Alexander Abaturov’s “Paradise,” Lola Arias’ “Reas” and Yosep Anggi Noen’s “Voice of Baceprot” figure among 15 documentary features set to be pitched over April 27-28 at the 51st Pitching du Réel.
A co-production forum for creative documentaries, the Pitching is an industry centerpiece at Visions du Réel, one of Europe’s most prestigious documentary festivals.
These titles are joined by 12 others in a lineup which boasts well-known filmmakers, for example, Egypt’s Mohamed Siam, whose “Amal” opened 2017’s IDFA, Argentina’s Gaston Solnicki, director of Venice Horizons player “Kékszakállú, and Nelson Carlo de lo Santos, a Locarno Golden Leopard winner with “Cocote.”
It also takes in an extraordinary range of countries of origen led by France, with three titles in the section, and Switzerland, Argentina and Lebanon with a couple but including 18 territories, marked by a strong Middle East showing with further productions from Egypt, Syria and Quatar.
Projects will be presented via 15 pre-recorded pitches aired “live” on April 27. The presentation will be followed by round tables over April 27-28 where producers and decision-makers can discuss projects with the filmmakers, plus one-to-one meetings, says Violeta Bava, Visions du Réel co-head of industry
Produced by France’s Petit a Petit Production, “Paradise” turns on Aliona, 11, who lives in a village near Nordic Siberia’s Taiga, the world’s largest boreal forest, which, in a record heat-wave, suddenly catches fire.
From Argentina’s Gema Films, producer of docs from Andrés Di Tella, Abner Benaim, Manuel Abramovich and Victor Kossakovsky, “Reas” is directed by celebrated Argentine playwright Arias whose feature, “Theater of War,” played at the 2018 Berlinale Forum. It follows a group of women and trans inmates at Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza Prison who stage a musical to recreate and understand their past lives.
Set up at Jakarta’s KawanKawan Media, “Voice of Baceprot” (aka “VoB”) depicts the daily lives from village to onstage performance of 17-year-old schoolgirls Firdsa, Siti and Widi, a hijab-wearing heavy metal trio from Indonesia.
Produced by Paolo Calamita at Austria’s Little Magnet Films, “A Little Love Package,” a female-centric comedy set in Vienna, marks the latest from Argentina’s Gastón Solnicki, acclaimed for two docs, “Suden” (2008) and “Papirosen” (2011), and for Venice Horizons’ 2016 Fipresci Prize winner “Kékszakállú.”
“Ethel” weighs in as self-searching odyssey about a French-Algerian Paris female arts student of Jewish and Muslim heritage who moves back to Algeria during its 2018 street protests; Mohamed Siam directs a story about “what it means to be young today,” he says.
“Documentaries can be great fun, large entertainment, and at the same time still address social and cultural problems,” comments Bava, citing “VoB” and Keren Chemizon’s “Rebbellion,” which captures events on the Ukraine’s Pushkina Street as it hosts one of the world’s biggest gatherings of Hasidic Jews.
Trends in the section cut several ways. In a world in turmoil, some of the documentaries’ protagonists – or the films themselves – fight to preserve tradition.
Set against the background of the largest migration in human history, in “Fading Youth With Fresco,” directed by China’s Monica Zhu and Li Zhe, Junior Ji, 24, documents fading rural frescoes but is under pressure from his family to join millions emigrating to the country’s big cities.
Swiss Simona Canonica’s “The Song of Breathing” turns on how breathing has influenced art and sport in some of the world’s most ancient cultures.
Directed by Bigna Tomschin and Arjun Talwar, “I Dreamt a Nation” has Talwar attempting to trace fading democratic dreams in his native India.
While some documentaries portray attempts to preserve a past which is dying, others, however, ask how newer generations can escape traditions that are very much alive.
“Rebbellion” questions “the way reality is shaped by the stories we are told to believe,” seen through the eyes of the street’s inhabitants, revealing the essence of what it means to be human in a globalized capitalist society, says Chemizon.
