REPORT: Docs in Progress 2018 @KVIFF
by Martin Kudláč
- KARLOVY VARY 2018: A raft of intriguing documentary projects at the post-production stage were presented in this year’s edition of Docs in Progress at Karlovy Vary
A slew of promising documentary projects at the post-production stage were introduced at the Docs in Progress industry event at Karlovy Vary, hailing from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the territories of the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. The jury, consisting of Tanja Georgieva, CEO and producer at Elemag Pictures, Noemi Schory, an independent producer and director, and the founder of the Documentary Filmmakers Forum in Israel, and Shane Smith, director of programming at HotDocs in Canada, decided to give the €5,000 prize to the documentary The Projectionist by Yuriy Shylov (see the news). “The award goes to a documentary that takes us on a journey with a very special and charismatic protagonist. This film reminds us of what stands at the heart of documentary filmmaking – people,” said the jury when presenting the award. The jury members also bestowed a Special Mention upon the documentary Little Poland for “its humour and humanity”.
Below we outline the projects that were presented at the event.
The Eye of the Architect – Nadim Mishlawi (Lebanon/France)
Described as a science-fiction documentary, in The Eye of the Architect, Nadim Mishlawi aims to blur the lines between fiction and reality, between the real and the imagined. By using different materials, such as Betamax tape, 16 mm reel, news archives and still photographs, The Eye of the Architect will become a sort of memoir gathering together the testimonies of different characters, “making sense of Beirut almost 20 years after the end of the Civil War”. The editing is expected to have wrapped by September, while the final cut should be ready in December. The project’s producer, Myriam Sassine of Abbout Productions, told Cineuropa that the uniqueness of The Eye of the Architect lies in its use of “the experience of civil war as a means to reconcile with loss and to imagine new possibilities for rebuilding a city in ruins. It is a film about how the architecture and its urban plan can tell the history and trauma of a city, and how architecture affects people.”
The Forbidden Strings – Hasan Noori (Iran/Afghanistan)
Hasan Noori’s The Forbidden Strings follows four young Afghan refugees born and raised in Iran attempting to perform their first concert as a band, Arikain, in their fatherland, Afghanistan. In order to do so, they must fight through Taliban forces. The main topics revolve around immigrant labourers, following one’s dreams and art. “It’s a story set in Afghanistan where art and extremism clash and aspire to inspire,” commented Afsaneh Salari, the documentary’s producer. She added, “We know of many struggling musicians, and the Arikain band certainly doesn't have it easy. But as much as it's about their struggle, the film is also about their unrelenting spirit that hopes to spread inspiration where it's much needed, among the refugee and immigrant communities around the world.” Currently in the early phases of post-production, the producers are looking for funding and grants, sales agents, distributors and broadcasters. A crowdfunding campaign is currently under way for the project. The release of the film is expected to happen in January 2019.
Froth – Illia Povolotskiy (Russia)
This documentary centres on three ordinary characters and their stories, and contemplates customs and everyday life on the coast of the Barents Sea. Illia Povolotskiy’s feature debut follows an elderly character who withdraws his pension and “opts to live out his years by working hard in an abandoned village on the very edge of the world”. He joins a team of self-taught divers looking for World War II shipwrecks and a young poacher nicknamed “Catastrophe”. The producers are looking for international sales agents and plan to complete the documentary by February 2019.
Juvenile – Jovan Todorović (Serbia)
Another project that blurs the boundaries between documentary and fiction is Serbia’s Juvenile. Set in a correctional facility for young offenders, the movie by Jovan Todorović, who has already directed a feature-length docu-fiction project, The Belgrade Phantom, follows the inmates as they go about their daily lives. Citing inspiration from Franz Kafka’s The Trial and Frederick Wiseman, Todorović said he has been fascinated by institutions “as metaphors of today’s global society”. Producer Marija Lero, of Emote Productions, confirmed to Cineuropa, “In terms of its nature, style and the structure of the film, Juvenile is closer to a feature-length theatrical film. Life inside a juvenile prison in Serbia was our own documentary-fiction.” The producers are searching for distributors and festival programmers, as the post-production should wrap during September 2018, with the final cut ready for release soon after.
Life of Ivanna – Renato Borrayo Serrano (Russia/Norway)
Life of Ivanna follows the titular protagonist, an indigenous woman living in the tundra, as she makes the transition from the traditional life of the Nenets to a modern city life, taking her five children with her. Guatemalan-born, Russian-based filmmaker Renato Borrayo Serrano is currently shooting on the Taymyr Peninsula as the protagonist tries to settle into her new life in the city of Dudinka. Producer Vlad Ketkovich confirmed to Cineuropa that this would be the last shooting expedition before moving on to the editing, sound mixing and colour correction towards the end of the year. Three co-producers have boarded the project – Finland’s Illume Oy, Norway’s Ten Thousand Images and the Netherlands’ Volya Film – and the producer is currently looking for sales agents and distributors. The producer added that the film uses “highly cinematographic language and a very close-up approach to a specific character”.
