Locarno’s Match Me!, its annual networking forum, builds this year to a nine-country focus. Some invited companies are established values: Singapore’s Zhao Wei, Portugal’s Fado Filmes. Most represent emerging voices on the international independent movie production sector. Here’s five points they suggest about that scene, plus a drill down on companies and top projects:
1.Male Producers: An Endangered Species?
If one part of the movie business is edging towards equality, at least at its art-skewed end, it’s world cinema indie production. Women just edge out men when it comes to the number of producers selected for 2019’s Match Me! 13 female producers play 12 men. They are also bring some of the most exciting and timely projects. Consistently now, films from a first clutch of major producing countries selected for artier festivals around the world may or may not be directed by men but are very often produced by women. Brazil is one example. Overall figures are almost certainly not near 50%. An established generation, mostly male breaking through last century, are not giving up the producing ghost. But there’s sense that if the build in women producers continues, festivals may have to start making an effort to spread their nets wide, looking, when it comes to new producers, for men.
Locarno director Lili Hinstin remarks in an interview with Variety that the male members of her selection committee are more feminist than the women. The number of films, though made by men,which focus sympathetically on women’s plight, is growing too. One case in point at Match Me!: “Let It Be,” from Poland’s Lukasz Grzegorzek. It turns on “a loving mother, caring daughter, supportive wife and great teacher” “who needs to find a balance between her family and her needs.” One of her guilty pleasures is meeting secretly with her lover, a teaching colleague at her school. She ends up being blackmailed.
3.Streaming Platforms: A Life-Raft, an Option, or Another Ball Game
Everybody agrees that streamers have proved game-changers, at least for the top-end of the business. “People are watching movies from all over the world and from different cultures and languages proving that there are no boundaries: a good story is always a good story,” says Joana Domingues from Portugal’s Caracol Protagonista. But have streaming platforms affected your films’ potential markets, Variety asked Match Me! attendees. In some territories, it’s still too early. Netflix and HBO Portugal have yet to acquire films in exclusivity from Portugal or produce original national content, observes Fado Filmes’ Vasco Esteves.In others, it may be too late. In Mexico, “as the power and dominion of platforms grows, their willingness to risk for alternative films decreases….which again limits the window for disruptive, arthouse or independent cinema,” says one producer. Whether larger competition in the OTT space will encourage diversity remains a large question for the international production sector.
4.So Where’s the Business?
Either now a non English-language movie sells very well abroad. Or it hardly sells at all. Returns from the whole of international can be less than$50,000 . So where are the markets for international production? Most companies will have to evolve. “We had the opportunity to work with aggregators and smaller streaming platforms to approach alternative markets and wider territorial releases,” says André Mielnik, at Brazil’s If You Hold a Stone. “But the revenues for a company which just produces are too small, so the ability to know your audience and plan distribution ahead is critical.”
He adds: “You see sales agencies investing in production as much as you see producers representing their own content. It’s a shift bound to happen. With low-budget arthouse films like ours, it’s an absolute necessity.”
5.Still Growing After All These Years
Traditional markets – theatrical, TV – are ever more challenged. Netflix et al. has kicked in for sone companies, but not for most. So the industry is curbing its ambition? Not at all. The narrative of many companies at Match Me! is one of growth: A move from shorts or documentaries into minority international co-production before tackling their first majority fiction feature. That growth story is in part why these companies have been chosen. But the sentiment is that these days producers have to be more, not less, ambitious and more daring to succeed.
Brief profiles follow of players and a top project per company at Match Me!
A Rio de Janeiro based boutique company focused on first-time directors, Estudio Griz made large splash at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight this year with Alice Furtado’s “Sick, Sick, Sick,” a lush, genre-tinted portrait of high-school first love desire and then obsession. At Locarno with Will Domingos’ “Tectonic Love,” a futuristic, 2027-Rio set tale of a mother’s reactions to the murder of her gay son.
IF YOU HOLD A STONE
Launched in 2012, developing fiction/docu hybrids and director-driven genre genre, such as Camilo Restrepo’s awaited and experimental “Los Conductos,” now in post, and a Mar del Plata WIP winner last year..In Locarno with horror drama “Brasilia! Brasilia!” about a Dutch woman’s vacation in Brasilia, which triggers a series of supernatural events.
