REPORT: Works in Progress 2018 @KVIFF
by Martin Kudláč
- KARLOVY VARY 2018: Domestic projects and others from Central and Eastern Europe rubbed shoulders in this year’s revamped edition of Works in Progress at Karlovy Vary
It was mostly feature debuts that were introduced this year at Karlovy Vary as part of the Works in Progress industry sidebar. This year’s shake-up of the industry programme saw domestic projects and those from Central and Eastern Europe rub shoulders in one place, thus doing away with the Pitch & Feedback session from previous editions, designed for Czech and Slovakian works in progress. The broadening of the territorial scope in the East of the West competition, now reaching all the way to the countries of the Middle East, also applied to the industry part of the gathering.
The Works in Progress Award (see the news), worth €100,000 in post-production services from Soundsquare and a cash prize of €10,000 from Barrandov Studio, was handed to the project All This Victory by Ahmad Ghossein, produced by Myriam Sassine (of Abbout Productions). “The director and producer of this project presented it with precision and deep personal involvement, convincing us of their ability to build a multi-layered film world within a limited space, using minimalistic yet cinematic methods of storytelling. We expect this movie to impress and resonate with audiences, as it manages to rise above the particularities of a military conflict, implying questions of existential importance with a bitter smile,” stated the jury.
Below is an overview of the various projects presented.
The pitch for All This Victory
All This Victory – Ahmad Ghossein (Lebanon/France/Germany)
“All This Victory is a powerful film based on real-life events that happened in the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel. While this dreadful event from Lebanon's recent history has been represented well enough in documentaries and from the Israeli perspective in fiction, Ahmad's personal take on the subject is unique. Coming from Southern Lebanon, Ahmad manages to adapt a true story into a film that’s both serious and satirical, tackling, beneath the surface of a claustrophobic war film, the generational conflicts and endless loop that Lebanon has been stuck in for many decades.” This is how producer Myriam Sassine, of Abbout Productions, introduced the feature debut by Lebanese filmmaker and video artist Ahmad Ghossein. All This Victory follows the character of Marwan during a 24-hour ceasefire in a war between Hezbollah and Israel, as he searches for his father and ends up being caught under a hail of bombs. The film has already been shot and is currently being edited. “We have reached an advanced cut,” Sassine revealed to Cineuropa. She said the final cut should be ready in February or March 2019. The project is intended as a Lebanese-French-German co-production; however, producers are still looking for funds in Europe, including post-production funds, in-kind post services, international sales agents, distributors and festivals.
Certified Mail – Hisham Saqr (Egypt)
Experienced Egyptian editor Hisham Saqr started working on his first feature-length directorial project, Certified Mail, with his own company, White Feather, before being joined by Mohamed Hefzy of Film Clinic and co-producer Mohamed Samir of DayDream Art Production. Certified Mail revolves around Hala, who has been struggling with depression and suicide attempts. After her husband is put behind bars, she has to face her fears and depression alone, all the while taking care of their six-month-old daughter. “I’ve made a film about the idea of loss and how, surprisingly, one can find the inner strength to deal with it. How a normal person who’s emotionally fragile can cope with such incomprehensible emotions as anxiety and depression, which leads to suicidal thoughts,” revealed writer-producer-director Hisham Saqr. The final cut is expected to be ready by early 2019, as the film is currently at the editing stage. “We are looking for some finances to finalise the editing and for music composition fees, as well as post-production services,” said co-producer Mohamed Samir. On top of that, producers are also looking for international sales agents and distributors as well as festivals. The release in the Middle East and North African territories has already been secured by Film Clinic Indie Distribution. Samir talked to Cineuropa, explaining the background to the project: “Hisham and I are from the same generation, and we share the same ideals about cinema. We also share the same struggle, working in a market that only invests in films that can easily be consumed by a mainstream audience. So I’ve always believed that, as a generation, we should work together more in order to change the market little by little; that is why my company is now dedicated only to first and second feature projects. Knowing Hisham and reading the script, it was obvious that this would be one of those films that has a singular voice, can make a unique artistic contribution, and can stand strong in the regional and international market.”
