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Teenagers struggling with sexual identity, women fighting to reconcile their multi-faceted roles in society, and men grappling with the destructive constraints of masculinity are among the themes to be explored in the 2020 edition of the TorinoFilmLab’s FeatureLab, an intensive annual workshop focused on first and second feature film projects at advanced stages of development.

The 10 projects selected to participate include seven debut features, spanning the globe from the sweltering jungles of the Amazon to the sun-soaked islands of Greece, from the mountains of Montenegro to the shores of Australia.

“We are proud to present a very diverse selection,” said TorinoFilmLab curator Vincenzo Bugno. “Ten projects with an original artistic identity coming from very different parts of the world, all of them representing somehow the complexity of this planet (and) the state of things in a challenging political-cultural situation.”

Bugno heralded a selection that features a new generation of filmmakers exploring deeply personal stories while questioning their origins, sexual identity and their beliefs. Their characters reflect a common desire to find a place in the world, dealing with crises from the mundane to the profound, while being torn between acceptance and their longing for something more.

“We are impressed because all these future films have an important, often impressive cinematic, visual, artistic profile, but also a strong narrative structure and go beyond any kind of stereotypes,” said Bugno. “They often mix original and wonderfully contradictory identities: non-historical projects intertwining past and present, realistic films with important non-realistic elements, merging sometimes a diffuse taste of melancholia with a sort of sensual spirituality.”

The TorinoFilmLab is an initiative of the Museo Nazionale del Cinema with the support of the European Union’s Creative Europe Media program, Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo (MiBACT), Regione Piemonte and Città di Torino.

The TFL’s 2020 FeatureLab participants, with descriptions provided by the event, include:

“The Mysterious Gaze of the Flamingo,” by Diego Céspedes (Chile), produced by Giancarlo Nasi (Don Quijote Films, Chile)

Céspedes’s first feature is set in a village in the arid region of northern Chile in the 1980s, at the onset of the AIDS epidemic. Between the mining town and the queer community, the young Lidia and her brother Alexo confront the ignorance of a society that questions if a man who loves another can transmit the “pest” with his gaze. A social-historical observation with a poetic soul, merged with fantastic elements.

“Heartless,” by Nara Normande & Tião (Brazil), produced by Justin Pechberty (Les Valseurs, France)

A debut feature that unspools in Brazil in the 1990s. Tamara, a white girl from a “good family,” is spending her vacation in a village in the northeastern part of the country—a world of great freedom for the local teenagers and newcomers. One day, Tamara meets Heartless, a fisherman’s daughter known as the girl with a scar on her cheek. From that moment on, Tamara can’t lie to herself anymore.

“Panopticon,” by George Sikharulidze (Georgia), produced by Vladimer Katcharava (20 Steps Productions, Georgia)

Sixteen-year-old Sandro misses his father, who decided to become a monk. As the son also grows closer to religion, he is seemingly attracted to the growing fascist movement in Georgia. But he is also dealing with the inescapable reality of his body, torn between the increasingly fundamentalist morals of the church and his sexual desires. Sikharulidze’s first feature participated in the TFL’s ScriptLab 2019.

“Karaoke King,” by Federica Gianni (Italy), produced by Tatiana Bears & Lara Costa-Calzado (Other Season, United States)

Two brothers leave their village after an earthquake and move to Primavalle in Rome. Gianni’s first feature deals with different geographies and local identities. It is an anthropological poem about place, about fascism and destructive masculinity, about manhood and male tenderness. The project participated in TFL Extended – Creative Production 2019.

“Caravan,” by Zuzana Kirchnerová (Czech Republic), produced by Pavla Janoušková Kubečková (nutprodukce, Czech Republic)

A mother and her mentally handicapped son are travelling in Italy. Battling against stereotypes, Kirchnerová’s first feature is a story about a country far from the postcard-perfect view. An emotional trip from the over-industrialized regions in the North to the barren brightness of the South. The project participated in ScriptLab 2018.

“Melting of the Ruler,” by Ivan Salatić (Montenegro), produced by Jelena Angelovski (Meander Film, Serbia)

In the 19th century, the Montenegro hills, surrounded by the Turks, were the only free territories of the Balkans. Salatić’s second feature is a non-historical film about this and other Mediterranean regions. It is about the “noble savage” and his relationship with the Western world. A highly poetic and visionary project.

“The Jungle,” by Matthias Huser (Switzerland), produced by Michela Pini (8horses, Switzerland)

A devout Christian Swiss nurse, together with her husband, visits her old father living in the Amazonian jungle in Brazil. Huser’s sophomore feature is a film about family obsessions and old patterns, told with a strong visual narration.

“That Burning Light,” by Efthimis Kosemund Sanidis (Greece), produced by Yorgos Tsourgiannis (horsefly, Greece)

Ilias visits the island where his father lived and died. He is broke and hopes for a nonexistent inheritance, but a mysterious epidemic is spreading on the island. As blood is falling from the sky, will Ilias find his emotional salvation at last? Sanidis’s feature debut is a story about a father and a son, about love and gangsters. With a taste of apocalypse.

“Michelle Remembers,” by Pia Borg (Australia), produced by Helen Olive (5 à 7 Films, France)

Borg’s first feature is a documentary horror hybrid about satanic cults and hysteria, examining the elusive line between fact, fiction and the persuasive power of the media. How could psychiatry, cinema and popular culture be connected in this context?

“Followers,” by Dornaz Hajiha (Iran), produced by Isabelle Glachant (Chinese Shadows, Hong Kong)

Hajiha’s second feature deals with Iranian TV culture and the cynical power of money. But it is also a film about family structures told through a strong female narrative, with contradictory characters dealing with frustration, censorship, self-censorship and cultural taboos.