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Ji.hlava’s Emerging Producers Deliver Pitches for Documentary Projects (EXCLUSIVE)

Emerging Producers
Courtesy of Jan Hromadko

Ji.hlava Intl. Documentary Film Festival has revealed to Variety the projects that the participants of its 2022 Emerging Producers program are working on. The producers were asked to deliver an elevator pitch for their projects.

Every year since 2010, the festival has selected 18 up-and-coming producers of documentary films (17 European and one representing a non-European guest country), which are then provided with educational, networking and promotional support.

There are almost 200 alumni of the program, many of whom have gone on to win awards at major festivals.

The 2023 participants will be announced by Ji.hlava during the Sarajevo Film Festival on Aug. 15.

“All Roads” (working title)
Producer: Charlotte Hailstone, Hailstone Films (U.K.)
Director: Laura Wadha
Synopsis: A decade after the war began, a Scottish/Syrian filmmaker tries to reconnect with her fractured Syrian family, scattered around the world. She embarks on a journey, exploring the breakdown in communication between loved ones she hasn’t seen since 2010, wondering to what extent this has actually been caused by the war.
Pitch: Laura’s debut feature builds on her successful short documentaries, including Berlinale Crystal Bear-winning “Born in Damascus.” This intimate film shows the audience what happens long after the initial upheaval of war. A timely light shone on the lasting impact this trauma has on lives and relationships.

“Ashes Settling in Layers on the Surface”
Producers: Natalia Libet (Ukraine), Victor Ede, Cinephage Productions (France), Petra Seliskar, Petra Pan Film (Slovenia)
Director: Zoya Laktionova
Synopsis: Based on diaries and photographs found in the houses destroyed during the Russian war against Ukraine, the film captures the stories of Mariupol including the director’s family. It centers on the value of human life over the nonsensical statements repeated by totalitarian regimes, as witnessed at the Azovstal plant.
Pitch: This film is about the physicality of memories: our presence in the lives of others through things we left behind. It was created by a director from the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which no longer exists. It is about the cruelty of death and the meaningless systems we are placed inside; yet, also confirming our sensibility as human beings.

“Banking on Eggs”
Producer: Jin Jeon, J.J. Productions (South Korea)
Director: Jin Jeon
Synopsis: At time when Korea has recorded the lowest birth rate ever, women in their mid-thirties are opting for delayed childbearing by preserving their ovarian eggs. We follow the director and her friends in their quest to freeze their eggs before it’s too late.
Pitch: By weaving together the lives of three women living in Seoul, this film depicts the real issues that women in their mid-thirties face. Laced with wit and humor, it’s a story of empowerment, the stumbling block to making a family, and everything to do with freezing eggs.

“Birdhill”
Producer: Silvia Panáková, Dayhey (Slovakia)
Director: Eva Križková
Synopsis: The documentary reflects on the current state of housing, of the city, predatory real-estate development, and the need for intimacy of home and mutual relationships against the backdrop of personal stories of the residents of one neighborhood, using the metaphor of bird life as a basic formal principle.
Pitch: Developers in Bratislava build “inconsiderate architecture,” which is neither connected to people nor to nature. The Bird Hill, once the home of vineyards from Maria Theresa’s time and abundant bird life, is nowadays cast in concrete. The story of the film is local, but the problem is a metaphor for a global consumerist lifestyle.

“Brave New Switzerland”
Producers: Franziska Sonder, Ensemble Film (Switzerland), in co-production with Freihändler Filmproduktion (Switzerland)
Director: Benny Jaberg and Maurizius Staerkle Drux
Synopsis: A young generation of researchers is rewriting the genetic code of life with breath-taking experiments, thus creating new identities. Should this be allowed? Are we equal when it comes to questions of health and illness, life and death?
Pitch: By means of innovative, astonishing images and sound, the directors explore the possibility of altering human genetics using the revolutionary CRISPr technology, while critically questioning this intervention in nature. A sensual expedition into the very essence of human beings.

“Click the Link Below”
Producers: Audun Amundsen, GonzoDocs (Norway), Tondowski Films (Germany), Dare Pictures (U.K.)
Director: Audun Amundsen (GonzoDocs)
Synopsis: “Click the Link Below” is about the murky world of money-making gurus on the internet. The Norwegian filmmaker Audun Amundsen is fed up of being poor in a rich country, and starts looking for solutions online. He spends thousands of dollars on advice, but will he find wealth and happiness?
Pitch: The topic is relevant for young audiences worldwide. Since it is a universal topic the documentary will feature characters from the U.S. through Europe to Asia. We have good access to the characters and a unique opportunity to get a glimpse of the industry behind the facade.

