At this year’s edition of Locarno’s Alliance 4 Development, both the future of the selected nine projects, and the co-production market as a whole, will be on the table.
The Locarno Film Festival program, which facilitates international co-production for projects from France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, skipped a year due to COVID-19, but is back stronger than ever.
“We received more than 70 submissions from the four countries,” says program manager Francesca Palleschi. “That testifies to the eagerness to go back to co-development forums, not only to find partners, but also to get together and exchange experiences and best practices.”
There is no question that the co-production market has been hit hard by the pandemic. On top of their usual mountain of problems, producers looking for international partners have had to factor lockdowns, border closures, rocketing insurance costs and complex and expensive COVID protocols into their equations.
However, Palleschi says the “exchange of ideas and experiences” between the A4D filmmakers and the co-production entities they’re pitching to might go some way towards figuring out what the future holds.
“I think things can really improve. Maybe it will be slow, maybe it won’t be really quick, but the fact that we are here in Locarno, holding a proper market, is a great sign that people want to get back to business,” Palleschi says. “Co-production won’t be exactly the same way, but that doesn’t mean your desire to make movies and appeal to wider audiences will be affected.”
Among the latest crop of projects taking part in A4D, the theme of immigration leaps off the page.
Three of the nine films (namely “Blood Burn” from France, and “Spectrum” and “Stranger in a Village” from Switzerland) are based on the directors’ own experiences of immigrating to a foreign country, and the challenges of finding their own community.
“It’s an expression of identity and recognizing your own roots while being in a different environment,” Palleschi says. “The theme of identity and the relationship with the other is an element which you can find in all the projects.”
Two more projects take on the subject of colonialism, but through the eyes of young girls from Switzerland (“The Savage Girl”) and Germany (“Time of the Monsters”), looking at such vitally important subject matter “with the mindset of the new generation,” as Palleschi puts it.
A4D is produced in partnership with France’s CNC, Italy’s DGCA-MiC in Italy, Germany’s the FFA, and the Federal Office of Culture in Switzerland, as well as with the support of Eurimages and EPC.
Here are this year’s projects:
France, directed by João Paulo Miranda Maria
In the heart of the Amazon rainforest, Jonas, a young indigenous gold digger, is convinced that he is the chosen one who will bring prosperity to his community. But gold gradually plunges him into a destructive madness, endangering his own people.
“Blood Burn” (“Brûle le sang”)
France, directed by Akaki Popkhadze
In the poor suburbs of Nice, a pillar of the local Georgian community is assassinated. His son Tristan, who is deeply religious, finds himself alone with his grieving mother. That is until Gabriel, the older brother with a scandalous past, returns from a long exile to redeem himself and reclaim the family’s honour.
Italy, co-directed by Adel Oberto and Elmar Imanov
Carla, an unhappy girl, and Enzo, a lonely young man, form a friendship and seize an unlikely moment outside a school to decide to be a family.
“Don’t Let the Sun (Catch You Crying)”
Switzerland, directed by Jacqueline Zünd
Jonah (32) works for an agency that offers human relationships as a service. A commodity that fills voids and promises to be the remedy to disappointment. A perfect promise, in times where closeness has become increasingly wearing. The earth has heated up to such an extent, that people are forced to live at night. Jonah has no trouble taking on the identity and acting out the lives of others. But when he has to take on the role of the father of 9-year-old Nika, something awakens in Jonah that he has kept hidden until now, and his controlled world begins to crumble.
“The Savage Girl (La selvaggia)”
Italy, directed by Lorenzo Puntoni
Switzerland, 1947. Gravini’s family hires a young African maid, Sema. Laura, their teen daughter, gets close to her, despite her parents’ orders not to. They accuse Sema of stealing, and they send her away. Laura is surprised and she decides to investigate more the theft. Among the stolen items, she finds a mysterious golden box. It stores old photographs of her father in Africa. She unfolds unsettling secrets about her family’s past.
Switzerland, directed by Philbert Aimé Mbabazi
Boya, an art student from Cameroon, settles in Les Pâquis, the most eclectic quarter of Geneva, home to the red-light district, drug dealers, and luxurious hotels. Throughout his stay, he grows increasingly uprooted: he embarks on a journey of love and self-discovery through his various encounters with people from the African diaspora and his new environment.
“The Hunting Season (Stagione di Caccia)”
Italy, directed by Giulia Di Battista
In a village immersed in the woods, Bruno, the leader of the wild boar hunters, is questioned by the police for a murder. During the interrogation, details emerge about frictions between the hunters and the three women who run an organic farm by the forest and employ some immigrant laborers. The tension increases after thefts occur in the area. The hunters have no doubts about the culprits: the immigrants on the farm, seen as a threat, as invaders. But the real invasion is the work of wild boars, more and more present in area.
“Stranger in a Village”
Switzerland, directed by Samir
In the early 1950s, an Afro-American writer comes to Leukerbad with his Swiss lover. In his lover’s chalet, the stranger writes his first novel. He is the first black person the villagers have ever seen. Their curiosity is great and the stranger befriends many of them: they all want to know what brings the mysterious dark man from America to the mountains. But their prejudice is deeply rooted and the locals‘ initial curiosity increasingly turns into rejection. The racism of the simple mountain people becomes blatant when they find out that the two men are having an affair.
“Time of the Monsters (Zeit der Monster)”
Germany, directed by Florian Hoffmann
1914, shortly before the start of WWI. Full of hope, the calvinist Elsa (17) begins her service at a remote infirmary in the German colony of Cameroon. But soon the colonial monotony and everyday violence open an abyss that throws her ordered worldview into chaos.