Karlovy Vary: Eaux Vives, Martin, Ivanov Prep ‘At Dawn’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Paris-based ‘Babai’ co-producer readies slate rich in film odysseys

Eaux Vives, Philip Martin and Vlad
Courtesy: Eaux Vives

At Karlovy Vary for competition entry “Babai,” which it co-produces, Paris-based Eaux Vives Production will reteam with Philip Martin for “At Dawn” (“Des L’Aube”), which is set to star Romanian actor Vlad Ivanov, who scored a L.A. Film Critics Assn. Award playing abortionist Mr. Bebe in Cristian Mungiu’s 2007 Cannes Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.”

Eaux Vives produced Martin’s first feature, “Hungry Man,” a Karlovy Vary 2013 world premiere.

Like many Eaux Vives’ productions or projects – “Babai,” set between Kosovo and Germany; “Mister,” whose action unspools in Paris, then Norway – “At Dawn” forms part of one of Europe’s modern movie traditions, often to the fore at Karlovy Vary: arthouse films that leverage international co-production to tell human stories, often about Europe’s young embarked on a journey to find their emotional place in the world.

In “At Dawn,” and other titles, that journey is literal, and based on social experiments currently carried out by reinsertion associations in France and Belgium, said Eaux Vives Xenia Maingot. Two French teen girls, both facing prison, are offered an alternative: completing a 2,500 kilometer walk – a huge challenge even for the fit — in Romania.

Ivanov plays Ari, a seasoned walker and former political activist – the details are left deliberately vague — who acts as the girls’ tutor-guide.

“We want to make the film very, very much because we believe prison is no solution for young offenders,” said Maingot, who founded Eaux Vives in 2008, and heads it with Jean-François Deveau.

Martin aims to approximate “At Dawn” — a road movie on foot,” as he calls it — near to myth: “Three common heroes walk stage after stage a path to freedom, surpassing the limits of their own strength.” The film’s heart, he added, is the characters’ “transformation.”

Mainhot said Eaux Vives is in co-production discussions for “At Dawn,” with Ada Solomon at Romania’s HiFilm Productions, producer of Augustina Standu and Radu Jude’s “The Happiest Girl in the World,” and with Joseph Roucshop at Belgium’s “Tarantula,” the company behind “The Wakhan Front,” winner of this year’s Cannes Critics’ Week Gan Foundation Support for Distribution Award.

In “Babai,” the journey is made by a 10-year-old. Set in the 1990s in pre-war Kosovo, it turns on Nori, who has no mother and is abandoned, he thinks, by his father, who suddenly leaves for Germany. Nori steals some money, follows him, finally finds his father and confronts him about his leaving.

Produced by Nicole Gerhards at Germany’s NiKo Film, Kosovo’s Produksioni Krushna, Macedonia’s Skopje Film Studio and Eaux Vives, “Babai” marks the feature debut of Kosovar Visar Morina, who won best film at Karlovy Vary’s Fresh Film Fest for medium-feature “Death by Suffocation.” Just acquired for international sales by Greece’s Heretic Outreach, “Babai” is “really emotional, very well directed and very sensitive,” Maingot said.

In “Mister,” from French-born but Berlin-based Emily Atef, which is set up at Eaux Vives and NiKo Film, a young Parisien, Helene, diagnosed with cancer, decides to travel to a Norwegian town with Mister, a guy she met on the Internet. Atef is currently writing with Lars Hubrich.

Another Eaux Vives’ production, Jordanian first-timer Rifqi Assaf’s minibus road movie “The Curve,” is co-produced with Rula Nassar’s the Imaginarium Films and Mohamed Hefzy’s Film Clinic, two of the movers and shakers in Arab world cinema.

A highlight at the Dubai Film Market Goes to Cannes, it centers on Radi, who suffers from serious agoraphobia. But he is forced out of his seclusion when obliged to drive Laila, the victim of a rape attempt, to the Syrian border in his minibus.

Rolling August, another Eaux Vives’ production, Brazilian Willy Biondani’s “Tudo bom, tudo bem,” is a magic realism-tinged culture clash comedy. Brazil’s BossaNovaFilms lead produces the story of a refined Paris-based Brazilian journalist, who travels to a Brazilian backwater to debunk the idea of the happy noble savage. He finds a welcoming world of the senses instead.

Eeaux Vives’ notable number of road/place in the world movies, and often young or still not totally formed protagonists, is no coincidence, Maingot said.

“I have a passion for human stories, for languages and travel. I really believe that journeys brings the best possibility to meet, understand, share with others,” she commented.

“Thanks to the movement, and different encounters, little by little people have the possibility to change deeply. I like to defend ideas in cinema concerning people who have real struggles in front of them. I also believe in young generations. They question themselves all the time.”