Stories of war and its devastating human toll, migration across borders, the struggle for human rights and the battle to save a rapidly warming planet are among the themes that take center stage on March 6 during the Thessaloniki Pitching Forum, the co-production and co-financing platform of the Thessaloniki Intl. Documentary Festival.

Fourteen projects representing filmmakers from 21 countries will be pitching before an audience of international industry guests including producers, broadcasters, funding bodies and festival programmers, as well as a jury comprised of Eleni Chandrinou, a consultant and producer from Cigale Films; Nevena Milašinović, a sales and acquisitions executive from Lightdox; and Sara Rüster, international distribution manager at the Swedish Film Institute.

Eleven more films that are nearing completion and looking for festival premieres and distribution will also be screened as part of the Agora Docs in Progress program.

Angeliki Vergou, who heads the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival’s Agora industry section, said the selection offers a range of timely topics that will resonate with audiences worldwide, but largely told from the distinctive perspective of filmmakers from Southeast Europe and the wider Mediterranean region. “It’s the point of view from our region that we are trying to support,” she said.

The forum unfolds at a time when more and more documentary filmmakers are claiming awards at the world’s most prestigious fests. Hardly a fortnight ago, French docmaker Nicolas Philibert won the Golden Bear in Berlin for his documentary about a Paris mental health care facility, “On the Adamant.” Last year, Laura Poitras triumphed on the Lido with “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” her docu-portrait of the photographer and activist Nan Goldin, which won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion award.

Despite such laurels — and the steady demand for non-fiction content from local and global streaming services — financing documentary films is still a challenge. “Budgets for documentaries are getting higher, and broadcasters don’t have the means to finance them as much as before the pandemic,” said Vergou.

This year, the Agora is involving more producers than ever before in its doc pitching forum, hoping they’ll be able to access financing from their national film centers and domestic broadcasters and come on board as co-producers. “We are approaching it a little bit like we do with fiction films, bringing producers to the fore,” Vergou said. “We think that they are the backbone of documentary filmmaking.”

Among the works in progress looking for distribution, Lebanese filmmaker and actress Myriam el Hajj follows her Visions du Réel premiere “A Time to Rest” with “Suspended,” which looks at three generations in Beirut who share a desire to change their ailing country but can’t agree on the means to do it. “Tell Them About Us” is a coming-of-age story from first-time director Rand Beiruty, which follows teenage girls who are the daughters of recent immigrants, trying to adjust to their new life in a provincial German city. Veteran Greek docmaker Christos Karakepelis’ third feature, “Death Plan for a Dog and a Man,” is a portrait of a canine and his owner grappling with lockdown in their cave-like Athens apartment, staring down decay and death. The director’s previous films have played at Berlin, Karlovy Vary, Visions du Réel and other festivals.

The 14 features in development include “Dad’s Lullaby” (pictured), director Lesia Diak’s feature debut, which follows a Ukrainian veteran who returns home burnt out and traumatized from war but hoping to find peace for himself and his family. Cairo-based filmmaker Alaa Dajani’s “The Native Dance” tells the story of the more than 300,000 peasants who were conscripted into the Egyptian Labor Corps before WWI, many dispatched to Europe to dig trenches for the Allied defense.

“Holy Human Angel,” veteran docmaker Angeliki Aristomenopoulou’s fifth feature, follows a 20-year-old queer woman from a conservative Greek island community who relies on her family and her art to help her overcome stereotypes and define her queer identity. In Muhammad Reza Azadi’s “Jana,” which is set against the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, a young couple learn they’re expecting their first child, complicating their desire to escape to the West.

“Far From Maine,” director Roy Cohen’s sophomore effort, follows an Israeli man who’s compelled to deal with the violent and long-forgotten death of his Palestinian friend, who was killed by police when they were 17. “The Man with a Broken Arm,” Greek director Athanasios Vasileiou’s feature debut, is the account of a man whose memories of his father’s involvement with the Greek military junta are stirred up when he returns to his childhood home.

