The Circle Women Doc Accelerator, a training program for women documentary filmmakers conceived with a focus on Southern and Eastern Europe, has selected the four projects that will take part in its showcase as part of the Cannes Docs program of the Cannes Film Market, Variety can reveal.
Hailing from the program’s backyard in the Balkans to as far afield as Brazil and Taiwan, the selection reflects the growing ambition of a program now in its fourth year.
“Although Circle started off as a regional initiative for Southeast European filmmakers, it quickly expanded to the whole world,” said the program’s director Biljana Tutorov and project manager Antigoni Papantoni. “This year’s selection is proof of the international scale that Circle has achieved.”
“Cent’Anni” is directed by Slovenian filmmaker Maja Doroteja Prelog and produced by Rok Biček (Cvinger Film, Slovenia), Alessandro Leone (Agresywna Banda, Poland), and Massimo Casula (Zena Film, Italy). A personal confession about the impact of illness on a relationship, it follows Prelog’s partner, Blaž, a leukemia survivor who embarks on an extraordinary cycling journey to heal from the traumatic experience. Tutorov and Papantoni said the film “witnesses and questions how love can grow out of illness while exploring the different roles that a woman takes on in a romantic relationship.”
“My Dad’s Lessons,” from Croatian director Dalija Dozet, explores the complex dynamic between the director and her late father, a cameraman. It’s produced by Dana Budisavljević (Hulahop, Croatia) and Vlado Bulajić (December, Slovenia).
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“Throughout his life, my dad Danko considered the camera as an extension of his hands,” Dozet said in a statement. “Every family gathering would end as a chaotic mise-en-scène in front of his camera. He died suddenly, [at the] age of 52. Now that he and his camera are gone, we are not able to communicate. This film is a metacinematic portrait of the family and the relationship between the cameraman father and the director daughter.”
Directed by Brazilian filmmaker Bárbara Cunha and produced by Chica Mendonça (Chá Cinematográfico, Brazil), “God Is a Woman” (pictured) tells the story of Alexya Salvador, a trans, indigenous, Afro-Brazilian woman. A married mother of three—including two trans girls—she lives a normal life until a violent conservative wave sweeps across Brazil, compelling her to pursue a calling as a reverend. Tutorov and Papantoni said the film “takes us to Brazil and presents to us a character bigger than life, the first transgender person and activist to become a reverend for LGBTQI+ people in today’s Brazil ruled by Bolsonaro.”
Finally, “XiXi” is directed by Taiwanese filmmaker Fan Wu, and produced by Wu (Svemirko Audio Visual Art Productions, Taiwan), Venice Atienza (Svemirko Film Productions, Philippines), and Alex Tondowski (Tondowski Films, Germany). It follows the friendship between Wu and XiXi, a Chinese improvisational artist, during the director’s final year in Europe after finishing her studies.
“For a time, we were free from the ideologies we grew up in,” Wu said in a statement. “Through years of video diary exchanges, our friendship that was a window to freedom, evolved into a room where what was silenced found its voice, forcing us to face the vulnerability that comes with the autonomy we never realized we’ve always possessed.”
The four films will be pitched to festival programmers, sales agents, and other decision makers during a hybrid event, with both onsite and online pitches taking place during the Cannes Film Market. It’s one of eight showcases of docs-in-progress presented during Cannes Docs in collaboration with partner festivals and organizations from around the world.
Tutorov and Papantoni noted that all four films “explore the state of womanhood today.”
“Being a female-identifying activist, searching for emancipation between different cultures, being a daughter or a care-giving partner,” they said. “All four projects use a singular cinematic handwriting, exploring new territories of film language as documentaries often do. The discussion of a woman’s role being as relevant as ever before, the international potential of the projects rises from their engaged, honest and personal style, but also from the uniqueness of the visual languages that they explore.”
Circle was launched in 2018 as an innovative training program for women filmmakers developing feature-length documentary films. It was born out of the need to fill the film industry gap by supporting female-identifying filmmakers’ creativity and stories and providing them with a platform to articulate their voices, bond, and form a circle of mutual support to grow and understand the ever-changing industry landscape. Through three tailor-made modules participants work with experts in order to advance their projects, understand the existing ecosystem and prepare for the future.
This year two Circle 2020 alumnae were selected to take part in CPH:FORUM, the CPH:DOX festival’s financing and co-production event: Lina Vdovii, a journalist and filmmaker from Moldova, whose personal film “Tata” follows her journey as she returns to Moldova to confront the abusive father she fled; and Danish filmmaker Lin Alluna, with her documentary “Twice Colonized,” which follows the renowned Inuit lawyer Aaju Peter on her lifelong fight for the rights of her people. “Tata” won the Eurimages Co-production Development Award at the co-production forum.
Along with the four projects they’ll be presenting during Cannes Docs, Circle will also organize a panel as part of the Doc Talks program, in which women documentary filmmakers and producers whose works have made a splash on the festival circuit will be invited to talk about their success.
“Cannes Docs offers important visibility to our alumnae participants and projects, while providing them with access to a wide network of decision makers and opportunities to make the most of their projects,” said Tutorov and Papantoni. “Consolidating a partnership with Cannes Docs is a way to underline the important place of female creative documentary in the world’s biggest celebration of cinema.”