Embassy Roadshows take Aussie films to 20+ countries

Producer Mark Lazarus promoting Australian Rules in GhanaMini-Australian Film Festivals have recently taken place in countries as diverse as Nepal, Malaysia and Ghana, as part of the Screen Australia/Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Embassy Roadshow program.

“The program is very popular with both diplomatic posts and audiences around the world,” a Screen Australia spokesperson told Encore.The Embassy Roadshow initiative is in its ninth year and facilitates these mini-festivals through Australian Embassies overseas, to increase awareness and appreciation of Australia’s film culture.

Each year Screen Australia submits to DFAT a list of theatrically-released productions for the preceding year. The one year delay in submission allows sales agents to maximise film sales and releases in international territories prior to becoming involved in the Embassy Roadshow.

A DFAT panel selects five titles to be negotiated for acquisition into the collection. The selection is based on the film’s appeal to the broadest number of territories and audiences, and takes into account potential international cultural and religious sensitivities.

The program was launched with 20 features and eight shorts in late 2000.

“Our first full year of activity was 2001 and we arranged 12 screenings and operated at the rate of one site per month. In 2010 we are operating at the rate of 20 sites annually and our collection has grown substantially to include 68 features and 33 shorts in the general collection, currently 11 features with Arabic subtitles, four titles with Indonesian subtitles and 14 features in our Spanish subtitled collection,” said the spokesperson.

Screen Australia manages the list of titles, offering it to embassies for use in their territory. They make a selection and can receive advice and guidance from Screen Australia about how to set up a film event.

International rights are cleared by Screen Australia. Once an embassy makes its selection, the agency contacts the films’ sales agent to determine which titles are available for screening in that specific territory, and to determine the right contact in case the rights have been licensed. When the required authorisations are secured, Screen Australia forwards to prints to DFTA, with a selection of publicity material. Each embassy is responsible for creating its own publicity campaign.

The festivals are paid for by DFTA’s fund for public diplomacy briefings, events and initiatives to advance Australia’s foreign and trade policy interests and to promote a positive and contemporary image of the country. They can also find private sponsorship.

“Sometimes  embassies are also able to support the attendance of an Australian film director or actor to speak at the festival and conduct workshops with the local film industry,” added the Screen Australia spokesperson.

Earlier this month, Mark Lazarus, producer of Australian Rules, visited the city of Accra to present his film in Ghana.  The 2002 film was considered the main title screening at the festival.


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