The production shingle of Sao Paulo-based Daniel Pech, a prolific international co-producer aiming to shoot three co-productions with Argentina, Chile and Colombi, plus two Brazilian movies over 2019-20. These include Lucia Vassalo’s thriller “Cadaver Exquisito,” about a young makeup artist who discovers her girlfriend, now in coma, has a mysterious past.
Set up in 2011, with clear sense of its domestic produced Karlovy Vary Special Jury Prize winner 1990s “The Days That Confused,·a comedic rival take on Estonia’s party-party ‘90s, 2017’s estranged father-son dramedy “The ManvWho Looks Like Me. ” Kinosaurus’ Maario Masing will be at Locarno introducing “Phantom Owl Forest” 2 , a sequel to its live action eco-themed family drama, which was Estonia’s biggest homegrown hit last year.
Created by writer-director Martti Helde and producer Elina Litvinova to back auteurist movies for the international market, Three Brothers scored with Helde’s “Scandinavian Silence,” co-produced by France’s prestigious ARP Selection, which won the won the Europa Cinema Label Award at the 2019 Karlovy Vary Festival.Three Brothers is now producing Trim Rummet’s “Dark Paradise.
Created by Simona Pellicciolli. moving from music production into film and TV, at Locarno with live action/animation hybrid “Wings Behind,” about Odin. a joyful girls despite being born with no arms.
PARALLELO 41 PRODUZIONI
Founded by Antonella Di Nocera, Naples-based and often Naples-focused via a raft of semi-financed documentaries which Di Nocera will introduce at Locarno, from Luca Ciriello’s “L’Armée Rouge,” about Naples’ black community music scene, to “Il 68 a Napoli,” about the year’s student and worker protests.
Turin-based, set up by Daniel Segre and Daniele De Cicco, in 2012, producer of Alessandro Stevanon’s Venice-selected short “The Line” and “Unfolded” by Cristina Picchi, winner of a Leopard of Tomorrow for 2013 “Zima, now moving into longer works and fiction, such as Stevanon’s feature doc “The Doorkeeper” which, says Segre, “portrays Jerusalem through the keen, sharp and often ironic eye of Wajeeh Nuseibeh: the keeper of the Holy Sepulchre.”
FILM STUDIO DEVINI
Set up in Riga in 1991, at Locarno via Marta Romanova-Jekabson with a proposed adaptation of Latvian bestseller “Soviet Milk,” a withering account of Soviet repression set down the years from 1969 to 1989.
The enterprising producer of international remake franchise “Swingers,” as well as three of the five highest-grossing local movies in Latvia. At Locarno, producer Kristains Alhimionoks will move “Accidental Santa,” billed as ”a crazy Christmas comedy full of misunderstandings.”
Founded in 2014 by Carlos Hernandez Vázquez, betting on a new generation of national talents, such as Gabriel Mariño’s 2017 Morelia winner “Yesterday Wonder I Was” and Alvaro Curiel’s “Marionette,” selected fir Ventana Sur’s Copia Final and a 2019 Guadalajara Festival Fipresci Award winner. Producer Producer Gabriela Gavica will attend with buzzed-up feature project “Ona (Sur).”
Founded in 2007, and represented in Locarno by Jorge Ramírez Varela, a co-producer on Fox-distributed smash hit “Guten Tag, Ramon.”” Now moving into fantasy fiction features, such as its Locarno’s flagship, fantasy adventure “Luz,” to be directed by Andrés Ibanez Díaz Infante, about a 13-year-old girl who discovers she’s a Great Shaman.
TERRA NOSTRA FILMS
Represented at Match Me! by Daniela Contreras, who will be moving “The Biggest Place,” a docu-feature study of how the Chiapas, having won autonomy, confronts the challenge of self-government. Upcoming: Two Tsotsil indigenous community documentaries, “Tote_Grandfather” and “”Vaychiletik_Dreams,” and “Negra,” a critique of racism in Mexico.
