REPORT: Pitching competition in Odessa 2015
On July 16 2015, the Odessa International Film Festival welcomed ten Ukrainian feature film productions and co-productions that are in development for theatrical distribution at a pitching competition. An additional project was also presented out of competition.
The jury, composed of French producer Guillaume de Seille (Arizona Productions), German producer Anna Katchko (Tandem Production), Dutch producer Raymond van der Kaaij (Revolver Amsterdam) and Gülin Üstün, head of Meetings on the Bridge (Turkey), rewarded the Best Pitching Project with a UAH 50,000 monetary prize.
Max Ksjonda’s Tank
(Awarded Best Pitching Project, with a UAH 50,000 monetary prize from the UDP developing company)
Tank is Max Ksjonda’s first feature film, following his short film The Way, which was awarded Best Short Film in the National Competition programme of the Odessa Film Festival in 2013. This new drama-thriller with noir elements takes place in a small industrial town, where Malyi (meaning ‘Kid’), a 12-year-old teenager, finds a WWII German tank in the forest with the remains of a German soldier. He then discovers on the internet that this war vehicle is worth millions of dollars. Malyi tries to keep this secret so he can sell the tank himself, and to do so, he must outwit his big brother who works in the drug trade as well as the corrupt police in his town. With a budget of €500,000 - of which €75,000 was secured by production company Noosphere Films and its main producer, Max Serdiuk - Tank, written by Ivan Timshyn, is expected to be released in February 2017. The project is still looking for a German actor (to play the grandson of the German soldier), partners, co-financiers and co-producers, especially from Germany.
Viktor Andrienko’s Badya
Badya is an animated film targeting children aged ten years old and above. Based on Eastern European literature, this 3D project will focus on 17th-century Ukrainian hero Badya, a Cossack with special powers living as a war machine. After witnessing a werewolf gang led by his personal enemy, Badya is asked by a man he has saved to go on a mission: to deliver a special “credential”, Marek, the King’s son, that will make him more human during his journey. The project, developed for the fantasy genre with some touches of humour, and produced by Volodymyr Filippov from InsightMedia Producing Center, has already secured €405,000 out of a total budget of €1.3 million. Negotiations are under way with studios in Finland and western Germany, and work with the Ukrainian Film Agency will soon begin, in order to gain extra funds. Based on the success of animated film, this team’s ambition for Badya is to create a new hero for the young generations in Ukraine and abroad. Plans for merchandising and sales of this film (90 min) and TV series (12 episodes) are also in the works. The project is planned for release in 2017.
Konstantin Konovalov’s Doctor
Written and directed by Kostantin Konovalov, Doctor is based on a true story. In 1942, young doctor Pavlo Yeresko tries to cross the Black Sea in a boat with wounded Soviet soldiers, and after 36 days, the boat washes ashore on the Turkish coast. The Turks consider Yeresko - the sole survivor of the boat - to be a hero, but the Third Reich demands that Turkish authorities extradite him to Germany. Inspired by films such as Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient, Ang Lee’s Life of Pi or Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, the main message of the film is that we are all humans, even during wartime. The 80- to 100-minute feature has secured more than €185,000 out of the €600,000 budget, and it is expected to be completed in spring 2017. Doctor is to be produced by the Odessa Film Studio, with some post-production by Film UA studio. Negotiations are currently under way for a Turkish co-producer, as a portion of the film will be shot in Turkey with a Turkish team.
Šarūnas Bartas’ Frost
This Ukrainian-Lithuanian-French co-production will be Lithuanian director Šarūnas Bartas’ fourth feature film. Frost, written by the director himself, tells the story of a young Lithuanian man who has never experienced war and finds himself driving a truck of humanitarian aid to a Ukrainian warzone. During his journey, he meets different people - from international war journalists to Ukrainian civilians and fighters. Produced by Valery Kalmykov for Ukraine-based Truman Productions, more than 50% of the budget is already in place (€500,000 out of a €810,000 budget). French actors Vincent Cassel and Anna Moulagis have been cast for the film, along with Lithuanian actors such as Lora Kmieliauskaite and Bartas himself, and Ukrainian actors. Frost, whose cinematography will be done by Eitvydas Doshkus (Peace to Us in Our Dreams), is expected to be released in May 2016.
Zaza Buadze’s Assasin’s Love
Romantic drama Assassin’s Love takes place in 1957 between undercover KGB agent Bogdan Stashinsky (under the name of Joseph Lehmann), and German hairdresser Inge Paul. When pregnant Inge looses her unborn baby, Bogdan tells her the truth about himself, without mentioning the fact that he has worked as an assassin. After a failed mission, Bogdan is arrested and only manages to find Inge again in 1961, and they try to escape to West Berlin when the construction of the Berlin Wall begins. While the script for Assassin’s Love was assisted by the MFI script workshop, the team behind the film is looking for Ukrainian funds for their €3 million budget. €300,000 are already secured. Written by Buadze and produced by Oleg Shcherbyna at Fresh Production, Assassin’s Love is expected to be completed for 2018.
