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‘Popeye,’ ‘Contestant,’ ‘Mother’ Among Cannes Cinefondation Atelier Titles

15 movie projects a showcase for world cinema’s on-the-rise talent

Kirsten Tan’s “Popeye,” Carlos Osuna’s “The Contestant” and Albert Morais’ “The Mother” are three of 15 films selected for the Cannes Festival’s 2015 Cinefondation Atelier, a showcase of up-and-coming talent worldwide.

Launched in 2005, and now looking towards its 11th edition, the Atelier, a co-production and financing forum, runs May 15-21 at the Cannes Festival, where the 15 projects directors and producers will meet with potential co-production partners and sales agents.

The selection was made by Cinefondation head Georges Goldenstern.

A drive to foster the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers, to date the Atelier has seen an extraordinary success rate: Of the 156 projects presented at the Atelier in Cannes, 103 have been made and released. A further 40 are in pre-production.

The 2014 TorinoFilmLab top winner, and sparking buzz ever since, “Popeye,” from Singapore’s Kirsten Tan, weighs in as an unusual buddy movie. It turns on an ageing man who meets his long-lost elephant on the streets of Bangkok. The duo set off to return to the farm of their youth.

Announced at last year’s Cannes as a Colombia (Malta)-Mexico (FilmTank)-Chile (Forastero) co-pro, “The Contestant” (pictured), about a retiring 24-year-old who becomes the hero of street protests, underscores “the importance of social resentment as a potential force for change,” said director Osuna, who made an auspicious debut with “Fat, Bald, Short Man,” directs.

Presented at June’s Small is Biutiful in Paris, “The Mother” marks Spaniard Alberto Morais’ follow-up to “Los chicos del Puerto.” It tracks 14-year-old Miguel, who battles at all costs to be reunited with his feckless single mother and not be sent back to a center for minors.

Some projects at Atelier are more personal works. Moving between fiction and documentary, and with large dance elements, “Lands of Loneliness,” from Spain’s Meritxell Colell, for example, charts a woman’s return to her village roots.

Most Atelier movies, however – and this has largely been the tonic of the recent editions – paint a troubled portrait of a contemporary or recent world ravaged by factors such as fanaticism, repression, unemployment, drug abuse, forced immigration or broken families. Goldenstern read numerous screenplays for the Atelier. No project presented however was a comedy, he commented.

Brazilian Paula Kim’s debut, “Butterfly Diaries” is a coming of age story about a girl fighting depression and anorexia, set in São Paulo and London in the 90’s. Project is set up at Diana Almeida’s and Daniel Ribeiro’s Lacuna Filmes, which produced Ribeiro’s 2014 Berlin Teddy and Fipresci Best First Film winner, “The Way He Looks.” Almeida will be presenting “Butterfly” at the next ACE Mundus Program in April, she told Variety.

“The Road to Mandalay” weighs in as an illegal immigrants’ tale from Taiwan-based Burmese-Chinese Midi Z (“Ice Poison”).

“Comte des blessures,” the feature debut of France’s Morgan Simon, and a Paris-set youth drama, was a 2014 Prix Junior Screenplay Grand Jury Prize winner. Also seen at the TorinoFilmLab, “Pari.” from Greece’s Siamak Etemad, turns on a mother’s search for her son in Athens. A devout Muslim, it becomes her journey towards freedom. Presented to an upbeat reaction at Karlovy Vary’s Pitch & Feedback forum, “Out” unspools as an Eastern Europe road-movie co-produced out of Hungary and Slovakia and helmed by Hungary’s Gyorgy Kristof.

Culture clash film “Hilal, Feza and Other Planets” will be directed by Kutlug Ateman, one of the Atelier’s relative veterans whose “The Lamb” played the 2014 Berlinale’s Panorama.

Also in the mix: a Portugal-Angola co-pro, Joao Viana’s “Our Madness,” which centers on the daughter of Amilcar Cabral, a founding father of Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde.

Set up at Giuseppe Gallo’s Picture Show and set by the sea in Calabria, Italian Laura Luchetti’s second feature, “Twin Flower,” is the story of two young teens struggling to preserve their innocence. “The Tree,” the debut of South Africa’s Louw Venter, intertwines separate stories – featuring the son of a refugee kidnap victim, a young cop, and a gangster – which interface painfully.

The Atelier selection shows the clear impact of globalization: “Borders,” for example, is directed by a Romanian, Ionut Pitirescu, and turns on a families scattered by war between the Burmese border jungle, the local big city and Copenhagen, which struggles to maintain contact. “Soundless Dance,” is helmed by Sri Lanka’s Pradeepan Raveendran whose “Shadows of Silence” played at Cannes’ 2010’s Directors’ Fortnight. It turns on a Sri Lankan immigrant in France, unhappy at his current plight but horrified by video-clip reports on civil conflict in his native Sri Lanka.

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