BEFORE MY EYES
Producer Magdalena Sztorc will use Match Me! to talk up “Simple Things,”the second feature film from Polish director Grzegorz Zariczny, whose feature debut “Waves” bowed in was premiered in main competition at Karlovy Vary in 2016, while his 2012 short documentary “Whistle” snagged a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. An intimate family story, between fiction and documentary, says Sztorc, it is based on the true experiences of a real couple, Błażej and Magda, non-professional actors who play themselves. “It’s auteur driven, intimate, very honest cinema.,” she adds.
A minority producer on Czech Karlovy Vary best director winner “Winter Flies,” having made “Kamper” together, Koskino’s Natalia Grzegorzek is now re-teaming with director Lukas Grzegorzek for “Let It Be,” a small town-set tale of a woman school teacher blackmailed after she takes a lover.
Run by Rafal Sakwoski, producer of doc feature “The Pack,” about convicts training aggressive dogs for adoption, now preparing its first international feature film, “Bitter Apricots,” an estranged brother drama set in Armenia from U.S.-based Polish director (“Looking for Palladin”) and producer (“We Are New York”) Andrej Krakowski.
A new outfit, Caracol began with a bang with Portuguese director Bruno Gascon’s women’s empowerment themed “Carga,” sold by Wide to 20-plus countries. Now developing his follow-up “Shadow.”
A classic European upscale production house, championing established directors . Carlos Diegues’ “The Great Mystical Circus,” Carlos Saura’s “Fados,” as well as far newer values. Its flagship Locarno project: “Entroncamento”, a hip hop/crime drama from Pedro Cabeleira, whose “Damned Summer” – won a Locarno Special Jury Mention in 2017). Set in the director’s hometown Entroncamento, it will also be presented at the New York IFP Week Project Forum.
Founded by Pedro Duarte, at Locarno with raft of documentaries such as Mariana Galvao’s feature “Youth,” about a Portuguese teen and German grandfather, who fought in WWII, driving across Europe from Portugal to the Czech Republic.
Focusing on experimental and auteurist movies demo Southeast Asia’s emerging voices, made via regional cross-collaboration and co-production, it says. After a series of shorts, AAND’s Ling Tion will move at Match Me! Carlo Francisco Manatad’s feature “Whether the Weather is Fine,” a relationship drama set in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan.
MOMO FILM CO
Launched last year to support Southeast Asian filmmakers who “want to tell culturally specific stories with global appeal,” says co-founder Si En Tan, who will be in Locarno. Developing dark comedy-drama “God Sister” from Nelicia Low (“Freeze”) about a wannabe actress mistaken for the Goddess Matsu.
ZHAO WEI FILMS
Founded in 1995 and with Fado Filmes the most renowned company at Match Me!. Headed by Eric Khoo and a trailblazer for Singapore’s modern independent movie industry, whether making its first film selected at Cannes – Khoo’s “12 Storeys” or first in competition – Khoo again, with 2008’s “My Magic” – or teaming with HBO Asia for six-part horror anthology “Folklore” or nurturing new and established talent. Its Locarno slate mixes both from Boo Jungfeng’s “Trinity” to horror pic “Hana.”
Part of Barcelona’s build in women cineasts, now in early production on its first majority producer feature “Sara,” a record by Gadea Films co-founder Patricia Franquesa of her encounter with Afghanistan’s first female taxi driver, Sara Bahai. Also developing Pau Pericas’ In Heaven as It is on Earth,” a portrait of Spain’s Capuchin Joan Botam.
MANO NEGRA FILMS
Moving from documentaries into fiction, one potential driver in Spain of its new genre build, whether Aitor Uribarri’s survival thriller, set in the mortal cold of the Spanish mountains, with “Locked Up’s” Irene Anula attached to star, and “Lady Laura,” a dark psychological thriller featuring another star of the same breakout series, the formidable Itziar Castro. Company founder Daniel Méndez will represent both titles in Locarno.
Best known for co-producing “Stockholm,” the feature debut of now one of Spain’s most foremost filmmakers, Rodrigo Sorogoyen (“May God Save Us,” “The Realm”). Its flagship project at Match Me! is coming of age drama “Killing Crabs,” cosen for development by the ECAM Madrid Film School’s Incubator. In the pipeline, its biggest title to date: Ombibus feature “Siete Picos.”