Swiss producer Tiziana Soudani, who through her Amka Films shepherded prizewinning films by prominent directors from nearby Italy, such as Alice Rohrwacher and Silvio Soldini, as well as by emerging talents in Switzerland and Africa, has died after a struggle with brain cancer.
She was 64. Soudani’s death was announced on Sunday by several Swiss media outlets and by the Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland’s preeminent film event, with which Soudani had a long rapport.
Born in Locarno, the lakeside town in the Italian-speaking portion of Switzerland, Ticino, Soudani founded Amka Films in 1988 with her Algerian husband Mohammed Soudani, a former professional soccer player turned documentary director.
The previous year, in 1987, while attending the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso, Soudani had been profoundly struck by the film “Ablakan,” the first work by Roger Gnoan M’Bala from the Ivory Coast, which prompted her to go into production, according to the Locarno fest’s tribute.
Soudani, while producing initially mostly documentaries, many of which set in Africa, worked closely between 1992 and 1995 with the Locarno festival dedicated to indie cinema. First as head of the Pards of Tomorrow section dedicated to emerging filmmakers and then as close collaborator to the fest’s artistic director Marco Müller.
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Amka Films gradually gained traction in the fiction feature realm thanks to Soudani’s ability to spot talent and provide Swiss co-production funds and smart creative input.
Soudani played a crucial role in packaging Venice-set absurdist screwball comedy “Bread and Tulips” by Italy’s Soldini, starring Germany’s Bruno Ganz alongside Neapolitan actor Licia Maglietta, who plays a bored housewife making a break for freedom. In 2000 the fresh film swept Italy’s David di Donatello Awards, the country’s top film prizes, scooping a stunning 9 statuettes.
Subsequently Soudani became instrumental to fostering the career of Alice Rohrwacher, providing Swiss co-production funding, as well as creative input, to the young Italian auteur’s works starting from her debut “Corpo Celeste” to “The Wonders” and “Happy as Lazzaro,” the latter two both prizewinners within the Cannes competition section.
On her home turf Soudani’s most recent discovery was Peru-born, Florida-bred, Lugano-based Swiss director Klaudia Reynicke, whose “The Nest” bowed in Locarno’s Filmmakers of the Present section in 2016 segued by quirky “Love Me Tender,” about a young woman with agoraphobia, which last year after premiering in Locarno segued to Toronto’s Discovery section.
The last project Soudani was shepherding via Amka is “L’Afrique des Femmes,” a long-gestating doc by Mohamed Soudani described in promotional materials as as “portrait of Africa and its women: strong, courageous and full of resources.”
Soudani received several Swiss honors during her career including the Cinema Ticino award, the Prix d’honneur at the Soletta Cinema Days. Last year she was a member of the Zurich Film Festival’s jury headed by Oliver Stone.
Survivors include her husband and daughters Amel Soudani, a former Locarno fest head of press, and Karima.