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‘Sabine,’ ‘Syzygy’ Chosen for the Cinando Awards Best Seller Contest

Heading into its third edition at Cannes, Cinando Awards strike synergies with Cannes’ Short Film Corner

CANNES — Two first feature projects, Sylvain Robineau’s French title “Sabine” and Fisnik Maxhuni’s ”Syzygy,” a Swiss-Kosovo production, will be pitched by 12 up-and-coming sales executives at the 3rd Cinando Awards’ Best Seller Contest, which take place over May 15-16 at the Cannes Film Market.

“Sabine” and “”Syzygy” will then segue to the Cannes Short Film Corner, where they will be presented in public by their would-be makers at a brand new five-title showcase, the Focus CoPro event, which is open to industry attendees. It takes place May 17.

A film about the cathartic power of art, said Robineau, “Sabine” is a feature version of an already made 15-minute short, a gentle comedy, directed by Robineau in 2015. In it, a video store manager, losing his partner, Sabine, films himself, in a melancholic black-and-white video clip, searching for her on a roadside, calling out her name by a river. He soon sets out to shoot shorts of other men talking about their lost loves, and sells the DVDs at his store as the French New New Wave.

Described by director Maxhuni as a “film about redemption, in a place that knows only survival,” ”Syzygy,” a drama/mystery thriller, turns on Val, who, after 10 years of exile in Geneva, returns to his home village, a tight-knit Muslim community in Kosovo, when his uncle, Skender, is dying. There, he reconnects with, Una, the love of his youth. Meanwhile, an international team of scientists exhumation a mass grave containing more than 200 bodies, killed during the war. Two revelations shatter Val’s life.

The Focus CoPro “expands our various workshop sessions to help more experienced filmmakers bridging the gap between short and features,” said Cannes Short Corner’s head Camille Hébert-Bénazet.

Use of real wannabe first features as the projects to be pitched at the Best Seller Contest also establishes a link between on-the-rise young directors and on-the-rise relatively young sales executives.

Presenting considerable, but familiar, challenges, as auteur foreign-language films with no star director, ”Syzygy” and “Sabine” also raise a larger question: Is the attraction of the film just its screenplay? Or its originality? Or quality? Or can other factors be brought into play?

The sales executives span a large range of companies and countries from Lionsgate’s Ryan Bennett to WestEnd’s Ani Ravdjee in London, France’s Arnaud Balengeon-Bouaziz at Urban Distribution and Danyah Hannah at Wide, to Turkey’s Umit Ali at Yazz Film Yapim. Notably, at least two companies with contestants, the L.A and Paris-based Cinema Management Group, represented by Giulia Prenna, and Russia’s Riki Group, with Diana Yurinova, have a strong line in animation.

They face a daunting challenge: a jury of prestigious distributors and producers – Michel Merkt, from Monaco’s KNM, Jakub Duszynski at Poland’s Gutek Film, Elba McAllister, owner of Cineplex in Colombia, and Cyril Burkel at France’s Metropolitan Filmexport – who will smilingly hang on their every word, analyzing ultimately not the quality of the film presented but the caliber of the presentation.

The pitches, made on May 15, are behind closed doors. The winners will be announced, however, on May 16 at a very public event, at 6.30 p.m.: the Cannes Marche du Film’s Festivals & Sales Agents Mixer, at the Plage des Palmes.

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