LOCARNO– New titles from “The Pretenders’” Vallo Toomla and Sara Summa, director of “The Last to See Them,“ rub shoulders with Nina Menkes’ “Minotaur Rex” and scarefest “All the World Drops Dead,” from Kevin Kopacka, in a lineup of some 150 projects being brought to Locarno Pro networking and co-production forum Match Me!
Shepherding them are 30 producers hailing from the length and breadth of Europe, plus Taiwan and the Dominican Republic, in town for the three-day event, kicking off Friday.
Set up at mainly young-ish production houses, they underscore major trends now coursing through European cinema: the rise of genre and animation – such as Christophe Reveille’s “To Live and Die with Che Guevara” an animated doc feature about three guerrillas who pledged allegiance to Che Guevara – as well as films of large artistic ambition made on contained budgets, such as Taiwan’s “Goodbye North, Goodbye.”
Above all, there’s a gathering shift from straight-arrow arthouse drama to genre-bending thrillers that nevertheless maintain art pics’ traditional social issue focus.
Following, a drill down on Match Me! producers, their companies and some of the banner titles hitting the Locarno market this year:
Ico Abréu, iFilm
Eco/social issue focused over a building 20-year plus TV and experimental career, Ico is now moving into ever more substantial works such as anthology double movie “Motel” and
two features in development: Historical drama “El Guerrillero y el General,” and action-thriller “Predicament” “A sordid story with the natural beauty of La Hispaniola island (Dominican Republic and Haiti) as a canvas,” says Abreu, “Predicament” turns on a principled man driven to crime to rescue his daughter.
Lei González, Media Jíbara
Behind coming of age drama “Mermaid” (“Sirena”), from Olivia De Camps (“Digital Bodies”) and Nayibe Tavares’ “Colosal,” Media Jíbara is a production house that centres on films from female filmmakers, emerging directors, the LGBTQ+ community and personal stories with a global reach. At Locarno with “Sofia,” a “visceral and provocative movie,” González says, about “a woman whose self-destructive behaviour in relationships can be put down to a bitter buried past of abuse.”
Adeele Tähemaa, Taska Film
One of Estonia’s weightiest outfits, specialised in big period pieces, and behind one of the country’s biggest B.O. hits of all time, “Names in Marble,” as well as the smash hit movie trilogy “Melchor the Apothecary,” a Medieval procedural picked up by Global Screen. At Locarno with “Life and Love,” a 1933-set tragic love story, and “Dirt in Your Face,” a rock band drama set in a soon-to-end Soviet Union Estonia, “an inside view of the youth in a society that longed for freedom and finally sang itself free,” says Tähemaa.
Johanna Maria Paulson, Stellar Film
Behind “The Sleeping Beast,” Jaak Kilmi’s dark coming of age tale, and “The Weight of Light,” from “Smoke Sauana Sisterhood’s” Anna Hints. At Locarno with “At Your Service,” a Variety Estonia highlight, and one of Locarno Pro’s most anticipated market debuts: “Beatrice,” a futuristic love story marking the second fiction film of director Vallo Toomla, who wowed at 2016’s San Sebastian with debut “Pretenders. “Although the main premise of the film is an idea straight out of science-fiction, the most important question it poses is who we are as human beings,” says Paulson.
Clémence Crépin Neel, Moderato
Founded in 2019 by Crépin Neel and Igor Courtecuisse, after producing 15 shorts, Moderato is now developing a first feature slate of committed, eclectic productions, at the crossroads of different genres. Among them, and a banner Locarno project, is “Kingdom of the Blind,” the feature debut of François Robic, about a woman who flees a well-kept secret on her farm in the Pyrenees to start a new life in the neighboring valley. “It’s an original story, coupled with François’ extremely rich visual universe,” says Crépin Neel.
Gaëtan Trigot, Pentacle Productions
Founded in 2020 by sales agent Trigot and producer Baptiste Salvan, with a sales distribution arm and a strong line in animation, such as Christophe Reveille’s “To Live and Die with Che Guevara,” an animated doc feature about three guerrillas who pledged allegiance to Guevara, and after his death, are hunted by thousands of Bolivian soldiers. “I was told that it was impossible to meet all these witnesses of Che’s last expedition. After fifty years of silence, they are in front of my camera. For the first time, their story is told. The story of men of the shadows,” says Trigot.
