- What place do French films hold at major international festivals?
- Which out of Cannes, Venice, Sundance, Locarno, or Berlin select the most French films proportionally?
- How well does French cinema fare among the awards at these events?
- What is the proportion of coproductions in this French presence?
- Is French the main language of the French films selected at these festivals?
- What percentage of the French films screened at these festivals are directed by women?
- What is the impact of a festival selection on the international lifecycle of a French film?
- Which of the 10 festivals studied has the greatest influence on the selection of French films in other festivals?
- What is the impact of so-called “festival” films on the global box-office of French films released abroad?
To answer these and other questions, in a fast-changing sector and at a time when international partners are playing an ever-increasing role in terms of the financing and distribution of French films, UniFrance asked the Sorbonne School of Media and Digital to undertake a major study, supervised by Professor Joelle Farchy and the Studies and Markets department of UniFrance, into the place of French cinema from 2008 to 2017 in the 10 international film festivals listed below:
Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival
Berlin International Film Festival
Busan International Film Festival
Cannes International Film Festival
Locarno Film Festival
Rotterdam International Film Festival (IFFR)
San Sebastian International Film Festival (SSIFF)
Sundance Film Festival
Toronto International Film Festival
Venice International Film Festival
This study shows that French films often have a more prominent position on the international stage than during their theatrical release, since French cinema is the most visible national cinema, along with American films.
The study’s consideration of all types of coproduction – a sector in which French producers are very active – reveals a very international side of French cinema. The great majority of French films shown at festivals are, in fact, coproductions, confirming the importance accorded by the French system to filmmakers and film industries from elsewhere around the world. As a result, foreign directors are on an equal footing with their French counterparts in terms of bringing French cinema to the festival circuit. Likewise, the works showcased in festival line-ups worldwide are not always in the French language.
Festivals provide a formidable echo to French cinema, since circulation at the major global film events boost the international lifecycle of French films and has a genuine positive impact on their sales and commercial distribution.
This study confirms the unique place of French cinema on the international stage, and reflects the enduring appeal of French production amongst a different audience to that in commercial movie theaters. It justifies Unifrance’s policy of working with festival directors, supporting producers, sales companies, and talent during the presentation of films, and continuing its actions during commercial releases.
The study reveals the following elements:
French cinema holds a preponderant place at international festivals
• French cinema occupies a major place in international festivals, on an equal footing with American cinema, and far ahead of any other European countries.
American films feature in 20% of festival line-ups, French films in 16%. Excluding Sundance and Cannes, the number of French films present in festivals exceeds that of American films (+2%).
• Cannes, Venice, Locarno, and San Sebastian are the festivals which proportionally select the most French films.
By number of films presented over the past 10 years, Toronto came first, followed by Cannes and Busan. Last on the list was Sundance.
• French cinema wins the most major awards at these festivals.
The presence of French cinema at these festivals is based on coproductions
• These international festivals reveal the strength of the French coproduction sector: 66% of French films selected are coproduced, and 85% of awards are won by coproductions.
France is the leading coproducer country. Its main coproduction partner countries are Germany, Belgium, and Italy.
The diversity of French cinema is very visible in the line-ups of international festivals
• 52% of the French films screened at international festivals are directed by non-French cineastes.
• Only a slim majority of the French films in selections are in the French language (56%), ahead of English, Spanish, and Arabic.
• 25% of French films selected are directed by women.
One can note that female directors are less likely to receive awards than their male counterparts.
Being selected for a major international festival has a positive impact on a film’s international success
• French films circulate in more festivals than those of any other country after having been selected in one of the 10 festivals studied.
Coproductions circulate more widely at festivals (2.04 events on average) than solely French productions (1.46).
Toronto is the festival that feeds off the selections in other festivals most (notably Cannes and Venice).
• A French film selected by an international festival sells in twice as many territories as a film that was not picked.
Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, and Sundance have a very strong positive impact on sales and releases.
• Among all French films, those that screened in festivals account for 47% of the total admissions generated by French films released outside France between 2009 and 2017.
• Inclusion in the official selection in Cannes generates the most commercial releases. Then comes the Gala section Toronto and the official selection in Venice.
A category 1 award results in twice as many releases than a category 2 award.
The full study can be downloaded at the bottom of this page (French version only)