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Vicky Miha • Producer

"Yet further confirmation that this story needs to be told"


- We met up with Vicky Miha from Momento Film, producer of Binyam Berhane's Madame Luna, winner of the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award at the MIA in Rome

Vicky Miha • Producer
(© Vittoria Scarpa)

Produced by Vicky Miha and David Herdies for the Swedish company Momento Film, Madame Luna by Eritrean director Binyam Berhane won the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award on 22 October at the MIA (Audiovisual International Market) in Rome. We spoke to Miha about this new project, whose filmography to date includes Oscar nominee Dogtooth [+see also:
film review
interview: Yorgos Lanthimos
film profile
by Yorgos Lanthimos, on which she worked as an assistant producer.

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Cineuropa: Tell us about Madame Luna and how the project began.
Vicky Miha:
The project came about after Binyam Berhane read a newspaper article about a woman who was arrested in Italy on charges of being responsible for the death of a thousand people during the crossing from Libya to the Italian coast. An African woman, herself a refugee, who was a ferryman and who then entered the witness protection program. The initial idea was to make a documentary, but since the woman had already been arrested, it would have been impossible to show her story. So David Herdies, my production partner, decided to develop it as a fiction film project. It's based on a true story, but we've added a lot to it.

So this is the first fiction film by Momento Film, a company that, until now, has specialised in producing documentaries?
Yes, that's how it is. But my background is in fiction, and that's why I became a partner of the company 18 months ago. Momento's filmography is essentially documentary, but we are now developing five fiction films, including Madame Luna and the first feature film by Colombian filmmaker Simón Mesa Soto, winner of the Palm d'Or for best short film at Cannes. The new project, entitled Amparo, will be presented at Turin next month.

How did Palestinian Suha Arraf – winning writer of Lemon Tree [+see also:
film profile
and The Syrian Bride get involved in the Madame Luna project?
When David participated in the EAVE production workshop in Prague, where the project was developed, he was looking for a screenwriter, and Arraf's name came up several times: she was a good choice, a good writer, and could bring a lot to the story from a female perspective, as well as her energy. She shaped the plot a lot.

The film is due to be a co-production, which countries would you like to see involved?
Sweden is the main producer, Italy is a strategic partner because 70% of the film takes place there, so we presented the project at When East Meets West in Trieste, where we won the MIA participation award in Rome, which we are very happy about. We are thinking of involving a third country as a co-producer, which could be France, Germany or Denmark. If it's useful to the project, we may also add a fourth partner. Greece isn’t involved in the project for now, but you never know.

What does it mean, at this stage, to win an award from Eurimages?
It’s extremely important to us because it gives the project a lot of visibility, which will help during the next phases of development. Casting is crucial because we are looking for two African female stars, and it's not easy. There are no obvious choices. Stories from Africa often end up becoming the background to a white protagonist trying to “do good". The Eurimages brand is therefore extremely important at this point in time as it confirms our intention to tell the story from the perspective of an African woman. And of course, it will help us with partners. The prize money (€20,000 euros) is a considerable amount, but this recognition is above all yet further confirmation that this story needs to be told.

What are Momento Film's guidelines as a production house?
Among the most recent productions is Ouaga Girls [+see also:
film profile
, about five female car mechanics in Ouagadougou. We also have a film by the Spanish director Eloy Domínguez Serén, Hamada, in production, set in North Africa, in a refugee camp in the Western Sahara, as well as Gods by multi-awarded filmmaker Ahang Bashi and Transnistra by Anna Eborn. There is a lot of diversity in the stories that Momento Film produces, they are set around the world and are not necessarily Swedish or European. There is a lot of diversity and some strong voices, important stories, almost all of which include a social issue either in the background or foreground.

How is the production landscape evolving in Europe?
We are experiencing some serious challenges. We don't know which business model will be established in the next two years as the big online platforms are getting stronger. We can sell films on these platforms, but we don't know how many people will watch them, the system is still obscure. If you don't know if a film works or not, how do you make the next one and convince people that a story is important and has an audience? Changes are happening very quickly but there are also some new opportunities to explore.

What are the next steps for the Madame Luna project?
The next steps are to finalise some creative elements, work on the third version of the script, find potential partners, and apply for funding in 2018. Shooting should start in the spring of 2019. The film also has support from Europa Creativa and the Swedish Film Institute.

(Translated from Italian)

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