Locarno: Female Empowerment Drama ‘Sandstorm’ Wins First Look on Israel Showcase

“Sandstorm,” a first feature by Elite Zexer, who is a graduate at Tel Aviv University’s film directing program, won the top prize at the Locarno Film Festival’s First Look on Israel pics-in-post showcase, worth Euros 60,000 ($66,000) and sponsored by Germany’s Rotor Film.

Pic is a drama set in a Bedouin village where the lives of a woman named Jalilaa and her two daughters are turned upside down after her husband marries a younger wife.

The nod’s prestigious jury — comprising Karlovy Vary fest topper Karel Och, Sundance programming director John Nein, and Busan programmer Soue-won Rhee — praised “Sandstorm” for its “mature, deeply observant storytelling and courageous depiction of the layered struggles of several generations of women.”

Pic is produced by Haim Mecklberg and Estee Yacov-Mecklberg’s prominent Israeli shingle 2-Team Productions (“The Farewell Party”).

Another drama in the Locarno showcase, Eitan Anner’s “A Quiet Heart,” which explores the growing strength of the ultra-Orthodox movement in Jerusalem, won a separate award worth Euros 5,500 ($6,000) in advertising, donated by French trade publication Le Film Francais. “Heart” is produced by Roi Kurland and Gal Greenspan’s Green Productions.

The spotlight’s six works- in-progress screened during Locarno’s Industry Days informal market to international sales agents, film investors, distributors and festival programmers and also benefited from a matchmaking service provided by First Look project manager Markus Duffner.

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