“I see ‘VoB’ as a symbol of what it takes to break away from existing moral standards,” says director Noen,. A “highly cinematic” portrait, says Bava, of a Belfast Protestant working class neighborhood directed by France’s Vincent Pouplard, “Nobody Wants to Be a Fireman” asks if inherited collective memory can be “more than a factual situation that continues to make people suffer,” Pouplard says.
What the titles have in common, Bava suggests, is a sense of discovery, of directors being surprised by a living, evolving reality, rather than looking to illustrate programmatic ideas.
Abaturov’s ambition in “Paradise,” for instance, he observes in a director’s statement, is to shoot a real live fire in Siberia to recapture the “fear and fascination” he felt as a child when his father, a Russian city firefighter, told him about one forest blaze.
“The fire spread underground, burning tree roots. The flames could burst out from anywhere at any time: from ahead, from behind, even from under the firemen’s feet….My father told me that, throughout his entire life, he had never been as afraid as he had been that day.”
Of other films, Sonia Ben Slama (“Maktoub”) directs her second doc-feature, “Machtat,” a portrait of Tunisian women who escape the hardship of their lives by working as summertime wedding musicians. Lebanon’s Khamsin Films co-produces.
Directed by Petter Aaberg and Sverre Kvamme and produced by Norway’s Indie Film, “Nightcrawlers” has near-to-suicide Petter Aaberg recruiting co-director Kvame to find people in a similar state among Oslo’s young, and encourage them to take action in their lives.
Tania Mollanen’s “The Mission” follows four Mormon American teen dispatched to win converts in Finland.
In “Our Little Palestine,” director Abdullah Al Khateeb depicts a group of Palestine civilian activists in the besieged Yarmouk refugee camp, near Damascus, who rebel against their fate.
The jury for Pitching du Réel is formed by Vincenzo Bugno, head of the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund, three-times Cannes competition selected Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa, and Debra Zimmermann, executive director of New York’s Women Make Movies.
Targeting sales agents, distributors and broadcaster executives, a “live” version of Docs in Progress will be held on Wednesday April 29, featuring 10-minute presentations with excerpts from nine features in advanced post-production. These include “Malintzin 17,” the final documentary by Eugenio Polgovsky, who died in 2017 and whose documentary work played Cannes Critics’ Week, Sundance, Venice, the Berlinale and Rotterdam.
Another now online industry event, Rough Cut Lab allows filmmakers and producers to receive feedback on their latest productions; Swiss Films will preview five films about to hit the festival circuit; the RTS Prize will see the Swiss public broadcaster award one documentary from French-speaking Switzerland. Visions du Réel will also organize a bilateral meeting between Swiss and U.K. documentarians.
Held over April 26-29, three industry panels will drill down on film festivals, the film industry and filmmaking during COVID-19. A media library will highlight about 400 European and international documentaries released over 2018-19. Titles for Pitching du Réel, Docs in Progress and Rough Cut Lab were chosen from over 430 submissions, Bava says.
Visions du Réel 2020: Pitching du Réel Lineup
“Little Love Package,” (Gastón Solnicki, Austria, Argentina)
“Ethel,” (Mohamed Siam, Egypt, France, Denmark)
“Fading Youth with Fresco,” (Zhe Li, Monica Zhu, China)
“I Dreamt of a Nation,” (Tomschin Bigna, Arjun Talwar, Switzerland, Germany)
“Machtat,” (Sonia Ben Slama, France, Lebanon)
“Nightcrawlers,” (Petter Aaberg, Sverre Kvamme, Norway)
“Nobody Wants to Be a Fireman,” (Vincent Pouplard, France, Republic of Ireland)
“Our Little Palestine,” (Abdallah Al Khateeb, Lebanon, France, Syria, Qatar)
“Paradise,” (Alexander Abaturov, France, Russia)
“Pepe, The Imagination of the Third Cinema,” (Nelson Carlo De los Santos Arias, Dominican Republic)
“Reas,” (Lola Arias, Argentina)
“Rebbellion,” (Keren Chernizon, Ukraine)
“The Mission,” (Tania Moilanen, Finland)
“The Song of Breathing,” (Simona Canonica, Switzerland)
“Voice of Baceprot,” (Yosep Anggi Noen, Indonesia)