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REPORT: CineLink 2016

by Giampietro Balia, David González

The Sarajevo Film Festival's CineLink Industry Days, which took place from 15-20 August, included two main strands once again this year: Works in Progress, which is dedicated to films in post-production, and the Co-Production Market, which presents the most promising regional feature projects at the development and financing stage.

The guests at this year’s CineLink Industry Days at the Sarajevo Film Festival had the opportunity to attend an intensive two-day Work-in-Progress session comprising ten fiction projects with a special focus on productions from the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa. Funders, sales agents, distributors, broadcasters and festival programmers from all the major European territories were present at the private screenings to preview clips and, in some cases, already solid rough cuts of the projects selected. The jury was composed of Jan Naszewski (New Europe Film Sales), Giona A Nazzaro (Venice Critics' Week), Michael Reuter (The Post Republic) and Serkan Yıldırım (TRT).

Rezo Gigineishvili’s Hostages (Georgia/Poland)
(TRT Award, €30,000)
Produced by 20 Steps Productions, INK TV and Nebo Film, Hostages is Rezo Gigineishvili’s forthcoming Georgian-Polish co-production; a very intimate and delicate film about the 1983 true story of newly-weds Nika and Ana, who attempt to hijack a flight from Tbilisi to Batumi, and force it to land in Turkey – the closest country to Georgia that is not part of the Eastern Bloc. This controversial picture is sure to generate a lot of debate and, still in its early stages of editing, is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

Nadim Tabet's One of These Days (Lebanon)
(Post Republic Award, €25,000 in kind support)
Already screened at the Cannes Film Market as part of the Lebanon Goes To Cannes initiative and getting ready to touch down in Italy for Venice Last Cut, a work-in-progress version of One of These Days was also presented in Sarajevo in the hopes of raising the amount needed for completing post-production. Director Nadim Tabet and production supervisor Christian Eid presented the audience with a short cut, which quickly summed up the storyline of the film: in a Beirut on the brink of chaos, demonstrations are taking place all over the city as we follow Maya, Yasmina, Tarek and Rami, aged between 17 and 22, whose lives are inadvertently shaken up by the tumultuous reality of the country. Supported by the Doha Film Institute and already sold to MC Distribution for the MENA territory and all mediums, the film is scheduled to be completed in January 2017.


(A moment during the presentation of Touch Me Not)

Adina Pintilie
's Touch Me Not (Romania)
(Post Republic Award, €25,000 in kind support)
Following her successful 2010 documentary short Oxigen, writer-director Adina Pintilie delves into feature-filmmaking, balancing fiction and documentary in her long-form debut Touch Me Not, which follows the emotional journeys of three people in their search for intimacy. With many partners attached to the project, including the prestigious Atelier de la Cinéfondation, TorinoFilmLab, ARTE France and Eurimages, the Romanian-French-German-Bulgarian co-production is still far from completion and will probably be ready to fight for a slot in a major festival starting from April 2017.

Shady Sarour’s Holy Air (Israel)
(Restart Award, €20,000 in kind support)
Adam, a natural-born businessman, gives birth to a brilliant start-up in Adam’s mind: the sale of Holy Air bottles to the millions of pilgrims that are scheduled to arrive to the city of Nazareth due to the Pope’s visit. This is the premise of Shady Sarour’s Holy Air in which he also stars as the leading role. Very close to its final cut, the film will be most likely be brought to the public by treeM productions and cinema virgin in October-November 2016, after securing the money needed to complete the post-production.

Iulia Rugină's Breaking News (Romania)
Winner of Best Romanian Film Award at Transilvania International Film Festival for her short film Dying from a Wound of Love (2014), Iulia Rugină is very close to completing what had to be her debut feature-film but, due to a dysfunctional relationship with the Romanian CNC, has taken 9 years to make. After the tragic death of his cameraman, reporter Alex Mazilu has to make an in-memoriam reportage covering his life. Alex puts together puzzle pieces of this man’s life, all seen through the eyes of his troubled 15 year old daughter. The film is produced by Romanian Hai-Hui Entertainment and it is expected to be completed by fall 2016 with an early 2017 release.

Ram Nehari's Nils (Israel)
After winning the top prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival’s Pitch Point event, helmer Ram Nehari screened some clips off of his forthcoming romantic comedy Nils. Produced by Yifat Prestelnik, the film tells the story of Tom, 24, hospitalized on a closed eating disorder wing and Nil, 27, a gifted classical musician suffering from mental illness. Tom runs into Nil and charms him with her winning smile, getting him to help her escape. The two embark on a nocturnal journey that reveals their illnesses, their passions, and their dreams. The picture is yet to be locked and Prestelnik is looking forward to a late 2016 release.