Katia Khazak, Aurora Films
A fest favorite, of the 11 features that Aurora has made since launching in 2002, six were selected for Cannes, including Leila Kilani’s “On the Edge.” Its flagship Locarno title, Denis Spiridonov’s “Fog,” is set in Moscow in 2016, as a former political prisoner convicted on fabricated charges snaps after struggling to re-enter society. He must now go on the run or go back behind bars. “I would like the audience to feel the complex choices and questions that the late-Putin regime imposed on my fellow countrymen,” says Russia-born Khazak.
Britta Strampe, Bandenfilm
“We focus on audience-driven content that we create with a sense of zeitgeist, humor and intellect, exceeding the limits of traditional storytelling regardless of format or genre,” says Strampe at the Berlin-based Bandenfilm. Behind 2022’s “The Ordinaries,” picked up by The Match Factory, an auspicious quirky comedy feature debut by Sophie Linenbaum, about a girl who feels she is a supporting character in a scripted movie existence. At Locarno with “Octavia Jordan is Not Missed,“ about an accidental kidnapping which sparks a love story, “an almost epic drama that combines elements of comedy and fantasy, unfolding into a fantastic drama,” Strampe says.
Lili Villányi, Manderley Films
Diversely talented, Manderley’s Villanyi doubled up as VFX producer on “All Quiet on the Western Front” and a producer and co-writer of Kevin Kopacka’s “Dawn Breaks Behind the Eyes.” At Locarno, Villanyi will unveil new details of Kopacka’s follow up, another ambitious mystery horror, “All the World Drops Dead,” “a life-affirming film that tells an entertaining and imaginative story with multi- faceted and flawed characters – while still managing to scare its audience senseless,” says Kopacka.
Roxana Richters, Chromosom Film
Encouraged by the success of Jan-Ole Gerster’s “Oh Boy,” and York-Fabian Raabe’s “Borga” to make courageous films with powerful voices and singular penmanship, she says, at Locarno Richters will be pushing “A Safe Place.” A musical set in the snowy wonderland of a wintery small town haunted by recession and depression, it’s the latest from Sara Summa, director of Berlinale 2019 entry “The Last to See Them.” “‘A Safe Place’ is a tragic love story with a genre edge that works as an oneiric allegory for a world where fear of the other has taken over,” says Summa.
Jiries Copti, Fresco Films
Producing and providing production services and finance structuring, an exec producer on Ziad Doueri’s “The Attack,” Fresco Films is re-teaming with Nina Menkes after “Dissolution” on her “Minotaur Rex,” a transposition of the Greek myth to the labyrinthine streets of old Jersualem. A thriller/horror film with a neo-realistic style, “Minotaur Rex” will “combine dream-like, surreal hallucinations and a brutal, quasi-documentary shooting style,” says Copti.
Kobi Mizrahi, KM Productions
A producer on Academy Award nominated “White Eye,” Cannes selected short “Butterflies” and Locarno Silver Leopard winning “Aridity,” all shorts, KM Productions is now looking to move ever more into fiction features. In the hopper, “Wild Animals,” from Yona Rozenkier whose first feature, “The Dive,” was produced by Kobi. A survival drama and parable on people’s difficulty in escaping the fear they’re born with, says Rosenkier, “Wild Animals” turns on two Jewish sisters hiding deep in the forests who believe the Nazis still rule the world.
Angelo Rocco Troiano, Mediterraneo Cinematográfica
Based in southern Italy, and broad-based in its skill-set, producing Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s “Marghe and Her Mother,” and co-producing “Rinoceronte” with Argentina’s AltoCine and working on its distribution. Mediterraneo’s Rocco Troiano will be talking up at Locarno “Sema.” Set in 1947 Italy, it centers on the Gravini family which accuses its young African maid of theft. Daughter Laura, who is close to her, discovers a strange golden box among the stolen items.
David Pagano, Casa delle Visioni
Milan-based, Casa delle Vision hit the ground-running with its first feature, 2019 Berlinale Panorama hit “Selfie” – “vibrant, moving, unexpectedly charming,” said a Variety review. At Locarno with “Aditi,” the story of Leo, 8, taken into foster care with his pet panther Aditi, after his mother is killed. “The story is told by a boy who uses his creative power, imagination, and fantasy, to explain to himself the killing of his mother, which he witnessed. “Everything in Aditi is developed along the fine line between the real and the imaginary,” says Pagano.