The pitch for The Flying Circus
The Flying Circus – Fatos Berisha (Kosovo)
Kosovar theatre, television and film director Fatos Berisha, the former director of the Kosovo Cinematography Center, has shot his feature debut, The Flying Circus, which has now entered the post-production phase. Billed as a black comedy, the film is based on a true story, a situation experienced by writer-director Berisha, who was invited to visit a theatre festival in Albania with his play The Flying Circus, inspired by the legendary British show Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The troupe decides to embark on a dangerous road trip to Albania in order to meet their idol, Michael Palin. “It tells the story of a unique and surreal journey undertaken by four young actors who cross borders within the Balkans during dangerous times,” producer Vjosa Berisha told Cineuropa. “The camera is the fifth person that follows this strange, dangerous and funny journey.” As the release on the festival circuit is planned for the beginning of next year, the producer is seeking post-production funding of around €100,000 (“A possible co-producer can join at this stage,” says Berisha) and distributors.
Leakage – Suzan Iravanian (Iran/Czech Republic)
Iranian filmmaker, writer, photographer and graphic designer Suzan Iravanian is finishing her feature debut, Leakage, made as an Iranian-Czech co-production. Judging by Leakage’s synopsis, it is an intriguing story about a woman in her fifties, Foziye, who is trying to find her husband in order to tell him something important, which happens to be the fact that her body has developed a strange, unfamiliar feature. As the filmmaker confirmed to Cineuropa, Leakage will not only investigate “the possible implications of the presence of oil in whatever we encounter, but it also reflects what can be described as contingent human transformations and unprecedented changes within an uncertain geography and a vulnerable community”. She adds, “Oil poisons and transforms our perception of reality, and the key lies in showing this manipulated reality through the creation of the lead character as a woman who is a very recent product of societies that have become integrated with ambiguity and unpredictability as essential elements of the Middle Eastern lifestyle.” The sound design and colour correction are being finalised, as the director is eyeing a release in early September. They are currently pursuing funding, sales agents and distributors.
The pitch for Let There Be Light
Let There Be Light – Marko Škop (Slovakia/Czech Republic)
Slovak filmmaker Marko Škop is also finalising his next feature-length effort, Let There Be Light, following his fiction-feature breakthrough, Eva Nová [+see also:
interview: Marko Škop
film profile]. Incidentally, Škop attended the Pitch & Feedback event at Karlovy Vary last year (see the report). Tackling the timely topic of xenophobia and right-wing extremism among young people, Škop also holds up a mirror to the protagonist, whose son is accused of bullying, leading to the death of one of his classmates. Principal photography wrapped earlier this year, and Škop is expected to be working on the post-production until the end of 2018, eyeinga world premiere at the beginning of 2019. He is currently seeking financing or partners for post-production, and a sales agent.
Mamonga – Stefan Malešević (Bosnia and Herzegovina/Serbia/Montenegro)
The project Mamonga, which is being readied as a co-production between Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, was written and is being directed by Stefan Malešević, who has realised several projects under the mentorship of Béla Tarr at film.factory in Sarajevo. This will be his feature-length directorial debut. Mamonga is a modern triptych about “alienation and incompatibility, depicted through the consequences of the decisions that the female and male protagonists made in their youth”. The director talked to Cineuropa, revealing more about the project: “Shot in a series of long takes in diverse locations ranging from a desolate mountain village in Montenegro, through industrial suburbia in Bosnia, to a busy metropolis in Serbia, Mamonga follows the protagonists over a period of ten years in a ripple-effect narrative structure, dealing with primal topics such as the relationship between choice and consequence, intention and outcome, destiny and chance, good and evil…” The project is currently in the editing phase while still looking for post-production funding, sales agents and contacts with festivals and distributors. The world premiere is envisioned for early 2019. “As the director of the film, I feel that the broad scope of its themes, in combination with an authentic, slow-paced style that conveys the atmosphere of the authentic locations it was shot in, is what makes this movie stand out,” concludes the director.
The pitch for Matriarch
Matriarch – Jure Pavlović (Croatia/France/Serbia/Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Croatian filmmaker Jure Pavlović, who won the European Film Award for Best European Short Film with Picnic in 2015, is working on his first feature-length fiction project, Matriarch. The film's official synopsis reads: “Jasna returns to her home town to take care of her dying mother. But even while lying bed-ridden, her mother's immobile body still radiates a daunting authority over those who surround her. As the days go by, Jasna gets entangled in the web of grudges that she was desperately trying to escape. Will she finally confront her mother or lose herself in her smothering embrace?” Producer Bojan Kanjera of Sekvenca Production remarked that the movie has “a specific and unique directorial approach. Most of the film is shot as close-ups, and it consists of continuous long takes following the lead character throughout the movie, thus creating tension in a very subtle way.” Emphasising the most remarkable formal aspect of the film, he said, “The whole movie is shot as close-ups – literally every scene is more or less an extreme close-up of the leading actress.” Matriarch is at an advanced stage of editing, according to the producer, who added that they plan to have the picture lock by the end of the summer, whilst post-production should wrap by the end of 2018. Kanjera adds that they are looking for potential co-producing partners or investors to complete the film, along with sales agents and distributors. The world premiere is preliminarily set for winter 2019.