Ali Ahmadzadeh's Mean Anomaly (Iran)
Accompanied by lead actor and editor of the film Ashhkan Mehri, director Ali Ahmadzadeh, whose debut Kami's Party was nominated at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, presented an almost final cut of his multilayered, knotty Mean Anomaly. Padideh breaks up with Amir. But Amir, relentless to get her back, follows her everywhere. Marie realises that Stephan is bisexual, so she decides to break up with him. In a narrative twist, Amir also sits in a cinema hall and watches the final days of the two relationships reflecting on what went wrong. Very close to being completed, Ali Ahmadzadeh is looking forward to an early release this fall.

Onur Saylak's Daha (Turkey)
Better known in his home country for his acting roles in TV series and feature length films, Onur Saylak pens and helms his debut as director tackling a very delicate subject: human smuggling. The film narrates the transformation of a child alongside his prison, a human smuggling father and immigrants stuffed in a depot for the sake of their hopes. Daha is almost ready and Turkish b.i.t arts looks forward to a November 2016 release.

Mehdi Hmili's Thala My Love (Tunisia)
Helmer Mehdi Hmili pens a love letter to his hometown of Thala, Tunisia, and raises awareness on the massacres the Arab Spring brought upon the region. The film follows the fate of two lovers who are seeking to meet: Mohamed, a political prisoner on the run and Hourya, a courageous factory worker. Developed during the 2012 Interchange at TorinoFilmLab and supported with a Production grant funded by the Tunisian Ministry of Culture, a SANAD development grant funded by Abu Dhabi Film Festival and a Cinemed Development grant funded by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thala my Love already has HAKKA Distribution attached to the project. Still in need of financing in post-production services, Polimovie International Pictures aims at a November 2016 release.

Gjorce Stavreski's The Secret Ingredient (Macedonia)
Best screenplay at the Manaki Script Corner in Macedonia and recipient of the Eave scholarship at the 2014 WEMW, the dark comedy The Secret Ingredient, further developed during the Berlinale Talent Project Market 2015, tells the story of Vele, an underpaid train mechanic, who uses stolen marijuana to make a cake for his father to relieve his cancer pain. Written and directed by Gjorce Stavreski, the film has a Greek partner attached, Graal SA, and is expected to be completed by October 2016.

The Co-Production Market presented 15 projects picked from Southeast Europe and several guest regions. The industry event, which started on 18 August, came to a close during the festival’s awards ceremony (read the news), where its awards were handed out. The jury was made up of Behrooz Hashemian (Silkroad Productions), Cedomir Kolar (ASAP Films), Georges Goldenstern (Cannes Film Festival), Annamaria Lodato (ARTE France), Mimi Gjorgoska-Ilievska (Macedonian Film Agency) and Doina Bostan (Romanian CNC). Here we take a look at the projects that were presented at the Bosnian gathering.

Teona S Mitevska’s God Exists, Her Name Is Petrunija (Macedonia)
(Eurimages Co-production Development Award, €20,000)
Director Teona S. Mitevska (well-known for her previous successful films I Am from Titov Veles and The Woman Who Brushed Off Her Tears) describes her new project as “a simple, almost comical story that accentuates the absurdities of the world we live in.” In God Exists, Her Name is Petrunija, written by herself and Elma Tataragić, she follows Petrunija, who during the unique Macedonian Epiphany ceremony, decides to defy society by being the only woman in charging for a cross that the high priest throws into the local waters, triggering an attack from everyone and a struggle against stereotypes and a collapsed social and justice system. The film is produced by Labina Mitevska (Sisters and Brother Mitevski).

Ziya Demirel’s Ela and Hilmi (Turkey)
(Arte International Relations CineLink Award, €6,000)
The newly-wed Ela and Hilmi fail to have intercourse on their first night. Trying to solve the problem separately they get into a vicious circle of ill communication. Turkish filmmaker Ziya Demirel builds his feature film Ela and Hilmi on this premise, deriving from “our desire to analyse gender expectations in cases of sexual frustration in Turkey.” The director, who has directed short films such as Sali (which competed for Cannes’ Palme d’Or), is now intensively working on this title, also written by him and Nazli Elif Durlu, and produced by Anna Maria Aslanoğlu (Istos Film).

