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CLUJ, Romania–New projects from around the Black Sea and beyond will take part this week in the Transilvania Pitch Stop, a workshop and co-production forum that’s one of the industry highlights of the Transilvania Intl. Film Festival.

Launched in 2014 as a five-day workshop for first- and second-time directors from Romania and Moldova, the Pitch Stop expanded in 2017 to include a co-production platform with projects from countries across the region.

The pitching forum has quickly become one of the leading confabs for producers and directors in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, who have traditionally looked to Western Europe for co-production and distribution opportunities. International players are also zeroing in on the TPS to identify upcoming projects and emerging talents. “For them, it’s a good place to come and discover [the region],” said TIFF industry manager Dorina Oarga.

In selecting 10 projects for the Transilvania Pitch Stop, organizers are keen to identify “fresh, unknown” voices, said Oarga, adding: “It’s a combination of young directors with interesting ideas.” Directors and producers will pitch their projects to a roomful of industry attendees including producers, distributors, sales agents and film fund representatives from around the world. Most of the projects are being presented publicly for the first time.

Touting the program’s successful track record so far, Oarga points to two recent TPS graduates in this year’s edition of the Transilvania film festival: “Monsters,” the feature directorial debut of Marius Olteanu, which has its Romanian premiere this week after bowing in the Berlin Intl. Film Festival’s Forum section; and “The Man Who Surprised Everyone,” by Russia’s Alexey Chupov, which is screening in competition in Transilvania after world premiering in Venice.

Two other recent TPS projects will be presented in closed screenings this week, as Romanian films that have been completed or are currently in post-production will be presented to local and international buyers.

The Pitch Stop is one of a number of initiatives looking to boost filmmakers from a frequently underserved and undeveloped region, including Sarajevo’s CineLink Co-Production Market, and Meetings on the Bridge, the co-production and networking platform of the Istanbul Int’l. Film Festival.

Building stronger regional ties is one of the reasons that past participants were invited back to this year’s edition, says Oarga. “We want to encourage them more, to offer them the possibility to come back to Cluj during these days and try and do a bit more networking,” she says.

This year’s selection includes projects from Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Greece, and Ukraine, along with the host country.

“Athlete” is the directorial debut of Turkey’s Semih Gulen and Mustafa Emin Buyukcoskun. It tells the story of a young and ambitious long jump athlete whose pursuit of success at any cost forces a crisis of conscience. It’s produced by Yumurta Yapim Sanat and Vigo Film.

“Beggar,” by Bulgaria’s Nadejda Koseva, is the follow-up to her 2017 debut “Irina,” which won the prize for best debut film in Cottbus. It follows an ailing retired miner who becomes an unlikely opponent of a toxic waste dump being built near his hometown. “Beggar” is produced by Borough Film.

In “Between Two Dawns,” Turkey’s Selman Nacar second feature, a man is forced to make a difficult moral choice after an employee of his family business is severely injured on the job. Kuyu Film is producing.

“Democracy Work in Progress” is a black comedy from Hungary’s Mihály Schwechtje. The second feature from Schwechtje, who also directed the series “In Treatment” for HBO Hungary, it tells the story of a driving instructor whose life is turned upside down when a student and political activist refuses to bribe him for her license. The film is produced by Studio P.

Romanian director Andrei Cretulescu, whose debut “Charleston” premiered in Transilvania in 2017, returns with “Games Without Frontiers,” a thriller that follows a group of 40-something friends who decide to recreate a mountain retreat from 20 years before, until events turn sinister. Kinosseur Productions is producing.

 

“I Will Survive,” the directorial debut of Turkey’s Ali Ercivan, unspools in the brutal months following a coup d’etat in 1980, when members of the LGBTI community were detained, tortured and banished. It follows a group of transgender women and gay men who are deported from Istanbul and abandoned in the wilderness, where they’re forced to find a way home.It’s produced by Harikulade Film.

“Mia Misses Her Revenge” is the follow-up to Romanian director Bogdan Theodor Olteanu’s “Several Conversations About a Very Tall Girl.” It tells the story of a young actress whose plan to make a sex tape to get back at her jealous boyfriend backfires, forcing her into an emotional crisis. Tangaj Production is producing.

“Mignon” is the first feature from Greek actress and director Sofia Georgovassili. The film turns on two teenage girls who are held captive after getting caught shoplifting in a department store, with no idea how to get out of their predicament. It’s produced by Greece’s plays2place and Romania’s Luna Film.

Greek director Thanos Psichogios’ feature debut, “Remember,” is set during the off-season on a small Greek island, where two teenagers murder an old man, shaking up the isolated and conservative community. Bad Crowd is producing.

“Spas” is the first film from Ukraine’s Maksym Nakonechnyi. It tells the story of a female soldier returning home after two months in captivity on the frontlines, only to realize she was impregnated by the warden who raped her, forcing her to decide whether to keep the child. The film is produced by Tabor.

Four projects are also taking part in this year’s Transilvania Pitch Stop workshop for first- and second-time Romanian and Moldovan filmmakers.

“Carbon” is the feature directorial debut of Moldova’s Ion Bors. It tells the story of two friends during a time of conflict who find a corpse charred beyond recognition, a discovery that sends them on an elaborate adventure to try to ensure the body is identified and buried properly. It’s produced by Kantora Film Production and Youbesc Creative Institute.

The second feature from Romania’s Gabi Virginia Sarga and Catalin Rotaru, “November Dream” is inspired by the true story of two young men who meet through a classified ad and begin a love affair, only to have their lives torn apart in a country where homosexuality is outlawed. Axis Media Production is producing.

“Océane,” the sophomore feature from Romania’s Eva Pervolovici, follows a young girl from Paris who falls in love with a Romanian man and pursues him to Bucharest without his knowledge. It’s produced by Libra Films.

“A Serious Man” is the first feature from Romanian director Alexandru Mavrodineanu. It’s the story of a life-long philanderer who decides to break free from the countless romantic entanglements he’s pursued for fear of being alone, only to be ensnared by the one woman he never got over. Alma Film and Luna Film are producing.