After a week that saw air travel worldwide grounded by the coronavirus pandemic and a powerful earthquake strike the Croatian capital, the organizers of ZagrebDox Pro had something to celebrate on Tuesday, as the annual workshop and pitching competition announced the awards from its first ever online edition.
“After 10 editions of conducting our pitching lab in Zagreb, we were afraid the human interaction, so important in our work, would have been missing,” said workshop mentors Leena Pasanen and Stefano Tealdi. “To our surprise, we did not lose the peer-to-peer and group feedback needed to give strength to the pitch of a project and therefore foster its development.”
Pasanen, who is director of the Biografilm Festival in Bologna and former managing and artistic director of DOK Leipzig, joined director and producer Tealdi to lead a four-day intensive training program for 12 documentary projects in different stages of development and production. The selections, which came from 11 countries, took part in a Pitching Forum before the awards were handed out.
The pitching sessions were recorded and presented to a panel of decision-makers and scouts from the likes of HBO, Al Jazeera, the Danish Film Institute, the Sarajevo Film Festival, IDFA and newly formed Documentary Association of Europe.
“The fact that the participants were stuck in their homes or offices actually turned into an advantage and maximized their creative potential,” said Pasanen and Tealdi. “They worked intensively with images and graphics in constructing an appealing and attractive pitch.”
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The HBO Europe Award went to the Hungarian project “Queen of Chess,” by Bernadett Tuza-Ritter, which tells the story of the relationship between Judit Polgar, the greatest female chess player of all time, and Garry Kasparov, the veteran who believed that a woman and a man couldn’t compete against one another.
Presented by Tuza-Ritter, producer-screenwriter Gabor Harmi and producer Peter Stern, the project was awarded €2,000 ($2,180) for further development.
The Al Jazeera Balkans Award was given to Marko Kumer Murč, director of “The Other Side of the Pipe,” which was presented by Kumer Murč, screenwriter Eric Moses and producer Katja Lihtenvalner. The Slovenian project depicts what happens when abuse of power turns out to be a pipeline’s biggest export and when ordinary people fight tooth and nail to hold Europe to its values. The project was awarded €1,000 ($1,090) for further development.
The Documentary Association of Europe (DAE) Mentoring Pitch Award, consisting of a free one-year DAE membership and mentoring sessions for the director and producer, went to the Romanian project “Forbidden.” It follows the story of four same-sex couples, including the director, who decide to go to Romania’s Marital Status Department to register requests for marriage, although Romanian law forbids same-sex marriage. “Forbidden” was presented by director Anelise Salan and producer Cristina Iordache.
The ZagrebDox Pro Online Mentor Award, consisting of a diploma and a one-year online mentorship with Cecilia Lidin, went to Maka Gogaladze, director and producer of the Georgian project “Ever Since I Know Myself.” The documentary shows how Georgians with a long Soviet past and strong traditional mindset are trying to adopt a new, European identity.
The conclusion of ZagrebDox Pro’s 16th edition, which ran March 15-23, came amid increasing efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus in Croatia, which had 315 confirmed cases as of Monday afternoon. The jittery nation is also digging out from a 5.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Zagreb in the early hours Sunday morning, in what Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said was the largest quake to strike the Croatian capital in 140 years. More than a dozen people were injured, but no deaths were reported.