Ruxandra Ghitescu’s Otto the Barbarian (Romania)
(Macedonian Film Agency CineLink Award, €10,000)
Otto, a bright teenage punk, deals with the death of his girlfriend. He continues to live inhabiting the void space left by her, but in order to survive he needs to face his loss and his guilt. The first feature film by Romanian visual artist and filmmaker Ruxandra Ghitescu follows this story, written by herself. She explains, “this story comes from feeling lost in front of the future. As a teenager the time expends in a continuous present with no perspective on what comes next.” The film is produced by Iuliana Tarnovetchi (Alien Film) and has already been financed by Creative Europe and Romania’s CNC.

Norika Sefa’s Looking for Venera (Kosovo)
(MDM Eave Scholarship)
Venera, a timid young girl, must revolt against her patriarchal family in order to understand her best friend, who for the first time has a boyfriend. Kosovan filmmaker Norika Sefa, also a film critic, follows this story in her first feature film, already awarded with the first prize at the MIDPOINT script development workshop. She says, “this is a great excuse to explore my fascination on how young people have to act old and wise in order to take responsibilities, but never have space to grow for their own.” The film is produced by Belina Jano (Animated Society).

Jure Pavlovic’s Awakenings (Croatia/Germany/Slovenia/Serbia)
Jasna is coming back to pay a visit to her mother Anka, an old, bedridden woman, suffering from cancer. Her initial plan is to stay only for a few days, tidy up the place, and sign the legal papers allowing the forced hospitalization of Anka. But sometimes things aren’t going as planed… The first feature film by Croatian filmmaker Jure Pavlovic is, in his own words, “not a movie about destructiveness of death, but about its most life-affirming qualities; not about what it takes away, but what it adds to life.” The project directed and written by the author of 2015 EFA-winning short film Picnic is produced by Bojan Kanjera and Luka Venturin (Sekvenca), co-produced by Roman Roitman (Monokel), Danijel Hočevar (Vertigo) and Jelena Mitrović (Film House Bas Celik) and is already financed by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre.

Dea Kulumbegashvili’s Book of Hours (Georgia/United States)
Georgian filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili aims to “create the study of relationship between characters’ internal and exterior lives in the world where people are reserved and struggle to express their emotions while facing personal tragedies, anguishes, and other feelings.” In her first feature film, when Alex returns home after long absence, he finds himself powerless as facing tensions in the works around him, so dealing with inner dilemmas. The film, written by her, is being produced by Rati Oneli (OFA), also a co-writer, and co-produced by Jim Stark, and has already been awarded with the Grand Prix for the Best Pitch at the Sofia Meetings this year.

Tolga Karaçelik’s Butterflies (Turkey)
After having received more than 20 awards worldwide for his previous film Ivy, Turkish director Tolga Karaçelik comes back with Butterflies. The story follows siblings Cemal, Kenan and Suzan, who, after receiving a call from their long unheard father Mazhar; find themselves back in their strange village, where they end up waiting for butterflies to come; to be able to bury their father satisfying his will. The film is produced by Cem Doruk and Diloy Gulun (Karaçelik Films). Director and writer Karaçelik says, “While I still feel stronger than death, I wanted to write a comedy where death is a character but not significant enough to be the lead.”

Pavel G Vesnakov’s Dustcatcher (Bulgaria/Germany/France – read more)
After being set free prematurely after five years of serving a murder sentence, Nicola returns to his small hometown Russe, determined to break away from the past, the toxic habits and relationships, and start anew. But living “normally” turns out to be a much harder task. This is how is presented Dustcatcher, the first feature film directed and written by successful Bulgarian short film director Pavel G. Vesnakov (Pride, Zeus). Venakov says, “I would like to explore the life of a ruined contemporary Bulgarian family, struggling with misery and disintegration.” The film is produced by Monica Balcheva (Moviemento), Sebastian Weyland (Heimathafen Film & Media GmbH) and Hélène Cases (Lionceau Films), and has already secured financing from the Bulgarian National Film Center.

