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Inspired by director Marcel Beltrán’s walking on a dry, polluted lake in his hometown, Moa, in Cuba, “Moa” won the biggest prize on offer at this year’s Open Doors, a Locarno Fest co-production and talent hub dedicated, in an inspired choice, to smaller territories in Latin American and countries in the Caribbean. The focus lasts three-years, over 2022-24.

The territories boast world class filmmakers with urgent stories to tell. Equally it is distinguished by fragile or non-existent state support in most places, with exceptions such as Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.

“Moa” took the biggest cash prize on offer, a CH35,000 ($36,710) Open Doors grant from Swiss production support fund Visions Sud Est and the City of Bellinzona.

Kids Swimming in the Lake,” from Venezuela’s Michael Labarca, snagged the second biggest plaudit, a CH15,000 ($15,732) Open Doors grant. Bolivia’s Yashira Jordan’s “Diamond,” won an €8,000 ($8,160) development grant, adjudicated by France’s CNC national film agency.

All three titles are urgent, issue-driven movie projects. Also an Arte Kino International Prize winner, “Moa” turns on a scientist writing a report on the impact of pollution in her hometown, Moa. When she is fired from her job, she falls victim to a sense of desolation. Produced by Brazil’s Paula Gastaud, the  project marks the first fiction feature from Cuba’s Beltrán whose second doc feature, “La opción zero,” world premiered at IDFA and won best feature at MiradasDoc.

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Kids Swimming in the Lake Courtesy of Michael Labarca and Patricia Ramirez

The first feature from Labarca, whose short, “La culpa, probablemente” won third prize at the Cannes Festival’s 2016 Cinéfondation, “Kids Swimming…” begins during a long blackout, as Dayana, 11, plays with her younger siblings, dreams of reuniting with her father, who has abandoned Venezuela. A meditation on emigration, viewed by those who have to stay behind – “How do they handle seeing others leave? How does a child view an abandoned country that they still inhabit?” Labarca asks – pic is produced by Patricia Ramírez Arévalo at Todos los Rios and co-produced by France’s Ticket Shoot Film, Chile’s Oro Films and now Brazil’s Bubbles Project.

A bold Andean queer universe drama, “Diamond,” which also took the Sørfond Award, features a rebellious Quechua hip hop trap singer who escapes her conservative community for La Paz, reconnects with her father and discovers the vital power of transformation. Produced by Empatia’s Cinema’s Alvaro Olmos Torrico, it has also been bulking up on co-production, adding Buenos Aires-based Maravilla Cine as a production partner.

Now bound for Brazil’s on-the-rise BR Lab, Miguel Agüero “Kokue” likewise depicts the devastation wrought on rural communities in Paraguay by agrochemical soya cultivation.

“Black Madonna,” from Santa Lucía-based producer-director  Michelle Sérieux, won two awards. The film is “a supernatural thriller, an allegory that examines the tensions between the tourism and heritage industries in the Caribbean, and a post-colonial critique,” Sérieux told Variety.

Further industry prizes went to “When Rain Falls” from Dominican Republic’s Yanillys Pérez (“Jeffrey”), a fantasy-landed portrait of a broken family; “Laura and the Dungeons,” a magical realist animated feature from El Salvador-based producer-director Ricardo B’atz; and to “Ñusta,” a coming-of-age and coming out drama set in Ecuador’s high Andes.

At Locarno with “4eber,” from Peru’s Ximena Valdivia (“Lima Screams”), a portrait of new dance movements connecting to ancient Indigenous culture, and Leonardo Barbuy’s B&W, Quechua-spoken “Diogenes,” Peru’s Illari Orccotoma won a Rotterdam Lab invitation.

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Diamond Courtesy of Alvaro Olmos Torrico

2022 Locarno Pro Open Doors Winners: 

Open Doors Grant 

“MOA” (Marcel Beltrán, Cuba)

Open Doors Grant 

“Kids Swimming in the Lake” (“Muchachos Bañándose en el lago,” Michael Labarca, Venezuela)

CNC Development Grant Award 

“Diamond” (“Diamante,” Yashira Jordán, Bolivia)

Arte Kino International Prize 

“MOA”

Sørfond Award

“Diamond”

Rotterdam Lab Award 

Illari Orcottoma (Maldeojos, Peru)

BR Lab Award  

“Kokue” (Miguel Agüero, Paraguay)

World Cinema Fund Award

“When Rain Falls” (“Cuando Cae la Lluvia,” Yanillys Pérez, Dominican Republic)

Open Doors-OIF-ACP-E.U. Award   

“Black Madonna,” Michelle Serieux, Imagine Caribbean

Open Doors – Lexia Insights Award  

“Ñusta,” (Epopeya Cinema, Ecuador)

“Laura and the Dungeons,”(Cayaguanca Films, El Salvador)

Moulin d’Andé-CECI Award 

“Black Madonna”

Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur/Villa Sträuli Residency

“Tundra” (José Luis Aparicio Ferreira, Cuba)