“The Dream and the Violence” (Se fate i bravi)
Producer: Leonardo Barrile, Samarcanda Film (Italy), Stefano Collizzolli, Zalab (Italy), Kristian Van der Heyden, Harald House (Belgium)
Directors: Stefano Collizzolli, Daniele Gaglianone
Synopsis: The dream of G8 in Genoa 2001 is not over, because the themes of those days – growing inequality, finance that concentrates resources in a few hands and exploits or crushes others, robbery of the environment, large-scale migrations – are today’s problems, only more urgent. And the violence of Genoa 2001 is not over, because that violence has been spoken of repeatedly, celebrated or condemned, but never understood or resolved. Now is the right time to talk about it: to start from Genoa, to go beyond Genoa, and to understand what Genoa means.
Pitch: Now is the right time to talk about one of dark pages of our democracy. G8 is not the story of Italy, but of what is happening close to our comfortable homes.

“La Empresa”
Producer: Karsten Krause, Fünferfilm (Germany)
Co-producer: UVO Gruppe (Germany)
Director: André Siegers
Synopsis: El Alberto, Mexico: Unlike many previous film productions, the German crew fails to film the village’s attraction, the Caminata Nocturna – a night hike that simulates the dangers of illegal border crossing into the U.S. The crew is missing protagonists and slowly loses track of the story they set out to tell. They realize that they might not belong.
Pitch: We tend to believe that we are chosen to tell the stories of others. Especially from a European perspective this seems to be God given. But is it really? In a very humorous way, “La Empresa” questions this attitude, discloses its own intentions and reflects on how we are used to seeing and exploring the world.

“A Hole in the Wall”
Producer: Karolina Śmigiel, UNI-SOLO Studio (Poland)
Director: Arjun Talwar
Synopsis: Wilcza is a street situated in downtown Warsaw. It is just a little over a kilometer long, but it contains a whole universe. Arjun is a filmmaker from India. He observes the street and talks to neighbors to find his role within Polish society.
Pitch: There is a general atmosphere of homelessness and rootlessness in Europe today. This film is a way of countering that feeling by exploring one’s immediate surroundings and building a sense of identity through relations with one’s neighbors.

“In the Name of the Mother and of the Father”
Producer: Carla Fotea, Microfilm (Romania)
Director: Tudor Platon
Synopsis: After almost 30 years, the director’s parents decided to separate. Trying to cope with the loss of the family and the pain and shame that came along, they each found relief in different forms of spirituality. Despite this, the past love for each other made room for fear, revolt and despair.
Pitch: The film talks about the different shapes love can take and what is left of a family when love is gone. This is Tudor Platon’s second documentary, following “House of Dolls” (2020, Sarajevo Film Festival), and is a part of an extensive and very personal series of works related to his own family.

“In the Shadow of the Horns”
Producer: Dragana Jovović, Stefan Ivančić, Ognjen Glavonić, Non-Aligned Films (Serbia)
Director: Ognjen Glavonić
Synopsis: During their last year of high school, Vuk and Igor are focused on their black metal band while trying to overcome the prejudices of their surroundings – a community that hides deep secrets.
Pitch: After his Cannes debut “The Load” (2018) Ognjen Glavonić is developing his second fiction feature. By digging in his own memories he tells a coming-of-age story about how it feels to be different and unaccepted, while questioning the adult world, deeply rooted in hypocrisy. Where “The Load” ended – in the room of a teenager living in a small town, dreaming about starting a band – is where “In the Shadow of the Horns” begins.

“Land of Sar”
Producers: Victor Ede, Cinephage Productions (France), in co-production with PPFP Dooel (North Macedonia) and Petra Pan Film (Slovenia)
Director: Petra Seliskar
Synopsis: Two teenage brothers, 15 shepherd dogs and 600 sheep, all in summer on the wild heights of North Macedonian mountains. There are predators all around. Wolves, the irresistible call of the globalized world, the pressure of a traditional family: their life seems full of threats, illusions, and submission.
Pitch: Based on two teens’ feelings, hopes and fears, away from the modernized world, the storyline takes us from worries about their fate and future, to love for the magical world of their childhood, which they’re bidding farewell to.

