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Transilvania Pitch Stop Looks to Fast-Track Regional Co-Productions

Fest initiative spotlights emerging talents in Eastern Europe, Balkans

Looking to ramp up collaborations between countries in an oft-overlooked corner of Southeastern Europe, the Transilvania Pitch Stop has selected 10 projects that will be pitched to industry professionals on June 1-2 as part of its growing co-production platform.

Hailing from Georgia, Russia, Turkey, Serbia and Hungary, as well as the host country, Romania, the selection offers a cross-section of filmmaking from what Dorina Oarga, industry manager of the Transilvania Intl. Film Festival, describes as an “underrepresented” region around Romania and the Black Sea. “We’re trying to…build [capacity] where it’s necessary,” she says.

Conceived four years ago as a five-day workshop for first- and second-time directors from Romania and Moldova, the Pitch Stop expanded its focus in 2017 to include a co-production platform with projects from neighboring countries.

While the workshop still focuses on mentoring emerging Romanian and Moldovan directors and producers, the new co-production forum encourages filmmakers in Eastern Europe and the Balkans – historically looking to Western Europe for co-production possibilities – to find ways to work together. “It’s an obvious need,” says Oarga.

Projects were selected for the Transilvania Pitch Stop with an eye toward identifying those that are “as fresh as possible,” she adds; most are being presented at a market for the first time. Directors and producers will have the opportunity to pitch their films to a roomful of producers, distributors, sales agents and film fund representatives.

In “A Big She-Bear,” by Georgian director Lali Kidnavelidze, a young boy returns to his village after his mother’s suicide to punish the villagers for their sins.

“Border Games,” by Georgia’s Elene Mikaberidze, is a love story set in a village whose inhabitants face injustice because of the absurd borders set by their greedy leaders.

“Last Bus,” from directors Nándor Lőrincz and Bálint Nagy of Hungary, is a social drama about modern relationships pressured to conform to the expectations of others.

In “To the North,” from Romania’s Mihai Mincan, a stowaway fights for his life aboard a ship on the verge of mutiny somewhere in the Atlantic.

In “Summer Night, Half Past Ten,” by Romanian helmer Ivana Mladenovic, a small town organizes a festival, only to find that nothing goes according to plan.

“March. April. May,” from Andrey Gryazev of Russia, is the story of a former athlete who takes a job as a gym teacher at a provincial school faced with an inexplicable rash of suicides.

In “The Shooter,” by Russian director Piotr Levchenko, a man on the trail of an assassin uncovers a web of intrigue around local officials.

In “Frost,” from Serbia’s Pavle Vučković, a detective investigates the disappearance of a girl in a small town famous for black magic.

In “Alley Cat,” by director Çiğdem Sezgin of Turkey, a married woman with a restless heart falls into a series of hopeless affairs.

And in “Everything in its Right Place,” from Turkey’s Berrak Çolak, a wife mourning the disappearance of her husband of 40 years finds her life shaken up when a woman from the past returns.

For local filmmakers, the Pitch Stop is one of a number of initiatives looking to bolster the regional industry, including the CineLink Co-Production Market, of the Sarajevo Film Festival, and Meetings on the Bridge, the co-production and networking platform of the Istanbul Intl. Film Festival, which has a partnership with Transilvania.

This year the Pitch Stop forged a partnership with Germany’s Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (MDM) film fund, which will bring a dozen up-and-coming German producers to Transilvania. Organizers also launched a call through EAVE to bring fresh faces to the festival. “We have a lot of new producers [coming] for the first time to Cluj,” says Oarga.

Last year, Transilvania became one of 10 festivals to grant the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award, a €20,000 ($23,325) cash prize that Oarga calls “a reassurance that what we are doing…is important.”

The winner of the inaugural Eurimages prize, “The Empty House,” by Georgian director Rati Tsiteladze, was shortlisted for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab and earned a special mention at the Locarno fest’s Open Doors Lab. Earlier this year, Tsiteladze presented “The Empty House” in the Berlinale Co-Production Market.

It’s the kind of success story that will boost the Pitch Stop in the eyes of young filmmakers. “It’s a very good step for them,” says Oarga.

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