PBS at DIFF
Dec 17,2010 - 05:20 PM
Alongside representatives from Hollywood outfits such as Sony Pictures Entertainment and the Weinstein Company, US presence at DIFF includes the venerable public service broadcaster, PBS.
Its director of international acquisitions, Charles Schuerhoff, is here supporting the PBS co-production ‘In Search of Oil and Sand’, a documentary that was last night awarded the USD15,000 Screen Institute Beirut DIFF Documentary Award at the close of the Dubai Film Connection. The film relates the remarkable story of Cairo’s ‘Zohreya set’ of royals, diplomats and visiting Hollywood stars, and their surprisingly prescient pet film project about a military coup, completed just weeks before the overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy in 1952.
‘In Search of Oil and Sand’ uses material from that film project as well as archive and new interviews. Schuerhoff saw material from the film at the Toronto Documentary Forum in May and recently confirmed PBS as co-producer. ‘It’s catnip for television,’ he says. ‘It’s like going into a dusty basement and discovering a locked room in which is a treasure chest of amazing secrets.’
Schuerhoff is also interested in DIFF as a showcase for ‘a different selection of films than I normally see, with an emphasis on films from the Middle East and North Africa.’ PBS is potentially interested both in acquiring completed films ‘to fill television timeslots – one hour for the most part’ and finding other work-in-progress projects to develop as co-producer.
As the representative of a TV platform, Schuerhoff likes to watch content on the small screen. ‘Our clients view programmes on television so I avoid the theatre screenings,’ he says. ‘I prefer the videotheque and this is a good one, technically and practically. Overall, DIFF seems very well organised. The logistical aspects are excellent. And it has the best chairs I’ve seen at a festival, bar none.’