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Sam Spiegel International Film Lab Unveils Participants in 2018 Edition

The Jerusalem-based Sam Spiegel International Film Lab, whose alumni include Academy Award winner Laszlo Nemes (“Son of Saul”) and Nadav Lapid (“The Kindergarten Teacher”), has unveiled the names of the 12 emerging filmmakers on board for the program’s seventh edition.

The chosen artists will be mentored by award-winning Israeli director Avi Nesher, British script consultant Clare Downs and French screenwriter Jacques Akchoti.

Since launching, the Sam Spiegel Lab has had an enviable track record, with about 75% of projects presented at the program actually being produced. These include “Son of Saul,” which won Cannes’ Grand Jury Prize, and “The Kindergarten Teacher.”

Under the new leadership of Lior Sasson, who has taken over from Ifat Tubi as co-director alongside Renen Schorr, the lab’s pitching event will be expanded to four days and will now take place independently from the Jerusalem Film Festival. The event is scheduled for July 5-8.

“In 2015 we introduced a new artistic challenge to shoot and screen a scene from the future film as an upgrade to the existing pitching event. The participants’ poignant scenes gave the jury, as well as the decision-makers, a deeper understanding of the directors’ style and vision of the film to be,” said Schorr, the lab’s founder. The upcoming edition “will add more layers to deepen the intimate dialogue of the lab’s triangle: participants, jury members and decision-makers.”

The 2018 Sam Spiegel participants are:

Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, a Croatian writer-director and Columbia University graduate whose short “Into the Blue,” a dark-edged coming-of-age tale, was among the finalists for the Student Academy Awards and won prizes at the Berlinale and Sarajevo. Kusijanovic is currently participating in the Cinefondation residence of Cannes Film Festival to work on the script of her feature debut, “Murina.”

Ehab Tarabieh, an Israeli director whose 2013 short “The Forgotten” won prizes at Tribeca, Doha and Jerusalem. His short documentary “Smile and the World Will Smile Back” played at the Berlinale and was nominated for a European Film Award. Tarabieh participated in the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg fund residency.

Abner Benaim, from Panama/Mexico, previously directed the short documentary “Invasion” which was Panama’s first Oscar candidate for the foreign-language category in 2015, and made his feature debut with “Chance” which won best script at Skip City Festival in Japan.

Nitzan Gilady, an Israel director whose feature “Wedding Doll” won best first film at Jerusalem in 2015 and played at Toronto, as well as earned two prizes at the Israeli Academy awards.

Or Sinai, an Israeli filmmaker whose short “Ana” won the Cinefondation award at Cannes in 2016 and won the Israeli Academy Award for best short, as well as as honorable mention at Toronto. She participated in the Berlinale Talent Campus.

Takeshi Fukunaga, a New York-based Japanese filmmaker whose feature “Out of My Hand” played at the Berlinale’s Panorama and won best fiction at the Los Angeles Film Festival. He participated in the Cinefondation residency to work on his second feature.

Emre Kayis, a Turkish helmer who graduated from the London Film School. His 2015 short “The Translator,” about a Syrian refugee boy, was nominated at the European Film Awards and won a prize at the Istanbul Short Film Festival. He participated in the Talent Sarajevo residency.

Gabriel Tzafka, a Greek-Danish helmer who was trained at the Danish film school Super 16. His feature debut, “Thorn” won the Eurimage Lab Award as a work in progress and screened at the Thessaloniki and Copenhagen PIX festivals.

Hristo Simeonov, from Bulgaria, previously made “The Son,” a short film which won the Bulgarian Academy Award in 2016. His other short, “Enemies,” won the Grand Prix at Euroshorts in Poland.

Jonathan Dekel, from Israel, won the Israeli Academy Award for Best Short and a prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival with his 2014 short “April Fool’s.” He participated in the Sundance Screenwriting Lab in 2016.

Mikel Gurrea, from Spain, won prizes at Montreal and StockFish film festivals with his 2015 short “Foxes.” He participated in the San Sebastian Film Festival Residency.

Moshe Rosenthal, an Israel director whose short “Leave of Absence” won best short film at Jerusalem in 2016. His web series “Confess” won the Grand Prix at the Marseille Web Festival.

Kusijanovic, who attended the Lab’s first session in December with the other participants, said she was able to “write an entirely new draft of ‘Murina’ in five days.” “When you thought you explored every narrative avenues, Jerusalem opened new realms of the story — because of the setting and the soul of the place, I was able to dive into deeper levels of my story,” said the writer/director.

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