‘A Year of Cold,’ ‘The Postman’ Among the Eight South Asian Projects at Locarno’s Open Doors Platform

Gender issues stand out at this year selection

'Cold,' 'Postman' at Locarno's Open Doors;
Locarno Film Festival

Min Bahadur Bham’s female survival road movie “A Year of Cold” and Siddiq Barmak’s family drama “The Postman” are among the eight projects selected from South Asia selected by Locarno’s Open Doors Hub co-production forum to be offered for international partnerships.

This year five of the projects are closely tied to gender-related issues, marking an emerging trend in a patriarchal-dominant region. Pakistan heads the selection with two projects.

“A Year of Cold” is the sophomore directorial effort of Min Bahadur Bham, whose coming-of-age debut “The Black Hen” hit Venice Critics Week in 2015 taking the Fedeora award, and was Nepal’s 2016 Oscar submission.

Nepal-based Shooney Films (“The Black Hen”) is behind “A Year of Cold.” Set against the background of the Himalayas, and a strongly patriarchal rural society, the feature turns on a Tibetan woman refugee forced for legal reasons to find her missing husband, accompanied by her now de facto husband, her brother-in-law.

“This story portrays everyday hardship and struggles for a home and identity in exile. It also demonstrates the harsh life in the Himalayas and the plight of mountain communities in their struggle for subsistence,” Bahadur Bham explains.

“The Postman” will be the third effort from Siddiq Barmaq, director of “Osama,” a Golden Globe winner for best foreign.language film. This film is set in the winter of 1991, just before the battle of Kabul (1992-1996) and the Taliban Emirate (1996-2001). It is produced by Kabul-based Star Group in co-production with Germany’s Rohfilm. Kicking off after a teenager dies from a rocket attack in Kabul, “The Postman” revolves around the devastating effects this tragedy has on his family. The mother buries herself in silence while the father tries to find some relief returning to his postman duties in a city surrounded by war.

“I lived through the years the film is set in,” Barmak says. “The era contained the genesis for many of the problems facing Afghanistan today. The film will approach this version of Kabul as part dream, part nightmare combining nostalgia for the quiet, modern city with the awareness of looming war.”

“The Postman” and “A Year of Cold” were among the five Asian projects primed for script development at the 2017 Busan Asian Project Market.

Lazy loaded image

“The film explores and poses questions about love, betrayal, brutality, sacrifice, human dignity, freedom, democracy and life,” Pushpakumara says.

“One of a Kind” is a co-production alliance between Pakistan’ Sanat Initiative and Parveen Shah Productions, director Iram Parveen Bilal’s company, headquartered in Pakistan and L.A.

Directed by Parveen Bilal, it tells the story of Noor Malik, the first female maths teacher and founder of the first girls’ school in her Pakistani village, who later became an online sexual muse for crowds of sex-starved Pakistani men. The film is inspired by Qandeel Baloch, Pakistan’s version of Kim Kardashian, who was brutally murdered in 2016.

“One of a Kind” “questions our inherent compartmentalization of female roles: for instance that a mother cannot be sexy. This type of social compartmentalization, I feel is the root of Pakistan’s gender politics,” according to Bilal.

The second project from Pakistan, “Rose,” is an look into a LGTB universe produced by Karachi’s Vidhi Fims (Sabiha Sumar) in partnership with Mahak Jiwani and Apoorva Charan from the U.S. It marks the feature debut of Saim Sadiq, telling a tragic love story centered on Mir, Sassi and Heera. 25 year-old Mir is a married man whose wife (Sassi) is conservative, naïve and considerate, and who progressively develops a real love for her husband. Heera is a stage stripper who becomes a fascinating and inspirational character for Mir who falls into deep personal crisis.

The feature is based on personal experiences of the director who said: “In a nutshell, ‘Rose’ is in equal parts a heartbreaking love story, a critique of violent toxic masculinity, and a celebration of the bold resistance of Heera, Sassi and Mir.”

In Mahde Hasan’s feature debut “Sand City,” the director aims to dive into the spirit of Dhaka, Bangladesh and its citizens. He says: “This film is my chance to make a journey into my reality and come face to face with my own story, instead of escaping it. Through this journey, I want to explore the many facets of urban survival, fantasy, sexuality and religion.”

Its three protagonists are a Buddhist monk, a woman who accidentally finds a finger, and a man who steals sand from the plant at which he works. Rubaiyat Hossain’s Dhaka-based Khona Talkies produces.

“The Women” is the third feature from director The Maw Naing whose debut, “The Monk,” premiered at Karlovy Vary. It depicts the struggles of four women who have moved from remote villages to the city of Yangon, Myanmar to find work and a better life. The four women share a bedroom near the city’s factory area. Two work in a factory which has a strike; one works as a maid in a private home; the forth serves as a housekeeper at a hotel.

“Even though they are smart, they can’t get a proper education. Despite working hard and keeping their hopes high, they can’t escape from poverty. From their present, we can see their past and future,” says the director. “The Women” is produced by Youngjeong Oh at Yangon-based One Point Zero-

“18 White Gold” is co-produced by Thinley Dorji’s Gumar Films (Bhutan) and Sonali Joshi’s Day for Night Film & Visual (U. K.).

Jamyang Wangchuk, the actor who played the Dalai Lama in “Seven Years in Tibet,” debuts as a director with this story of a government officer sent to a remote village on a mission of education, a mission which is actually a punishment. There, he finds a beautiful girl with whom falls in love. “Although the central theme of ‘White Gold’ is about self-discovery, there is an underlying theme of climate change and the reality of its effect on the Himalayan region and beyond,” Wangchuk says.

The Open Doors Hub is a seven-day bespoke program which includes pitching coaching, group discussions, one-to-one meetings and networking activities with industry decision makers and guests at the Locarno festival.

Lazy loaded image
Locarno Film Festival

The Open Doors Jury –formed by Deepti DCunha, Delly Shirazi, Delphine Jeanneret, Gilles Duval and Paul Miller– will grant a main prize worth 50.000 CHF ($50,399 ) among other awards including the Arte Award and the CNC Award.

The South Asia Open Door was launched in 2016 as a three-year project, this year closing the cycle. The focus of the upcoming three-year series is under discussion. The final decision will be made at the end of July by The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). According to the organization, it may be announced at the end of Open Doors 2018.

The Open Doors program embraces three initiatives: the co-production platform Open Doors Hub, the Open Doors Lab –which changes its countries of selection each year– and Screenings. The Lab is an incubator that provides tools and personalized consulting to eight emerging producers from the region to achieve appropriate development of their projects.

Screenings is an around-twenty-films showcase –including shorts and features– offering a fresco of cutting-edge film production from around the whole region.

The eight projects selected for the Aug. 1-7 Open Doors Hub are:

“A Year of Cold,” Min Bahadur Bham (Nepal)

“Mother,” Sanjeewa Pushpakumara (Sri Lanka, France)

“One of a Kind,” Iram Parveen Bilal (Pakistan, U.S.)

“Rose,” Saim Sadiq (Pakistan)

“Sand City,” Mahde Hasan (Bangladesh)

“The Postman,” Siddiq Barmak (Afghanistan, Germany)

“The Women,” The Maw Naing (Myanmar)

“White Gold,” Jamyang Wangchuk (Bhutan, U.K.)