Here’s the full list of titles selected for the Thessaloniki Pitching Forum and Agora Docs in Progress:

“Holy Human Angel” (Greece, Iceland)
Director: Angeliki Aristomenopoulou
Producers: Yuri Averof, Rea Apostolides (Anemon Productions), Vicky Miha (Asterisk*), Heather Millard (Compass Films)

“The Man With the Broken Arm” (France, Greece)
Director: Athanassios Vassiliou
Producers: Orlane Dumas (Les films de l’Aube Sauvage), Konstantinos Vassilaros (StudioBauhaus)

“Paradise Lost (VR Interactive Documentary) (Greece)
Director-producer: Yolanda Markopoulou (Polyplanity Productions)
Co-scriptwriter: Ioanna Valsamidou

“Beyond the Border” (Serbia)
Director-oroducer: Ana Otasević (Dar Mar Films)

“Dad’s Lullaby” (Ukraine, Romania)
Director: Lesia Diak
Producers: Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan, Elena Martin (FILMWAYS)

“Far From Maine” (Israel, France)
Director: Roy Cohen
Producers: Roy Cohen (Roy Cohen Films), Serge Gordey (Temps Noir)

“Holy Family” (Docuseries) (Italy)
Director: Sacha Biazzo
Co-scriptwriter: Chiara Freddi
Producer: Francesco Piccinini (Deepinto Srl)

“Ironman” (North Macedonia, Latvia, Albania)
Directors: Kiril Karakash, Svetislav Podleshanov
Producers:  Kiril Karakash, Svetislav Podleshanov (OPIUM Film), Ieva Ūbele (Baltic Balkan Productions), Eno Milkani (Bunker Film+)

“Jana” (Pakistan, Italy)
Director: Muhammad Reza Azadi
Producers: Ali Haider (Filmkhaana), Maaria Sayed (Draw4Films)

“Maomi — Larger Than Life” (Hungary, Germany, Poland)
Director: Judit Oláh
Producers: Inez Mátis (Pi Productions), Annika Mayer (Majmun Films), Anna Stylińska, Katarzyna Slesicka (My Way Studio)

“The Native Dance” (Egypt, Germany)
Director: Alaa Dajani
Producers: Kesmat El Sayed, Laura Kloeckner (SEERA FILMS)

“Our Feminine Wars” (U.K., Syria)
Director: Zaina Erhaim
Producer: Brian Hill (Century Films)
In collaboration with CIRCLE Women Doc Accelerator

“Queens of Joy” (Ukraine, Poland)
Director: Olga Gibelinda
Producers: Ivanna Khitsinska (Quatros Group), Gogol Production

“Three Times a Rebel” (Spain, Slovenia)
Director: Anna M. Bofarull
Producers: Anna M. Bofarull (KABOGA Art and Films), Rok Biček (CVINGER FILM)

Here’s the full list of titles selected for the Agora Docs in Progress:

“Death Plan for a Dog and a Man” (Greece)
Director: Christos Karakepelis
Co-scriptwriter: Natasa Segkou
Producer: Maria Drandaki (Homemade Films)

“The Gospel According to Ciretta” (Italy)
Director: Caroline von der Tann
Producer: Antonella Di Nocera (Parallelo 41 Produzioni)

“Forbidden” (Romania)
Director-producer: Anelise Salan (The L Studio Film)
Producer: Bogdan Craciun (Andarams Films)
Thessaloniki Pitching Forum 2021

“Hanging Without Walls” (Slovakia)
Directors: Jana Durajova, Lena Kusnierikova
Producers: Zuzana Mistrikova, Lubica Orechovska (PubRes), Arkaitz Basterra (PubRes International) Thessaloniki Pitching Forum 2022 – Beldocs Award

“Landing” (Germany, Moldova, Serbia)
Director: Ksenia Ciuvaseva
Producer: Natalia Imaz (Parabellum Film)
Co-producers: Maxim Cîrlan (MOLDOX AO), Mihajlo Jevtić (Film the World)
Sales Company: Taskovski Films

“Post Love”
Director: Alexis Taillant
Producer: Nadège Labé (Wendigo Films)
Thessaloniki Pitching Forum 2021 – DAE Award

“Sacred Way ~ 21KM” (Greece)
Director: Nikoleta Paraschi
Producer: Maria Karagiannaki (Chase The Cut)
Co-producer: Nikoleta Paraschi

“Savanna and the Mountain” (Portugal, Uruguay)
Director-producer: Paulo Carneiro (BAM BAM CINEMA)
Co-producer: Alex Piperno (La Pobladora Cine)

“Stories of a Lie” (France, Greece)
Director: Olia Veriopoulou
Producer: Gaëlle Jones (Perspective Films)

Director: Myriam El Hajj
Producer: Myriam Sassine (Abbout Productions)
Co-producer: Carine Ruszniewski (Gogogo Films)

“Tell Them About Us”
Director: Rand Beiruty
Producer: Jude Kawwa (Shaghab Films)
Co-producer: Alex Tondowski (Tondowski Films)