Unifrance Rendez-Vous returned in person in Biarritz, France following a two-year COVID-related hiatus, with a well-attended edition that kicked off on Sunday, September 4 with its traditional welcome reception at Les Halles, the market area in the heart of the Basque city.

Approximately 250 acquisition and programming executives, mostly from Western and Eastern Europe, attended the Rendez-Vous, which was held at the Bellevue Conference Center, just like previous editions. This most recent event was the first organized by French media entity Unifrance, which absorbed original organizer TV France International. There, buyers screened over 1,000 titles of French content and networked with representatives from 62 French distribution companies. The Rendez-Vous ended on September 8.

Unifrance’s Philippe Vacquie was very pleased with the turnout, considering the difficulties still existing for executives travelling from Asia. (There are sanitary restrictions, as well as some longer flight times due to the fact that many Asian airlines refuse to fly over Russian air space.)

In addition to many buyers from Eastern Europe (with the exception of Russian companies, which were not invited), returning buyers included large contingents from Germany, Spain, and Italy, the main countries of export for French content. Many executives were particularly interested in documentaries, including Mediaset’s Giada Masina, who was glad to have had the opportunity to screen new titles at the Rendez-Vous since the BBC Showcase (one of her main sources of factual fare) has not yet returned to a live, in-person affair since 2019.

Hailing from Italian-speaking Switzerland, RSI’s Gea Montorfani was back in Biarritz hoping to find a larger selection of dubbed titles. And TG4 Ireland’s Laura Ni Cheallaig emphasized how the increase in buying competition and the reduced availability of U.S. content (which mostly ends up on the studios’ own streaming platforms) makes the supply of French TV fare — and European fare in general — more important and appealing.

During the event, Unifrance held a press conference at the Biarritz Casino’s theater to release the 2021 figures for French audiovisual exports. Unifrance’s Sarah Hemar, together with state media organization representatives, CNC’s Cecile Lacoue and SEDPA’s Emmanuelle Jouanole, presented the detailed report. A total of 375.9 million euro (U.S. $380.24 million) in sales, pre-sales, and co-production investments was registered for French audiovisual programs in 2021. Sales in the drama genre were up 21.8 percent compared to 2020, while sales of animation and documentaries suffered a drop as a consequence of pandemic-related delays. Animation remained the genre with the most exports. Western Europe was still the biggest buyer of French content (with Germany, U.K., and Italy at the top), followed by North America and Asia/Oceania.

In terms of recreational activities, Rendez-Vous held its opening event at Les Halles market, where store vendors open their doors to delegates and offer local delicacies to the gourmet-loving buyers in attendance. At this year’s event, Biarritz’s mayor, Maider Arosteguy, was in attendance.

New this year was the presence of talent at the event, part of Unifrance’s enhanced international promotion strategy. On Monday evening a gala screening of historical series Diane de Poitiers (The King’s Favorite) saw the participation of cast members Isabelle Adjani, Hugo Becker, and Virginie Ledoyen, in addition to director and producer Josee Dayan and Passion Films’ Gaspard de Chavagnac, who executive-produced the series.

Other thematic lunches and dinners were held for all participants: Studiocanal sponsored a lunch to promote doc series L’Europe des merveilles (The Wonders of Europe) and ARTE Distribution sponsored a cocktail party to promote documentary Landmark Nature & Wildlife, with live demonstrations of drone photography techniques over Biarritz’s famous beach. The theme of the closing dinner and party held on the last evening was based on series OPJ Pacifique Sud (Pacific Criminal). Actress Lisa Texeira was in attendance. Most participants left the following morning with a special chartered flight to Paris organized by Unifrance. A similar flight from Paris to Biarritz was arranged on Sunday afternoon.

Next year’s Biarritz Rendez-Vous dates are set for September 3-7, 2023. Unifrance/TVFI will have its usual umbrella pavilions at MIPCOM and — for the first time since 2019 — at Asia TV Forum in Singapore.

Pictured above: The business aspect of the Rendez-Vous, alongside the recreational elements, which included the presence of talents such as Isabelle Adjani and Lisa Texeira

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