Little Poland – Matej Bobrik (Poland)
Emerging Slovakian filmmaker Matej Bobrík, who studied in Poland and is currently based there, is readying his feature-length debut, Little Poland, a year-long observation of Japanese students who decided to sign up for Polish Language and Culture Studies at the University of Tokyo. “I am portraying people who have to struggle with a language and a culture that they know nothing about. This is a group of youngsters on the verge of maturity. For the first time, they open up to the world and to each other,” said the director of the story, which he describes as a coming-of-age tale. “The director managed to enter this hermetic group of Japanese students who, by definition, are very closed. It is very difficult to see past their mask of formality, yet the film succeeds in taking it off and showing the feelings, thoughts and fears of contemporary Japanese youths,” remarks producer Agnieszka Skalska. “Michał Stajniak's camerawork is consequently static, and the students' conversations intertwine with psychedelic images of the trains and stations of Tokyo,” she adds. They are looking for sales agents, distributors and festivals, as the final cut should be ready in November.
The Projectionist – Yuriy Shylov (Ukraine/Germany/Poland)
Ukrainian filmmaker Yuriy Shylov is preparing the documentary The Projectionist, about an eccentric projectionist called Valentin who suddenly has to find new meaning in life in a rapidly changing country and face up to his own mortality. “People like Valentin, who are over 60, struggle when they realise that they don’t have much time left. His partying in the projection booth is a denial of his own mortality. His drinking and dancing with girls is an attempt to prove that he’s still young, active and joyful. When a tumour is discovered and removed, he battles against his fear of dying with smiles and selfies, which he sends out via social-media apps, mocking the fears of his friends,” says the director. The raw cut of the film should be ready by mid-July, while one of the project’s producers, Olha Beskhmelnytsina, of the production outlet MaGiKa Film, confirmed to Cineuropa that they expect to finish post-production works between September and October. Beskhmelnytsina said they are seeking to cover the missing sum of €35,000 for post-production whilst also seeking sales agents, distributors and festivals. “Ukraine has been going through a major transition, which becomes all the more tangible watching Valentin and his battle for survival. His humour, stoic optimism and zest for life are compelling, and when he is challenged by a terminal disease, his struggle exposes us to some of the fundamental questions of being human and alive,” she concludes.
Scars – Agnieszka Zwiefka (Germany/Poland/Netherlands)
“Former female LTTE fighters have never been portrayed so meticulously in a documentary film, as it is forbidden to even address this issue in contemporary Sri Lanka,” says Michaela Pňačeková, of Kloos & Co Medien, about Agnieszka Zwiefka’s Scars. The film zooms in on Vetrichelvi, a fighter who joined the Tamil Tigers at the tender age of 17. After recently being released from jail, she embarks on a journey to find nine women who were her closest friends during the years of fighting. Scars will address issues such as terrorism, child soldiers, the role of women in the contemporary world and immigration, all set against the backdrop of Vetrichelvi’s story. It will also ponder the question, “Does a former terrorist deserve a second chance?”. “We have gained the access to her thanks to the more relaxed political situation in Sri Lanka between 2014 and 2018. The government is changing now, and it will once again soon be impossible to depict such stories in the country,” said Pňačeková as she explained how they were able to work on such a controversial topic. She added, “Using a mixture of observational footage, staged scenes and unique archives, we want to create one strong narrative full of dramaturgy but also moments of contemplation, depicting our character’s loneliness.” Scars is currently at the production stage, while post-production should be carried out during autumn, with the film being ready for a January/February release. The project was supported by funding from Eurimages, and producers are still looking for 15% of the budget (circa €40,000) as well as festivals, distributors and broadcasters.
Teach – Alex Brendea (Romania)
Emerging Romanian filmmaker and experienced cinematographer Alex Brendea follows his former teacher and mentor in his feature-length documentary debut, Teach. In it, a Transylvanian maths teacher quits the conventional education system and opens a private tutoring office in his own two-room apartment. “The fact that he chooses to give up certain comforts of this material world in order to change the lives of his students for the better, and thus overcomes so many barriers, is to me proof of his humanity,” says the director. Teach is currently at the rough-cut stage, with a release planned for March 2019. “Most of the time, we follow the protagonist of Teach exclusively inside his maths classes, which take place in his flat,” said producer Irinia-Andreea Malcea, of Luna Film. They are currently looking for funding, grants, sales agents and distributors.
The Winter Garden’s Tale – Simon Mozgovyi (Ukraine)
Young Ukrainian freelance director Simon Mozgovyi is working on his first feature-length effort, The Winter Garden’s Tale, which is currently at the post-production stage. At the centre of the documentary is Valentina Voronina, who has been taking care of plants in a floriculture pavilion for 45 years and is asked to take her retirement. She is convinced that the plants will die without her. “The film deals with the topical problems of the continuity of generations and the misunderstandings that are linked to it – the temptation of power and its usurpation, its influence on the human character, and thinking of oneself as an integral part of the natural evolutionary processes that are guided by laws which are the same for both the plant and the human world,” explains the director, specifying that The Winter Garden’s Tale is a documentary comedy-drama. The producer and director are looking for sales agents, festivals and distributors. The movie’s producer, Oleksandr Chepiga, described The Winter Garden's Tale to Cineuropa as “a tragicomic film about life: not easy, but still life, with a touch of self-irony and allegory”. He adds that the movie is built on its own internal rhythm, without any direct speech from the writer-director.
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