Nikola Ljuca’s The Heroes Were Dancing (Serbia)
Four 20-year-olds, Goran, Marija, Marko and Ana, whose lives are linked to a gym in Belgrade, start forming ever more closer and disturbing bonds, as recurring nightmares of one of them escalate to reveal a link to an assassination that happened previously in a nearby park. The new film by Serbian filmmaker Nikola Ljuca, well-known for his previous film Humidity, is introduced by himself addressing his characters, who “are the image creators, they project the image of health and well-being and they make their clients feel that way about themselves. But how stabile is that image? On what grounds was it made?” Nataša Damnjanović and Vladimir Vidić (Dart Film) are producing the film.

Simon Bogojević Narath’s Illyricvm (Croatia)
In 36 BC, Volsus, a young Illyrian, joins a Roman unit and sets off on a perilous journey into the one of the darkest and least subdued regions of the Empire. A pretty impressive premise for a film from the Balkans, Illyricvm will be Simon Bogojević Narath’s first feature film, co-written by himself and Saša Podgorelec, after working in short and experimental films. He says, “the idea of this film has sprung from curiosity: how different are we, after all, from people who walked the same grounds two thousand years ago?” The project is being produced by Ankica Jurić Tilić and Ira Cecić (Kinorama), and has already got financing from the Croatian Audiovisual Center.

Andrea Staka’s Mare (Croatia/Switzerland)
A very well-known filmmaker, Swiss-Croatian Andrea Staka will try to repeat the great success of her previous films Fräulein and Cure – The Life of Another with her new project. The film follows Mare, who lives with her husband and four children near the airport in Dubrovnik, and embarks on a journey into a parallel universe that has little to do with her everyday life when she becomes acquainted, enjoys the company and ultimately falls in love with the man moves in next door. The film is being produced by Štaka herself and Thomas Imbach (Okofilm Productions).

Konstantinos AntonopoulosMemories from the Future (Greece)
Known for his previous short films and documentaries, Greek filmmaker Konstantinos Antonopoulos directs his first feature film. Written by him and Thoma Kasselas, the film, set in an absurd future Athens and described as “a dystopian comedy about love in the past tense”, follows Sol, who discovers that his wife is experiencing the memories of a woman who lived in the 21st century, and also living her love affairs. The film is produced by Fani Skartouli (Kipoi – The Gardens).

Siniša Vidović and Dinko Draganović’s MILF (Austria)
After an amateur porn video of his mother got exposed, 17-year-old Damir goes on a journey of rage and revenge, only to discover the truth about his family. This is the premise of the new feature film by Croatian-born filmmaker Siniša Vidović (known for his recent documentary Korida) and Bosnian-born Dinko Draganović, both based in Austria. In their words, “MILF is, especially today, in the century of the Internet, where contents are spread faster and topics like cyber-mobbing are more present than ever, an explosive, and moreover, relevant story, which is contemporary and needs to be told now”. The film is produced by Markus Fischer (Fischer Film) and is already financed by Austrian Film Institute and more Austrian entities.

Maja WeissMy Name is Damian (Slovenia)
17-year-old rebellious transgender boy Damian spends his days fighting with his parents and heavy partying with friends. Then he meets Nela, a girl who not only helps him discover his talents but also encourages him to make his own choices. Slovenian director Maja Weiss, who has signed several feature films and feature documentaries, all of them presented and awarded at international and domestic film festivals, adapts the novel of the same name by Suzana Tratnik. She says, “The only director’s vision is to prepare actors and direct the movie so that viewers have the feeling that they watch real life, therefore, a documentary film, which has a charm, even glamour, but also sharpness.” The film is produced by Danijel Hočevar (Vertigo) and has already been supported by Creative Europe and the Slovenian Film Center.

Nikola Ležaić’s The Religion of Night Walks (Serbia)
The new project by Serbian filmmaker Nikola Ležaić, whose Tilva Ros was one of the most successful Serbian films of the last decade, comes with the title The Religion of Night Walks. In it, Jovan is a Yugoslav engineer working on the construction of the first wind farm in Iran in 1983, and his wife Sanja and son Luka are visiting him after a long separation, only to start a series of events that will put their lives in extreme situations. Inspired in his personal experience, he adds “there is something sacred about a night walk, everything’s quiet and you can actually hear your own thoughts more clearly, process what you learned and sometimes make important decisions.” The film is being produced by Ležaić himself and Jelena Mitrović (Film House Bas Celik).

The CineLink Co-Production Market also hosted three guest projects hailing from non-European territories: Franciso Ohem’s Tito’s Lost Mariachis (Mexico), Paulina Del Paso’s Skin Deep (Mexico) and Mohamed Al Ibrahim’s Bull Shark (Qatar).

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