Locarno: ‘Fort,’ ‘Magic,’ ‘Simple’ Top Open Doors

High producer attendance from Europe, Arab World

LOCARNO – “Madmen’s Fort” (‘ Le Fort des fous ‘) from Narimane Mari was one of the main winners at Locarno’s Open Doors co-pro forum, which announced its honors on Tuesday.

“Fort” nabbed a production grant prize, carrying CHF30,000 ($30,528). Produced by Algeria’s Aller Retour Films, whose credits include Bahia Bencheikh El Fegoun’s “Nous dehors” and Hassen Ferhani’s “L’Abattoir,” and co-produced by Corinne Castel’s Centrale Electrique (“Des Etoiles”), “Fort” portrays a Sahara where settlers dream of an utopian society. “Fort” story meshes “history and the present time without distinction, just as our inner self functions if everything decides to play all at once.” Mari’s debut feature was “Bloody Beans,” which takes an experimental approach to Algeria’s War of Independence. “Fort” is budgeted at $992,602.

Nadia Rais’ toon project “Go Simple” — which was wrongly reported as having been withdrawn from Open Doors as part of a protest at an Israel cinema First Look pix in post showcase at Locarno — won a development grant worth $10,187. “Aller Simple” is a free adaptation of “Epistle of Forgiveness,” from Arab philosopher Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri, which is considered a precursor of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Three parallel stories criss-cross in “Simple”: one about an artist trying to flee off the country; the second about an apparently wise man; the last turns on the embodiment of the wise man in this earthly life. Budgeted at $468,715, pic is produced by Tunisia-based Propaganda Productions, which was behind Nejib Belkadhi’s “Bastardo” and “VHS Kahloucha.”

Fyzal Boulifa’s “Pagan Magic” took another development award, for the same value. Paris-based In Vivo Films produces “Magic,” a Morocco-set story set about a woman and her adopted daughter seeking a better life abroad. Boulifa’s short film “The Curse” won a Directors’ Fortnight’s prize in 2012. “Magic” is budgeted at $965,020.

A new ICAM award, from Investing in Culture & Art in the South Mediterranean, a new initiative of the European Union’s Med Culture program, went to “Saint Unknown” (‘Saint inconnu’), by Alaa Eddine Aljem. In it, a burglar tries to recover a small treasure buried in a religious pilgrimage center. Award comes with $22,079. Francesca Ducca at Casablanca-based La Moindre Geste produces.

“Waiting for the Swallows” (‘En attendant les hirondelles”) by Karim Moussaoui, received a CNC Prize worth $11,035. “Swallows” is a family drama/road movie set in the ’90s in Algeria and evoking the country’s civil war in 1994.

“The Colonel’s Stray Dogs,” by Khalid Shamis, nabbed an Arte International Open Doors Award worth $6,614. “Dogs” is a portrait of contemporary current Libya.

The Prix MAD Solutions — in reference to an Egypt-based marketing and creative consultancy company for the Arab film and Entertainment Industry — went to two projects: Mehdi Ben Attia’s “The Love of Men” and  Yanis Koussim’s “Ruqya.”

According to Open Doors organization sources, industry agents interested in projects at Locarno mainly came from France and Germany, the U.K., Norway and Switzerland Within the Arab world, execs from Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar and Tunisia also attended.

“Feedback has been extremely positive this year from attending producers, and I have no doubt that the new connections made at Open Doors will bear fruit in the coming years,” Open Doors’ Ananda Scepka told Variety.

Open Doors prizes are supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

Mart took place August  8-11. Open Doors sidebar is organized by Locarno’s industry office with the support of the Ateliers du Cinema European (ACE), European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE), Cannes Marche du Film’s Producers Network and the Torino Film Lab. As in previous editions, African film expert Alex Moussa Sawadogo, who works at Berlin’s AfriKamera Film Festival, served as a consultant to the Locarno lab.

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