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TV's innovators gather at Omni to trade ideas


Baltimore's Omni Inner Harbor Hotel will be the center of the TV universe this week for about 850 producers and directors from around the world.

INPUT/92, a six-day conference on international TV productions, gets under way today at the Omni with image makers from more than 30 countries screening and discussing each others' works.

The host for this year's forum is Maryland Public Television (MPT), which is one of the reasons it is being held in Baltimore. The conference will mean between $3.6 million and $4 million for the local economy, according to Gil Statler of the Baltimore Arena, Convention and Visitor Association.

It will also mean a rare opportunity for local viewers to see some of the cutting-edge video and film efforts from around the world. MPT will air INPUT entries on Channels 22 and 67 tonight through Thursday at 11.

"INPUT is a unique kind of conference," said Michael B. Styer, senior vice president of broadcasting at MPT. "It's not a film festival. And it's not a marketplace where people are pushing their programs for sale around the world. It's more like a large workshop -- a way for people from different countries to come together and critique each others' work. I don't know of anything else like it dealing with TV."

The conference, which is in its 15th year, was held last year in Dublin. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), SONY Corp. and American Airlines are among the sponsors.

MPT is the host, Styer said, "because we went after it. We felt it fit in with our global approach, and have been trying for a number of years to get it."

As competition from cable and independent TV increases and government funding decreases, MPT and other public TV stations have turned increasingly to joint international productions with film and TV operations from other countries. "After the Warming" and "Legacy" are two such international co-productions which MPT did for PBS.

That's the global approach Styer referred to. INPUT is a key place, he said, for seeing what's happening on TV in other parts of the world and networking with some of the producers.

"Beyond that, we think INPUT could be very good for Baltimore," Styer said. "Here are hundreds of TV producers from around the world who, for the most part, might not know anything about Baltimore or Maryland. And they are going to come here, and we feel that they are going to be very impressed with what they see. And then, they may come back here and do some filming depending on what they are working on. . . . These are international opinion-type leaders. Even if they don't come back and film, they'll talk about the area."

Local viewers are likely to be talking about some of the INPUT films shown on MPT this week.

'Marcial's Version'

"Marcial's Version," MPT's first offering at 11 tonight, comes from Argentina. The 14-minute film is about two young men, the attraction of one of the men to the other and murder. As Marcial tells a police investigator his version of how his friend died, we are shown what really happened.

The film is intriguing, thick-with-atmosphere and ends with a graphic image of violence. That final image is filmed so that the connection between sex and violence -- the kiss-kiss/bang-bang of film, to use the language of former New Yorker magazine film critic Pauline Kael -- is impossible to miss.

'Facing Death'

"Facing Death," which also airs tonight, is a film that American TV viewers probably need to be warned about. It's Swedish and it unblinkingly documents the final days in the life of Karin Westman, the mother of filmmaker Lars Westman. If nothing else, seeing Westman's documentary will help viewers recognize how death is sugar-coated when dealt with on TV here.

Tuesday night's lineup features "Abducted Children," a Danish film about children taken to foreign countries by their fathers in custody battles, and "Le Passe Retrouve" ("The Recovered Past"), a French production about a woman who returns to her native city of Istanbul after nearly 60 years.

Wednesday night the films are from Israel and Taiwan. "Marion, Levana, Czerniak, Maazin -- For Instance" explores the different ways four people deal with death. "Moon Children" is about prejudice and the life of albinos in Taiwan.

Thursday's lineup on MPT features films from Norway, Finland and a multicultural production made in Rio, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo, Dakar and New York.

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