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‘The Women,’ ‘Mother’ Top Locarno’s Open Doors

Winning film projects offer portraits of strong, combative females

One project from Sri Lanka –Sanjeewa Pushpakumara’s “Mother”– and another from Myanmar –The Maw Naing’s “The Women”– won ex-aequo, the main kudos at the Locarno Festival’s Open Doors co-production forum.

The winning projects share a high sensitivity towards female-related issues, a trend among many of the participants this year. The $50,000  award was split between the two.

Produced by Youngjeong Oh at Yangon-based One Point Zero, “The Women,” the third feature of The Maw Naing (Karlovy Vary-premiered “The Monk”) turns on the struggles of four women who have moved from remote villages to the city of Yangon, Myanmar to work and get a better life. The four women share a bedroom near the city factory area.

“Despite working hard and keeping their hopes high, they can’t escape from poverty. Their lives are not strongly connected, but from their present, we can see their past and future. I will portray them from their physical environment and their inner landscape,” says the director.

The Open Doors Jury justified its decision of “The Women” due to its subtle, elaborate and precise script, shedding light on the harsh local reality as a result of the global thirst for consumer goods.

In “Mother,” Pushpakumara (“Burning Birds”) offers two sharp portraits of strong, battling women. It turns on two mothers from opposite sides of the recently ended three-decades civil war who embark in the search of their missing children, and create a Sri Lanka rescuing mothers movement.

“Mother” is produced by the director production outfit Sapushpa Expressions, and explores big issues such as love, betrayal, brutality, sacrifice, human dignity, freedom and democracy.

“As a filmmaker I strongly believe the story has universal relevance with contemporary social realities around the globe which current global crisis has prompted,” Pushpakumara says.

The jury’s said of the film that it: “inspires hope in a society looking for justice, after years of conflict, based on individual resistance.”

Dominique Welinski at Paris-based DW productions (Karim Aïnouz’ “Madame Satã”) has come on board “Mother.”

This year’s Locarno Festival brings to a close Open Doors’ three-year focus on South Asia.

“Focusing for three years on South Asian countries, Open Doors has shown that this region is a hothouse of talents and stories and has contributed to the development of a stronger independent South Asian community. South Asia is becoming more visible and now has a voice,” said Sophie Bourdon, head of Open Doors and deputy head of Locarno Pro.

“Over this three-year period Open Doors has created a platform for a generation of directors and producers to raise their visibility and establish contacts with production models elsewhere,” added Locarno Festival artistic director Carlo Chatrian, calling South Asia “a geographical region that is rich in culture but poorly represented at international events.”

He went on: “Alongside some unforgettable moments, such as the touching presentation in Piazza Grande of the film “Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait,” by Khyentse Norbu, the past three years leave us a lasting legacy of contacts and experiences which we are sure will soon bear valuable fruit in forthcoming editions at Locarno.”

“The Women” won a $35,000  Open Doors grant, “Mother,” a second of $15,000.

Mahde Hasan’s “Sand City” (Bangladesh) got the CNC Award, worth €8,000 ($9,275 USD).

And Min Bahadur Bham’s “A Year of Cold” (Nepal) took the Arte International Open Doors Prize.

 

OPEN DOORS AWARD

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

“The Women,” (The Maw Naing, Myanmar)

CNC AWARD

“Sand City,” (Mahde Hasan, Bangladesh)

ARTE INTERNATIONAL OPEN DOORS PRIZE

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

TORINOFILMLAB AWARD

Sumudu Malalagama (Green Pictures Sri Lanka)

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