Kids on the Silk Road (which includes the IDFA Kids & Docs competition entry Bird Boy)  Push, as well as Eva Mulvad’s Love Child, screening at IDFA’s Masters, were supported by Nordisk Film & TV Fond. 

The 15-part series Kids on the Silk Road directed by the award-winning directors Camilla Magid, Kaspar Astrup Schröder, Simon Lereng Wilmont, Jens Pedersen, was sold by Vienna-based Autlook Film Sales to ETV Estonia, Al Jazeera, New Zealand Sky and EBS Korea. The ambitious series featuring 15 children living on the ancient trade route between China and Europe, was produced by Toolbox Film in association with Pedersen & Co.

Salma Abdalla, managing director of Autlook Film Sales said she came early on board and worked on pre-sales and co-production agreements outside Denmark (DR-DFI-Danida). International broadcasters involved include NRK, UR, Arte Junior, and TVC Spain. So far 10 out of the 15x22’ films have been delivered.

Part of the series,  Bird Boy by Simon Lereng Wilmont (The Distant Barking of Dogs) tells of Reshat (12) who lives in Azerbaijan. He shares with his father who died a year earlier, a passion for pigeons and wants to become a great pigeon trainer. 

Speaking about Kids on the Silk Road, Autlook’s managing director Abdalla told there is definitely a market for kids docs, but you need specific elements in place: “People are looking for 15-20’ formats, fast pace narratives, strong characters and directors. The whole experience on Kids on the Silk Road was challenging, also on a logistics point of view, to arrange visas and travel arrangements around the world for the crews. It wasn’t an easy production, but so rewarding,” said Abdalla.

The remaining five films are in production; final delivery of all 15 episodes is set for late 2020. 

Autlook’s other IDFA Nordic title Push by seasoned Swedish director Fredrik Gertten was sold to Frenetic (Switzerland), VPRO (Hollland), Demiurg (former Yugoslavia), DBS (Israel), SFR (Switzerland) and Globosat (Brazil).  The thought-provoking film about gentrification has attracted a lot of attention worldwide, picking up several awards such as the audience award at CPH:DOX, Best Feature at San Francisco Green Film Fest, Young Jury Award at Docs Barcelona, Youth Award at Nuremberg Human Rights Film Festival. The film is also enjoying a strong theatrical release in Germany via Mindjazz (more than 10,000 admissions) prior to itsTV premiere on Arte. 

Gertten introduced PUSH to IDFA audiences on Sunday alongside UN special rapporteur on housing Leilani Farha (featured in the film) and tomorrow (November 27), the film produced by WG Film will screen at the Swedish Parliament. 

Love Child (Danish Documentary) which had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival,  is screening this week at IDFA’s Master programme as a European premiere. Abdalla who collaborated with Cinetic on the North American launch, said she is starting to discuss the film with buyers who were waiting for an edited TV version. The love story and refugee film about a family fleeing Iran has won a Special mention at DOC NYC and a Gold Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival.

Commenting on the overall market, Abdalla said: “documentary releases are more complex than ever, considering the rapid changes in the industry. It’s become more of a joint effort, and we work closely with producers, exec producers, financiers and directors to maximise revenues. There are definitely more opportunities out there”, said Abdalla who is enjoying the success of the Syrian war film For Sama by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts (more than 60,000 admissions in France).

“However”, she continues, “in a crowded market, it’s also easy for a film to fall through, if you don’t get a certain level of attention. More than ever, you need a strong narrative, different layers, high production values.”