Monsters – Marius Olteanu (Romania)
Romanian writer-director Marius Olteanu is editing his first feature-length offering, Monsters, which should be finished by the end of the summer, before the music, sound mixing and colour grading are completed in the autumn. The release is scheduled for early 2019. Olteanu observes the last 24 hours in the life of a married couple, Dana and Arthur, in a three-act structure, with the first two acts dedicated to each of the partners, shot in a 1:1 ratio and unspooling at the same time, before the partners are reunited in CinemaScope. “Monsters is not intended as a militant film built around a conviction; it is a movie that seeks to question love and its manifestations, to bring life choices to the fore and affirm them in order to let the viewer observe for him or herself, empathise and, if he or she needs to, decide for themselves. Making people think, instead of believing without questioning things, is the driving force behind this film for me,” says the writer-director. The producer is looking for co-producers, post-production funds, sales agents and distributors.
The pitch for My Morning Laughter
My Morning Laughter – Marko Djordjevic (Serbia)
“My Morning Laughter is a coming-of-age movie, but with one huge exception – the main protagonist is not a teenager, but a 30-year-old virgin. In a broader sense, it is a story about my generation, a generation that was overprotected by our parents, who did their best to shield us from the awful reality that was lurking outside of our homes,” Serbian writer-director Marko Djordjevic says by way of an introduction to his feature debut. Principal photography has already wrapped, and the producer hopes to have the final cut ready in August 2018 and to release My Morning Laughter in early 2019. Producer Miloš Pušić called the film “a drama with a lot of subtle, undercover humour”. Pušić also said that they are currently pursuing post-production funding in addition to looking for festival programmers, international sales agents and distributors.
Oleg – Juris Kursietis (Latvia/Belgium/Lithuania)
After his successful debut effort, Modris [+see also:
film profile], Latvian filmmaker Juris Kursietis is currently editing his sophomore feature, entitled Oleg. The title refers to the protagonist, a butcher who decides to emigrate to Belgium in order to solve his debt problems. However, the situation in this new country does not unfold in line with Oleg’s expectations, owing to his status as a foreigner, and he ends up enduring both physical and psychological terror. The story doubles as a person’s initiation into manhood and a portrayal of modern-day slavery. The project’s producer, Alise Gelze of Tasse Film, confirmed that the film should be ready by the end of 2018 in order to begin its festival run in early 2019. She revealed that at this point, they are looking for possible international sales agents, distributors and festivals. She describes the movie as portraying the “dark, hidden corners inside modern-day Babel. Director Juris Kursietis has managed to provide an intimate, insider’s view on a closed group of immigrants in Belgium. The natural linguistic mix between the characters and the inaccessibility of the seemingly accessible outside world build up a very strong barrier and cause a sense of claustrophobia for the main protagonist.”
The pitch for Treasure City
Treasure City – Szabolcs Hajdu (Hungary/Romania)
Accomplished Hungarian filmmaker Szabolcs Hajdu, who won the Crystal Globe and the Best Actor Award at Karlovy Vary in 2016 for It’s Not the Time of My Life [+see also:
interview: Szabolcs Hajdu
film profile], which was shot in his own flat, is readying his next project, Treasure City, as a Hungarian-Romanian co-production. The plot is described as unfurling over the course of one night and combining three storylines: “The conflict between a Protestant priest and his family; the parenting struggles of a political activist with her teenage daughter; and the marriage crisis of a middle-aged actor and his wife.” The film’s producer, Jim Stark, said the picture is a micro-budget project following the interconnected stories of 22 characters as they interact during a 90-minute period on “one magical night”. He continued, “The project grew out of a series of sketches that Szabolcs Hajdu developed with the participants of a summer film camp in Transylvania for young people who want to work in film.” Treasure City is being made independently of any type of state funding. Stark confirmed, “Except for two days of pick-up shots, the film has been completely shot, and an editor is already working on the cut.” The movie is planned to be premiered during the first half of 2019, and they are currently looking for funding or grants and co-producers “to finish the sound design and mix, titles and colour correction”, along with an international sales agent.
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