“Lesbian Lines”
Producer: Evan Horan, Blinder Films (Ireland)
Director: Cara Holmes
Synopsis: An intimate docufiction about the power of listening. The Lesbian Lines were a network of underground telephone helplines first set up in Ireland in the late 1970s. The film reveals how and why these urgently needed helplines were set up by a small community of Irish lesbians. These lifesaving helplines are still in operation today.
Pitch: “Lesbian Lines” is a story of collective joy rather than collective shame, showing how a community came together to save themselves and in turn demonstrates the need that all of us have to feel heard in our search for connection and community.

“The Life of Wolf”
Producer: Dominiks Jarmakovičs, Studio Locomotive (Latvia)
Director: Kārlis Lesiņš
Synopsis: The world knows him as the villain “El Lobo Letón,” but his real name was Wolf Ruvinskis. Street brawler, soccer player, wrestler, actor, socialite, lover, husband and a father. The plot follows the spectacular journey of a lifetime from Liepāja through Argentina, Colombia to Mexico, from poverty to fame and glory.
Pitch: This is no simple biopic, but a journey through time. “The Life of Wolf” shows how one can reach the heights, and what is the price to pay? We are used to serious stories dealing with social issues, this time we revisit serious topics in a light and dynamic way.

“Narrow Path to Happiness”
Producers: Borbála Csukás, Makabor Studio (Hungary), Marc Smolowitz, 13thGen (U.S.)
Director: Kata Olah
Synopsis: A young Romani gay couple from a remote village in Hungary has a dream so absurd that it seems impossible: making a music film based on their lives. They move to Budapest just as the government is becoming increasingly hostile toward LGBTQ+ people. Suddenly, their goal becomes more urgent.
Pitch: It is a first-of-its-kind gay-themed intersectional documentary out of Hungary that bridges two worlds and focuses a lens on the Roma aspect of the LGBTQ+ experience. It is a dark time for these populations in Hungary so it is more important than ever before to share their story.

“The Society of the Spectacle”
Producers: Melissa Lindgren, Tobias Janson, Story Ltd (Sweden)
Directors: Göran Hugo Olsson, Roxy Farhat
Synopsis: A humorous adaptation of Guy Debord’s 1967 essay “La Société du Spectacle,” unpacking the dynamics of alienation, powerlessness and emptiness under the triumph of information technology and capitalism. Today, the act of consuming things we do not need has gone beyond a meaningless recreational activity; it has become a new spiritual world order. Created from contemporary images, found footage and original scenes, the film examines and illustrates the effect of consumerism and how the circulation of images creates desire and profoundly changes the way we see ourselves and interact with each other.
Pitch: Award-winning director Göran Hugo Olsson (“Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975,” “Concerning Violence,” “That Summer”) and acclaimed artist Roxy Farhat have joined forces to take on Guy Debord’s essay. The result is a visually daring, humorous and thought-provoking film that tackles everything from the climate crisis to self-surveillances and social media. Through renowned scholars and experts as well as contemporary examples, the directors will help us unpack the text and place it in a current context. A fresh take on The Situationists’ groundbreaking ideas and “infotainment” as a visual format.

“Slave Island”
Producer: Kristian Van der Heyden, Harald House (Belgium)
Directors: Jimmy Hendrickx, Jeremy Kewuan
Synopsis: Young women and children are threatened with rites of passing: to be chained to a wooden block until the demons are driven out of them. The filmmakers explore the hidden paradise of Sumba, a remote Indonesian island, only to discover the atrocities of present-day slavery.
Pitch: A documentary that deals with the sensitive subject of slave trade between families. A filmmaker and an activist join forces to confront us with both victims and enablers of slavery and human trafficking in an effort to better understand the moral landscape that justifies torture and abuse.

“The World of Jiri” (working title)
Producer: Jan Hubáček, Jan Bodnár, Gnomon Production (Czech Republic)
Director: Marta Kovářová
Synopsis: An authentic raw documentary from the perspective of a daughter, the director behind the camera, who helps her scientist father Jiri to spark a world debate about his plan to save the planet from climate crisis.
Pitch: We live in a time of impending ecological catastrophe. The example of the journey of our modern Don Quixote, Jiří, illustrates how difficult it is to find a solution to current problems.