and Decla. Decla's former owner, Erich Pommer, served as producer for the 1920 film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which was not only the best example of German Expressionism and an enormously influential film, but also a commercial success. During the same year, UFA opened the UFA-Palast am Zoo theatre in Berlin, long time flagship of the Berlinale.

Pressured by the US film industry, in late 1921 UFA was merged with Decla-Bioscop, "with government, industrial and banking support" and a near-monopoly in an industry that produced around 600 films each year and attracted a million customers every day. In the silent movie years, when films were easier to adapt for foreign markets, UFA began developing an international reputation and posed serious competition to Hollywood.  After WWII, working with The Marshall Plan helped them survive but did not help them thrive internationally as US became the dominant force in worldwide cinema.

UFA Cinema was founded early 2008 to produce and commercialize - in Germany and worldwide – between 6 and 10 German- and English-language movies a year, in genres ranging from elaborate screen adaptations of novels and bestsellers, comedies for every target audience, and engaging family entertainment, to sophisticated political films and productions by next-generation moviemakers.

Its team of managing directors consists of Wolf Bauer (producer since 1981), Thomas Peter Friedl (18 years head of distribution for Constantin), Prof. Nico Hofmann (producing, directing and writing since 1985) and Dr. Jürgen Schuster (the new kid on the block since 2006). UFA CINEMA has a presence in all of Germany’s major media centers, with offices in Berlin, Munich, Potsdam and Cologne.

All UFA Cinema productions are distributed in the German-speaking countries by Universal Pictures International Germany and the home entertainment in cooperation with UFA Cinema

A strategic distribution partnership with Focus Features International (FFI) and Universal Pictures International (UPI) makes UFA Cinema a new major player in the German and international cinema sector. Together their international business approach, global production partnerships and contacts with filmmakers around the world make them both unique.

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