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Karlovy Vary 2024 – KVIFF Eastern Promises

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

REPORT: Works in Progress @ KVIFF Eastern Promises 2024


Karlovy Vary’s industry sidebar introduced an array of stories exploring gender roles, cultural identity and forbidden love

REPORT: Works in Progress @ KVIFF Eastern Promises 2024
Virtual Girlfriends by Barbora Chalupová

The 2024 Works in Progress slate at Karlovy Vary’s KVIFF Eastern Promises (see the presentation news and the article on the award winners) showcased a diverse array of compelling films from various countries, each addressing unique cultural and social themes. They ranged from A Hunter Girl, a Kyrgyz documentary by Suiumkan Sulaimanova exploring gender roles through traditional hunting, to Amedspor, Rezan Yesilbas's Turkish documentary on a football club reclaiming its Kurdish identity amidst political conflict. Baltic UXO by Agne Dovydaityte and Alexander Belinski investigates the environmental and societal impacts of unexploded ordnance in the Baltic Sea, while Nadim Tabet's In This Darkness I See You delves into the haunting legacies of the past in a Lebanese village. Lover, Not a Fighter, a Slovak-Czech romantic tragicomedy by Martina Buchelová (see the news), explores young love in a chaotic world. Bernadette Mayer's Hungarian drama Mommy Blue tackles familial bonds and personal struggles, whereas Adilkhan Yerzhanov's Kazakh-French action-thriller Moor follows an ex-military man confronting his past. M Siam's My Father's Scent is an Egyptian family drama about reconciliation and loss. Sandbag Dam by Čejen Černić Čanak, a Croatian-Slovenian-Serbian-Lithuanian-Macedonian drama, explores forbidden love and societal challenges. Emilios Avraam's Cypriot drama Smaragda - I Got Thick Skin and I Can't Jump follows a woman's journey of self-discovery, and lastly, Virtual Girlfriends by Barbora Chalupová is a Czech-Slovak documentary examining the lives of OnlyFans creators.

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Below is some more detailed information on a selection of the presented projects:

Smaragda – I Got Thick Skin and I Cannot Jump by Emilios Avraam

Smaragda – I Got Thick Skin and I Cannot JumpEmilios Avraam (Cyprus)
This Greek-language dramedy from Cyprus, written and directed by Emilios Avraam, is being produced by Tonia Mishiali, of Bark Like A Cat, a multi-award-winning director and producer with films showcased at major international festivals. The film follows Smaragda, a middle-aged woman who, after her mother's death, moves into her mother's house and takes care of her guide dog. As her past as a children's TV show host fades into obscurity, she struggles to re-enter the industry and faces financial difficulties. Resorting to work at a tourist resort and delving into social media, Smaragda's journey of self-discovery and acceptance unfolds, supported by her close friends. The film delves into themes of existence, legacy and societal pressures, inspired by the life experiences of the director's cousin. Currently in post-production, the film is seeking post-production funding, sales agents, festivals and distribution partners. It is funded by the Cyprus Deputy Ministry of Culture and Creative Europe – MEDIA. The director calls the film “a quirky, existential drama with a feel-good vibe”.

Virtual GirlfriendsBarbora Chalupová (Czech Republic/Slovakia)
This documentary by Barbora Chalupová, who was behind the box-office documentary hit Caught in the Net [+see also:
film review
film profile
(see the news), explores the modern dynamics of love and intimacy through the lens of OnlyFans creators. The film, produced by Pavla Klimešová, of Helium Film, who also worked on Caught in the Net, is currently in the late production phase and is seeking distributors, sales agents and pre-sales opportunities. Chalupová follows Rosalinda, a young mother who embarks on a journey as an OnlyFans content creator after attending a workshop. Initially concealing her identity, she eventually reveals her face to maximise earnings, profoundly impacting her relationship with her boyfriend and her growing number of admirers. The film also features two other creators from the workshop, providing a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the relentless nature of maintaining an online persona and managing a fan base. Virtual Girlfriends explores self-objectification and female emancipation within the context of the digital age and what the director called “fair-trade porn”. Based on the excerpts provided, there won’t be any lack of cringe-inducing moments, similarly to Caught in the Net. The project still requires €40,000 in gap financing and is looking for a festival for its world premiere, expected in June 2025, alongside distribution and sales partnerships.

Sandbag Dam by Čejen Černič Čanak

Sandbag DamČejen Černič Čanak (Croatia/Lithuania/Serbia/Slovenia/North Macedonia)
Čejen Černić Čanak is readying the evocative drama Sandbag Dam, her sophomore feature, which revolves around Slaven, who returns to his village, threatened with flooding, for his father's funeral. There, he rekindles a forbidden relationship with his childhood friend, Marko. The film delves into the complexities of the forbidden love between two boys and societal pressures. Slaven and Marko's reunion after years apart highlights the challenges they face from family rejection and social condemnation. The looming flood serves as a metaphor for the societal neglect and ostracism they endure. Director Čanak aims to craft an emotionally resonant narrative that speaks to broader themes of being misunderstood and condemned love, hoping to evoke empathy and understanding in audiences. The film, primarily in Croatian, is seeking additional post-production funding for a small financial gap. Otherwise, the film is nearly completed, with only the sound design and grading remaining unfinished.

Moor by Adilkhan Yerzhanov

MoorAdilkhan Yerzhanov (Kazakhstan/France)
Moor is the latest project by prolific Kazakh director Adilkhan Yerzhanov, an intense action-drama thriller, now in post-production. The film, featuring Berik Aitzhanov and Anna Starchenko, follows the life of Beibars, an ex-military man nicknamed Moor, who returns from prison to find his brother missing and saddled with insurmountable debts. Tasked with protecting and providing for his brother’s family, Moor must navigate a world rife with danger and deception. The producers are seeking festival premieres, international promotion and post-production support. Moor continues in Yerzhanov's tradition of exploring the darker facets of human nature and societal challenges, while producer Olga Khlasheva, of Short Brothers, noted that unlike Yerzhanov’s previous films, which take place in the fictitious Kazakh countryside settlement of Karatas Village, Moor will be the first movie to unfold in a big city and will be more action-driven. The story, inspired by Shakespeare's Othello, explores the cyclical nature of despotism and violence, suggesting that only love can break this vicious cycle. It is influenced by cinematic masterpieces such as Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, Takeshi Kitano's Hana-bi, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive and Alexei Balabanov's Brother. The film is almost finished, with only the colour grading, sound work and some VFX yet to be completed.

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