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Marylouise Oates

Film Summit: The Russians Are Coming

March 03, 1987|MARYLOUISE OATES

WEST BERLIN — It was about as far from the Westside as the entertainment industry could go. . . .

But Motion Picture Assn. President Jack Valenti, speaking above the hubbub at a party in West Berlin hosted by West German Ambassador Richard Burt, and his wife, Gahl, was talking the kind of news that everybody west of La Cienega would certainly understand.

Valenti, at the 37th annual Berlin Film Festival, had been meeting for two days with his Soviet counterpart in what diplomats here are describing as a "movies summit."

Chatting with the Soviet representative Elem Klimov, Valenti was enthusiastic about the decisions reached. Klimov--a tall, handsome man who resembles Henry Fonda--will be in Los Angeles later this month, bringing with him eight major Soviet directors. But Valenti said the major result of the meetings was the agreement to try to boost the interchange of film between the two countries.

"We sell more films to East Germany and Bulgaria than we do to the Soviet Union," Valenti said, pointing out that fewer than 10 American films are shown in the Soviet Union each year. He wants to boost that number to more than 20. And with Klimov, he said, he had found "a willingness to listen."

A U.S. film industry representative familiar with the meetings said it was obvious that Klimov in his attempts to change the attitudes of long-entrenched higher-ups in the Soviet film industry was "like someone slugging it out in Stalingrad," with the resistance he was facing.

Although no one would be quoted by name, representatives of the West German film industry were openly upset that the film festival was competing with the American Film Market, which opened in Los Angeles this week.

Both of these meetings are a chance for studios and distributors to show their wares, but the overlap in scheduling has caused a lack of major names at the Berlin festival as well as intercontinental shuttling when the meeting here was only half through. (The festival ends today.)

One assistant to a highly placed West German official said that the day of the film festival here had been set "four or five years in advance--and there is no reason that the American film market should be pulling away distributors during this important meeting."

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