A trio of global festival favorites — Pan Nalin‘s “Last Film Show,” Mostofa Sarwar Farooki‘s “No Land’s Man” and Gurvinder Singh‘s “Crescent Night” (“Adh Chanani Raat”) — will open the 11th edition of the BMO International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA), Toronto (Aug. 11-21). The festival is in-person at venues across the Greater Toronto area, featuring 120 features and shorts in 22 languages and some 40 masterclasses, workshops and special events.
Program highlights include “The Orphanage,” “Pedro,” “Once Upon A Time In Calcutta,” “Dug Dug,” “Palyad,” “Shoebox,” “No Ground Beneath the Feet,” “Deep6,” “Gandhi & Company” and “Invisible Demons” and there are world premieres for “Range Road 290” and “Anatomy of a Warrior.” Guests of honor this year are “Halo” actor Shabana Azmi and eminent screenwriter, poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar (“Silsila”) and well-known South Asian industry figures present at the festival include opening film directors Farooki and Singh, filmmakers Anup Singh (“The Song of Scorpions”) who also serves as festival ambassador, and Shahrbanoo Sadat (“Wolf and Sheep”) and actors Paoli Dam (“The Terrace”), Azmeri Haque Badhon (“Rehana”) and Nusrat Imrose Tisha (“Saturday Afternoon”).
Anup Singh said: “We return to the big screen at IFFSA, where boundless space of cinema once again allows us to expand our body and mind, and we might now as birds for so long in a cage unfold our unused wings to soar through the enchantments of our earth, and celebrate ourselves, our endurance and all the little gestures of mutual regard and caring that helped us live as a community even when we could not sit next to each other during the last two years of COVID in our lives.”
Meanwhile, the world premiere of “We Are Next of Kin” by Hans-Christian Schmid (“Home for the Weekend”) will open the 30th Filmfest Hamburg (Sept. 29-Oct. 9) in the presence of the director, actors and crew. It is the film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Johann Scheerer, who describes the kidnapping of his father Jan Philipp Reemtsma from his own perspective as a 13-year-old.
SHORT CUT TO SHORT FORM
Chinese video streamer iQiyi has struck an agreement to license content from Douyin, the Chinese twin of TikTok. Both Douyin and TikTok are owned by China’s Bytedance. iQiyi, which has previously focused largely on long-form video content, will leverage the Douyin content to expand its entry into the short-form sector. It says that it will edit and distribute the short form videos and cooperate in other ways. iQiyi had 101 million subscribers as of March 31, 2022, according to a public filing. Douyin is estimated to have over 700 million daily users.
Josie Mason Campbell, former head of entertainment and factual at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, has been appointed by Fremantle Australia as its head of unscripted (content and development). She was at the ABC between 2017 and 2020, when she exited as part of a restructuring. Before that she was head of production and development at Foxtel. Fremantle intends to expand its unscripted and documentaries operations. Mason Campbell will be responsible for development, creative, production and partnerships with broadcasters.
Beyond Rights has struck first time representation relationships with four new producer partners for pre-sales. From U.S. outfit Lou Reda Productions, Beyond Rights has acquired “Eyewitness WWII: Invasion Italy” (2 x 60′) a mini-series created from color archival footage that will highlight the importance that battles in Italy and the Mediterranean played in the outcome of the war. From Canada’s White Pine Pictures, the Emmy and Sundance winning producers of “Shake Hands with the Devil,” Beyond Rights will represent feature documentary “The Con: Churchill and Roosevelt’s Secret War and the Birth of the Deep State” (1 x 90’/1 x 60′), co-produced with Beetz Brothers Film Productions and PMA Productions for ARTE and Canada’s Super Channel. It examines the story of British Security Coordination, which was built to create a network of 1000 agents to spread fake news and undermine pro-Nazi sympathisers to bring the U.S. into the war in support of Britain.
The partnership with Australia’s Ronde Media will see Beyond Rights take series “Aussie Truck Rehab” (6 x 60′), which follows trucking legend Jon Kelly and his crew as they buy, bling and then sell vintage road warriors across Australia. Produced in association with Whistling Wolf, it is commissioned by Warner Bros. Discovery ANZ, and will air on Discovery in Australia and New Zealand in 2023. And, from New Zealand’s Magnetic Pictures, Beyond Rights has acquired “Wild Heroes” (9 x 30′), a wildlife conservation series for Warner Bros. Discovery ANZ, airing on Three and Three Now in 2022, which focuses on important specialist work undertaken at Auckland Zoo.
Global film incubator, Attagirl wrapped its second year of programming this month, awarding $35,000 of prize monies to support women and non-binary filmmakers. Supported by Screen Australia, the British Film Institute and Telefilm Canada, the event saw seven teams engage in two-stage, industry-led workshops. Writer-director Laura Bergeron, producers David Baeta and Simon Madore won the $25,000 production prize for Canada with their film “Medium Beluga.” A development prize of $5,000 was awarded to U.K. writer Jodie Ashdown, director Amy Coop and producer Daniel Harris for their film “Spring Tide.” And a second development prize of $5,000 went to the Australian team of writer-director Dee Dogan and producer Bethany Bruce for “A Cup of Tea.”
A+E Networks U.K. has commissioned Phoenix Television and Motion Content Group to produce a 2×60’ Sky History series presented by Professor Alice Roberts titled “Royal Autopsy,” which investigates the cause of death of two of Britain’s most famous monarchs: Queen Elizabeth I and King Charles II. Each investigation follows an autopsy conducted by Home Office pathologist Dr. Brett Lockyer which will use a combination of prosthetic bodies, actors, and ethically sourced animal organs to reveal how each of the monarchs perished. Forensic analysis and toxicology testing is used to determine whether there is any evidence of foul play in each case. Roberts will then take her findings to the world’s leading medico-legal experts and constitutional historians to determine how each ailment and affliction might have impacted either monarch’s reign in their later years and in the run-up to their deaths.
The series is directed by Paul Olding and stars Mark Wingett (“Snow White and The Huntsman”) as Charles II and Linda Marlowe (“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”) as Elizabeth I. It is distributed internationally by Abacus Media Rights and will broadcast on Sky History in October.
Hammerlake Studios‘ planning application to build Ireland’s largest film studio campus has taken a step forward with confirmation of approval by Westmeath County Council. A final decision on the project will be made by the council in September. The application is for a purpose-built film, television and content production campus constructed on a 25-acre site at Lough Sheever Corporate Park, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, located 55 minutes from Dublin airport and adjacent to the M4 motorway. The campus aims to attract productions from Hollywood and across the globe.
The first phase will commence operations in Q1 2024, generating 350 production jobs and 300 construction jobs and €50 million ($51.2 million) annually for the local economy, while the second phase aims to bring job creation to over 1,000 by 2025 with 11 stage campus totalling 460,000 square-feet. The Hammerlake Studios’ leadership team are film industry experts with experience developed at Universal Pictures, Disney and Troy Studios and the CEO is Paul Chesney.