Film producers are scarce in South Asia, the featured region at the upcoming Locarno Film Festival’s Open Doors co-production lab dedicated to cinematographies in areas where making movies is especially tough.

So “directors often just turn to private investors,” says Sophie Bourdon who heads the initiative. Therefore “you have people mentioned as producers who are not producers at all,” she notes. And “very often the producers are the filmmakers themselves.”

Interestingly, most non-commercial movies that come from South Asia are documentaries, Bourdon points out. The objective at Open Doors is not to exclude documentaries, “but we want to produce more fiction films,” she says.

The key to doing that is to identify talents who can make the leap from shorts to feature films.

The Open Doors lab, which will run August 4-9, won’t just just cover business or industry issues such as how to finance a film, or how to find distribution. It will start from how to develop a project, segue into the creative relationship between director and producer at script stage, and cover other aspects, like casting.

Bourdon has noticed that one of the big issues in the region for independent films is proper post production “because most of the films are Bollywood films, which are dubbed,” she says. So within the producers’ lab there will be a kind of mini-workshop on how to be more creative in post.

Locarno earlier this year announced that as part of their “research remit” to explore cinematographies that are relatively or totally unknown – but with great potential – they would be focussing over the next three years on eight countries in South Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The eight selected projects for the Open Doors Hub are:

“Cinema, City and Cats,” by Ishtiaque Zico, Bangladesh

Zico’s first fiction feature weaves three tales of a film school teacher, a movie theatre projectionist, and a home delivery boy. All experience the impact of migration and seek hope in contemporary Dhaka, Nepal’s capital The director’s prior works include the short “720 Degrees,” the first and only Bangladeshi entry at Venice, where it screened in Horizons in 2010.

“Craving” (“Ta Ku Tha Lo Chin Thee”), by Maung Okkar, Myanmar

Okkar’s first feature is a drama set in modern-day Myanmar which turns on three families and their cravings in life. The director’s previous works include “Charcoal boy,” a short documentary shot in 2010.

“Day After Tomorrow,” by Kamar Ahmad Simon, Bangladesh

This is the second installment of a “water-trilogy” that started with non-conventional docu “Are you listening!,” which won the Grand Prix at the Cinema du Réel fesival in Paris. The director travelled more than 200 kilometres by waterways to shoot it, while also making a metaphorical journey through the mainly Muslim population of Bangladesh, on the eve of an election.

“House of My Fathers,” by Suba Sivakumaran, Sri Lanka

This first feature is set entirely in the jungles of Sri Lanka, in the villages of Tamil and Sinhala. It is described as having a dystopian vision and being about a widow, an ex-revolutionary and a priest who venture into the jungle to confront their past memories and search for the future.

“Season of Dragonflies” (“Jhyalincha”), by Abinash Bikram Shah, Nepal

This first feature based on the filmmaker’s personal history will aim to provide a glimpse into the restlessness of Nepal, especially the struggle of women, caught between age-old traditions and modern day aspirations while also having to contend with poverty and disasters. The directors’ previous works include the short “I Am Happy,” which played at Busan.

“The Cineaste,” by Aboozar Amini, Afghanistan

Aboozar Amini’s first feature is based on the eponymous novel by Afghan author Asef Soldanzadeh. Set in Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan where the Taliban blew up two giant Buddah statues, it is described as a poetic ode to civilization and a powerful fight back against barbarism. The director’s previous works include the short “Angelus Novus” which premiered in 2015 in Rotterdam.

“The Red Phallus,” by Tashi Gyeltshen, Bhutan

This first feature is described as being about the paradox that sees people killing other people while talking about attaining enlightenment in the same breath. It is part of a trilogy, the first two instalments being shorts. The second instalment, “The Red Door,” screened in 2014 in Rotterdam.

“Then They Would be Gone” (“Mela Chaar Dinan Da”), by Maheen Zia, Pakistan

In Pakistani villages, the arrival of a “mela,” or street fair — the word is Sanskrit for “gathering” — with its music and dance, used to be looked forward to by families. But nowadays “melas” are disappearing due to religious hardliners just as cable TV permeates the country and money dries up for the performers. This is the directors’ second feature-length docu. She previously co-directed “Lyari Notes” which premiered at the International Documentary Filmfestival in Amsterdam.

Open Doors Hub projects will vye for the Open Doors prize worth worth $49,000, mostly financed by the Swiss production fund Visions Sud Est, and also some smaller grants.

The Open Doors Lab will be bringing over a group of producers and directors from South Asia for international industry training and personalized support.

The producers and directors-producers who will participate in the Open Doors Lab are:

– Aadnan Imtiaz Ahmed, Kino-Eye Films, Bangladesh

– Abu Shahed Emon, Batayan Productions, Bangladesh

– Rubaiyat Hossain, Khona Talkies, Bangladesh

– Jigme Lhendhup, Evolving Artists, Bhutan

– We Ra Aung, Green Age Film Production, Myanmar

– Thu Thu Shein, Third Floor Production, Myanmar

– Wang Shin Hong, Myanmar Montage Productions, Myanmar

– Min Bahadur Bham, Shooney Films Pvt. Ltd., Nepal