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Viv Li’s A Hazy Romance snags the Kirch Foundation Award at this year’s Munich Film Up!


- A Special Mention worth €3,000 has been bestowed upon Iranian filmmaker Sadeq Es-haqi’s courageous project Double Blind

Viv Li’s A Hazy Romance snags the Kirch Foundation Award at this year’s Munich Film Up!
The winners of this year's Munich Film Up! (© Maxim Artemchuk)

That’s a wrap for the second edition of Munich Film Up!, the eight-month mentoring and residency programme for film-school graduates that kicked off last November. The initiative was brought to a close yesterday, 27 June, with the projects’ pitching sessions and the awards ceremony held at the city’s Amerikahaus. Munich Film Up! aims to support six filmmakers from all over the world – either students or fresh alumni – through the development of their features.

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On this occasion, the Kirch Foundation Award (worth €5,000) went to A Hazy Romance by Chinese writer-director Viv Li (China). The jury of film professionals handing out the prize included Chinese producer and sales agent Cao Liuying, Israeli producer Naomi Levari, Luxembourgish producer Bernard Michaux, Romanian producer Ada Solomon and Singaporean producer Jeremy Chua.

The Berlin-based filmmaker’s debut is a road movie that sees a Chinese layabout and a Swiss photographer accidentally driving themselves into China’s deep west, “a landscape that is not really celebrated, yet is mysterious and melancholic”. Despite the culture clash, the two strangers must learn to trust each other on this strange yet adventurous journey. The story was inspired by Li’s own road trips accompanying a Swiss photographer.

Meanwhile, a Special Mention (worth €3,000, and also awarded by the Kirch Foundation) went to Double Blind by Sadeq Es-haqi (Iran). Es-haqi’s debut revolves around a young lesbian drug dealer who decides to double-cross her boss in order to quit the business. However, she is then forced to face the consequences of her choice, and her life is turned upside down over the course of one day.

“I’ve been working on the project for more than one year, exploring new elements via this one-day story, and it’s quite similar to my own experiences not only as a filmmaker, but also as a citizen in Iran. At this stage, I’m presenting the project myself from my own little production and distribution company. I had a few sessions in France to find a way to set up a co-production, and soon, there will be an Iranian producer attached,” the director said.

The other four selected projects were Ashmita Guha Neogi’s Cold Ashes Can Cause Forest Fires (India), Hang Luong Nguyen’s Rooftop Lempicka, Soham Kundu’s The Sea Urchin (India) and Nancy Camaldo’s Wolf (Germany/Italy).

The project by Kundu, who is an alumnus of London’s University of the Arts, tells the story of a thirtysomething man from Kolkata, who comes to terms with his own identity, triggered by the untimely demise of his schizophrenic brother. While in mourning, he discovers his brother was gay. This revelation shocks him, and the man begins questioning the life he has been leading so far.

The first feature by University of Texas alumna Nguyen is a coming-of-age drama set in Saigon in 2002. It follows a ten-year-old girl who learns her first lessons about womanhood and sexuality through her possession of a book of nude paintings by the titular Polish artist, and by befriending her conservative parents’ new tenant, a club waitress. The story is inspired by the filmmaker’s own childhood memories. Nguyen Mai Ka and Nhi Bui are producing.

The debut by Neogi, an alumna of Pune’s Film and Television Institute of India, centres on a 13-year-old girl who lives with her father in a small mountain town in the Lesser Himalayas. During a winter holiday, many old family friends come to visit her place, and she discovers myriad unpleasant secrets that exist between the adults.

An alumna of Munich’s University of Film and Television, Camaldo says her sophomore feature has been inspired by “the return of wolves to Italian, German and Austrian forests”. The project promises to be an “elevated horror film” about “the complications of humans and wolves living together”, and zooms in on Tilda, the owner of a wildlife park. When a wolf kills the park’s main attraction, she seeks revenge. Thus, she goes after the wolf and kills it, but then something special happens: the hunter becomes the prey. Producing are Natalie and Sandra Hölzel, of Eifenholz Film.

Commenting on the results of the 2023 edition, Matthieu Darras, CEO of Tatino Films and co-director of Munich Film Up!, said: “We are delighted that Munich Film Up!, now in its second edition, is getting recognition from film-industry executives who are eager to discover new film talents from all over the world. The programme constitutes an exceptional opportunity for fresh film-school graduates to receive tailor-made mentoring at the beginning of their careers. We are looking forward to following the talents from our programme on their feature-film endeavours.”

Elena Diesbach, co-director of Munich Film Up!, added: “Munich Film Up! is a programme that aims to bring young international writer-directors closer to the Munich film and media industry, which is always looking for fresh and intriguing stories. This year, once again, we are overwhelmed by the quality of the six projects of our participants and wish them the best of luck for the further development and financing of their feature debuts.”

Munich Film Up! is an initiative backed by HFF München, with Tatino Films’ Pop Up Film Residency acting as an exclusive creative partner. The programme is also organised in partnership with Filmschoolfest Munich and Filmfest München.

The next round of applications will open soon via this link, with the deadline for submissions set for 1 September. The third edition will unspool from November 2023 to June 2024.

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