Francesca Riccardi, Start
At Locarno to talk up, among other projects, “Mia,” from young Italian doc director Enrico Maisto, a mainstay director at Start, having directed 2017’s “The Call” and “L’eta dell’innocenza” for the Milan-based production and post-pro company. In “Mia”, an Italian woman, around 70, takes in a couple who have immigrated from Senegal and who want their child to be born in Italy. The doc feature describes “forms of kinship described by anthropologists, far from the idea of the traditional Western family, a kind of contemporary anthropological fairy tale,” says Maisto.
Antra Gaile, Air Productions
Air Productions is a female-led production studio based in Riga. Aiming to create impactful stories with a focus on Baltic narratives and women empowerment stories, its latest features include “Sisters in Longing” and “Zoryana Horobraya,” from director Elita Klavina. Advanced in development are “Secrets of the Great Bog,” from Linda Olte, developed at 2021′ CineKid Script LAB, a family-adventure feature about two young sisters helping a young-boy from another world. In early stages of development. from director Dace Pūce, “Superheroine on the Wrong Side of Forty” weighs in as a superhero comedy feature turning on a middle-aged divorcee.
Dārta Krāsone, Trickster Pictures
Recently created, Trickster Pictures was founded by writer-producer-director Matīss Kaža, involved as a producer on the highly awaited animated feature “Flow,” from Gints Zilbalodis. Developing now “The Child,” about a fortysomething couple co-produced by Trickster Pictures, Lithuania’s Afterschool Productions and Poland’s Serce. The film marks the second feature film from Latvian director Olte whose previews work, “Sisters,” was picked up by True Colours and won 1-2 Best Film at the 2022 Warsaw Film Festival. “It speaks about a woman’s struggle with infertility, the role of motherhood in a woman’s life and society,” explains Krāsone.
Brigita Beniušytė, M-Films
Vilnus-based, M-Films was launched by Marija Razguté in 2008. Recent hits include Sundance 2023 directing award “Slow,” from Marisa Kavtaradze, and Spain’s Goya.winning “Out of Sync.” In development “The Visitor” – a second collaboration with new director Vytautas Katkus whose short “Cherries” was selected for last year’s Cannes Competition – has been selected for the Torino FeatureLab. It follows a man’s reconnection with his dad’s old town roots.
Justė Michailinaitė, Broom Films
Established in 2016, recent hits include 2022 Annecy Audience Awardee “Aurora’s Sunrise,” by Inna Sahakyan, and “Beyond Time and Light,” a music-documentary about Lithuania’ rock-band Skyle. Already in post-production, “Pozerskis: In Focus” is a feature documentary that explores the close relationship between artist and their context, turns on photographer Romualdas Požerskis.
Anna Wereda, Autograf
Autograf is looking for international collaborations and co-productions in films and TV series. At Locarno with black comedy “The Funeral is Ready but Death Hasn’t Come,” family drama “The Townhouse Secrets” and psychological drama “The Day of Birth,” in which Natalia, as an adult woman, finds out that she is a child conceived as a result of rape. Despite this, she wants to get to know her father in order to fully know herself. This is “a story about identity, roots, family and burdens. It’s a story about how gaps in knowledge of one’s origins never lose their expiry date,” says Wereda.
Jaroslaw Cieslreski, Forma Production
Produced with PFI, Di Factory and TVP between Ukraine and Germany while shot in Polish and Ukrainian, Makary Janowski’s “Free Yourself,” Cieslreski’s banner project at Locarno, is a “manifesto of freedom and youth.” “The characters find in dance a remedy for failures and the drive to fight for their dreams and values,” says the logline.
Justyna Kluczewka, Raban
Comprising the Raban Foundation and Raban Film Studio, Raban makes TV – collaborating with companies such as Canal+, Netflix, Viaplay and TVP – and films. “Film is our way of telling extraordinary stories that we believe in and want to share with the audience,” says Kluczewka. One case to point: “Cristine,” by Sylwia Rosak, who, Kluczewka adds, was a would-be Miss Poland of 1930 who became Churchill’s favourite spy and the prototype for Vesper Lynd in Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels.