Sebastian Saam’s Midnight in Uman (working title)
Midnight in Uman is a German project in early development. This black comedy/thriller/road movie is the story of two lonely souls - Jex, a disillusioned Berliner in his mid-thirties suffering from a broken heart, and Adam, the Ukrainian bar keeper living in Berlin who offers him a free trip to Ukraine on the condition of delivering a car to Odessa. Meanwhile, Dariya faces social pressure there and decides to leave, destination unknown. At their midpoint, Uman (central Ukraine), both parties get stuck when the town hosts 30,000 Hasidim pilgrims, dancing and praying on the city’s streets for Jewish New Year. The three end up spending an intense night together, only to find out a bit later that their relationship puts them at risk. After three documentaries, Midnight in Uman will be Sebastian Saam’s first fiction film. Stefan Gieren from Pronto Film (Germany) will produce the feature on a tight budget of €150,000 and currently has €30,000 in place. The expected release is in 2017.
Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk’s Pamfir
Pamfir is the story of a family of illegal Ukrainian immigrants - Pamfir, his wife and his stepdaughter (who suffers from an illness) - that has been deported back to Ukraine. They need to return to Western Europe so the girl can undergo a treatment, and Pamfir needs a big sum of money in order to have new passports made. Therefore, he smuggles cigarettes across the Ukrainian-Romanian border, and for better physical endurance he takes steroids, which act fast and have a certain side effect...
Written by the director, Pamfir will be co-produced between Ukraine and Poland, with Germany and Romania potentially on board as well. €200,000 are already secured for the €500-700,000 budget, and the documentary-style shoot for this social drama is scheduled for the end of 2016 (at this point, the first script draft is done). Pamfir will be produced by Igor Savychenko and Krzysztof Zanussi with Directory Films, Studio filmove TOR and Facturafilm.
Ivan Orlenko’s Synagogue
Director Ivan Orlenko and producer Olena Yershova from Tatorfilm met last year in Odessa at the Work in Progress session, and started developing Synagogue, which will be the director’s first feature film. Synagogue is based on famous Czech author Franz Kafka’s unfinished short story about a Polish child that becomes obsessed with a weird animal that occasionally appears in an old synagogue and frightens the women. The child has only heard these stories and tries to find the creature without concern for what’s happening around him in the beginning of the 20th century for Jews. Roberto Benini’s Life is Beautiful can be recognised as a reference film, though Synagogue unfolds from the boy’s point of view, not that of the adults. This debut feature has already seen interest from France and Czech Republic. Currently in the early stages of development (treatment), the film will be shot in Yiddish, in black and white, and as a documentary-style, atmosphere-driven piece. It is being planned with a low budget of €280,000.
Kateryna Kucher’s Frosya’s Love
Frosya’s Love will be Kateryna Kucher’s feature debut after three short films. Taking place in 1946 over the course of two days, this is the story between a demobilised militiaman, Pavlo Deynega, and Frosya, a robber that Pavlo has to escort to the transit prison. But Frosya saved his life at the risk of losing her own once, and as a man of conscience, Pavlo is hesitating between morals and duty. Produced by Julia Cherniavska at Fresh Production, this Ukrainian film may be co-produced with Poland. The biggest distribution Ukrainian company, B&H, is already on board for Frosya’s Love, which has secured €400,000 of its €1,500,000 budget.
Akhtem Seitablaev’s Chervonyi
Chervonyi (meaning “red”) will be an adaptation of a very successful Ukrainian novel, written for the screen by its author, Andriy Seitablaev. The film is about two 30-year-old men fighting for different ideas: Ukrainian insurgent Danylo Chervonyi, from the West, and Soviet airman Victor Gurov, from the East. When they arrive at the same concentration camp, they find themselves to be victims of a bigger system and become insurgents to try to gain freedom. This historical adventure film, dedicated to a broad international audience, has references such as Franklin J Schaffner’s French-American co-production Papillon (1973), and US television series Prison Break. With 10% of the project financed by the Odessa Film Studio and up to 50% by a governmental contract (as well as a TV version of the film in four episodes by a Ukrainian TV channel), the team - producers Andriy Suyarko and Volodymyr Filippov from InsightMedia Production Center - is looking for partners for post-production and sound design, especially in Germany. Shooting will take place from May to August 2016, with an expected release date of early 2017.
Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s Luxembourg
Out of competition
Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s new project, Luxembourg, was presented out of competition. After his award-winning The Tribe, the director’s next feature film is expected to be co-produced between Ukraine, Germany (Tandem Production), France, Norway and the Netherlands. It is a story of love and jealousy in this small world. Set nowadays, it is about Sergey - a policeman who works in Chernobyl and has a girlfriend, Marina. Apart from doing these shifts, he lives another life far from Chernobyl, with his wife and son. Despite the safety measures implemented in this contaminated zone, workers still run the risk of nuclear contamination and fear permeates in the air… Even at a pre-production stage, the film has already received awards (Best Script in Sundance in 2015, Arte International Prize for Best Script). Nearly all of its €1,100,000 budget is secured. Luxembourg is to be shot this winter, with an expected release date of May 2016. It is also worth mentioning that Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy is already connected with Chernobyl, as he worked as a journalist after the event. He also directed a short film, awarded in 2012 at the Locarno Film Festival.