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TORINOFILMLAB 2023

Michael Henrichs • Producer of The Missing Planet

“A fictional frame story for a documentary from the future mixed with science-fiction and noir elements sounded like the right thing”

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- The German producer breaks down Marouan Omara and Tom Rosenberg’s film, which won the Eurimages Co-production Development Award at the recent TorinoFilmLab

Michael Henrichs  • Producer of The Missing Planet
Tom Rosenberg, Marouan Omara and Michael Henrichs (right) with their Eurimages Co-production Development Award

The final Eurimages Co-production Development Award of the year went to The Missing Planet by Marouan Omara and Tom Rosenberg, to be produced by Michael Henrichs from German company Die Gesellschaft DGS. The €20,000 prize was handed out during the 16th edition of the TorinoFilmLab Meeting Event on Saturday 25 November (see the news), by a jury made up of Tamara Tatishvili (Hubert Bals Fund, Netherlands), Rodrigo Areias (Bando à Parte, Portugal) and Noémi Kahn (CNC, France), for Eurimages. The members of the jury chose to award it to “a project with a complex approach to filmmaking and a multi-layered theme that is grounded, thought-provoking and conceptual at the same time. Naturally proposed as an artistic co-operation between filmmakers from two different worlds, it explores documentary, sci-fi and film noir, whisking us away on a journey of memories, trauma and liberating dreams.” Cineuropa chatted to producer Henrichs about the project.

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Cineuropa: The Eurimages Co-production Development Award will certainly give the project a boost.
Michael Henrichs:
I am sure it will. It reassures us on this journey that we are embarking on. Co-developing Marouan Omara and Tom Rosenberg’s The Missing Planet with Mark Lotfy at Fig Leaf Studios Alexandria has been a great experience so far, and we all look forward to intensifying our collaboration further. We have already received requests for meetings from interested parties based on the news of the selection in the days following the lab, which is great.

What attracted you to this project set in the near future, with a kind of sleeping sickness spreading across the Arab world?
Both Marouan and Tom have backgrounds in documentary filmmaking. Tom is also a licensed private investigator. I have always liked the idea of treating a development process like an investigation, so the idea of conceiving a fictional frame story for a documentary from the future, and to naturally mix it with science-fiction and film-noir elements, simply sounded like the right thing to do.

Of course, I had seen Marouan and Tom’s previous work, and saw that they knew what they were talking about. I had previously worked with Mark Lotfy on Ali El Arabi’s Captains of Za’atari, and it was important to embark on this journey knowing that the four of us were different enough – and liked each other enough – to continuously challenge and support each other for the time it would take to move The Missing Planet forward. A simpler way of saying this would be that I immediately loved the originality of the premise and the people involved. 

You had Goodbye Julia [+see also:
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interview: Mohamed Kordofani
film profile
]
in Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2023 and You Will Die at 20 [+see also:
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trailer
interview: Amjad Abu Alala
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]
in Giornate degli Autori 2019, which are by two directors from Sudan. Previously, you produced Sew the Winter to My Skin [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by a South African director. Your slate also includes many titles shot in Asia. How did this predilection for African and Asian cinema come about?
That is a big question to which there is no single answer. I guess my interest in diverse cultures has always been there, even before I knew I wanted to work in film. But less in an abstract or academic way. For me, people and relationships are always what trigger my interest and inspire my work. Stories come through people and relationships, and over the last few years, I have been lucky enough to find these in South Asia and Africa.

Can you mention any of the projects you are working on right now?
At Die Gesellschaft DGS, Abinash Bikram Shah’s Elephants in the Fog and Andrés PiñerosTokyo por siempre will go into production in 2024, as international co-productions in Nepal and Colombia, respectively. Chalkboard Entertainment in Mumbai will produce Amu, which I co-wrote with writer-director Vasant Nath, and I look forward to starting the development of Jalal Hussaini, Jamil Jalla, Ghafar Azad, Siyar Noorzad and Ghafar Faizyar’s Lachen Und Weinen in the coming months.

You are often a consultant on script development, as well as fiction and documentary film production, during development programmes. Marouan and Tom participated in the TFL ScriptLab. What do you think of the TorinoFilmLab?
That’s an easy question: I loved it! Marouan and Tom were very happy and hugely productive at the lab. A big thank you to everyone at TorinoFilmLab and to their mentor, Séverine Cornamusaz. A very big thank you also to the jury and to Eurimages for choosing The Missing Planet as the recipient of the Co-production Development Award.

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