Bernardo Lopes, Omaja
“Our mission is to give voice to new auteurs and embrace projects that we consider culturally relevant and geographically decentralised,” says Lopes. Fast growing, rolling off Portugal’s cash rebate and streaming services’ entry into Portugal, the Lisbon-based Omaja plans to shoot in late 2023 “Tomorrow’s Rain.” Produced, co-written and directed by Lopes, it turns on a summer day in the life of a crumbling family at the peak of the Portuguese financial crisis of 2012, he says.
Catarina de Sousa, Foi Bonita a Festa
Co-founder in 2021 of Foi Bonita a Festa, “developing films driven by singular visions of our times,” and shooting in October “My Senses Are All I Have to Offer,” by Isabela Neves Marques. Set 20 years after the company’s “Becoming Male in the Middle Ages,” a Rotterdam Ammodo Tiger Short Award winner, it turna on Lourdes and Lana, who can communicate by telepathy, and visit one of the couple’s parents’ home.
Paul Carneiro, Bam Bam Cinema
Co-founded by Portuguese directors around the world, behind Fern Silva’s Berlinale Encounters 2021 title “Rock Bottom River.” One banner project at Locarno: “Savanna and the Mountain,” a doc fiction feature recording village locals’ battle to halt a lithium mining project in Portugal’s Trás-os-Montes Barroso, a place included in 2018 on the U.N.’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems. Co-produced and co-written by Alex Piperno (“Window Boy Would Also Like to Have a Submarine”) at Uruguay’s La Pobladora Cine.
Chemi Pérez, Cabo Sur Films
Based out of Spain’s Canary Island of Las Palmas, self-described as a young production company that explores the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, telling stories with a powerful social and cultural background. At Locarno with a project that ticks multiple boxes, “Ever and the Sharks,” part coming-of-age tale, part high-seas adventure, part eco-drama, as leading marine biologist Alejandra Mendoza Pfennig and Ever Apolo, a grieving teen boy, set off together to geotag whale sharks off the Peruvian coast for the first time.
Diego Saniz, Kabiria Films
Founded in 2018, and aiming at a broad-audience art cinema, says Saniz, Saniz hits Locarno with a Madrid Film School ECAM Incubator project, Manuel Manrique’s “Head On The Wall.” It is set in a not-so-distant future Spain where bullfighting is banned, leaving protagonist Rafael Jesús, a bullfighter, at a large loss. “This is the story of a man who can’t find his place in this century,” Saniz relays.
Nadine Rothschild, Materia Cinema
Ultra busy and well-connected, Rothschild and Ines Massa, her partner at Materia Cinema, have at Locarno competition player “The Permanent Picture,” which they co-produced. Rothschild will also be presenting “Qui som,” by Salvador Sunyer, a non-fiction feature, about Baro d’evel, a traveling peformace troupe led by an extraordinary couple, both performance artists, who “receive an assignment that will lead them to understand who they are and what really matters,” a description runs.
PingYu Chiu, Volos Film
A Taiwanese production company founded in 2018 by Italian producer Stefano Centini with an adventurous line in production across Europe and Asia, supporting emerging voices such as Chilean Felipe Gálvez’s “Los Colonos,” a Cannes Fipresci prize winner and Mubi pick-up. At Locarno with “Midnight Inn,” a social drama from Chun Hing Wang, about a man working night shifts at a hotel who becomes involved in a client, a Chinese escort.
Yifang Lee, G-Spot
A go-getting hyphenate currently promoting her first feature film as a director, “Little Blue,” seen at Busan’s A Window on Asian Cinema. Bringing to Locarno one of its most fascinating projects, “Goodbye North, Goodbye,” which frames a story set in a divided Taiwan after a horrific U.S.-China war, reflecting the real-life “uncertainty felt by young Taiwanese envisioning their futures, caught between superpower cultures,” says director Albert Ventura.
Yu-Hao Su, Mascot Films
Telling Taiwanese tales with an international art-house vision, Mascot Films will bring to Locarno “Will You Still Be My Friend?” to be helmed by Po-Shun Lu, who grew up in the same small town as producer Yu-Hao Su. “We’ve always wanted to make films about stories happening in the rural areas in Taiwan. We hope to let the audience reevaluate the social issues caused by the gap between urban and rural areas [in a film made] with Po-Shun’s distinct and realistic cinematic approach,” says Yu-Hao Su.