Ji.hlava Documentary Film Festival has revealed to Variety the projects that the participants of its 2023 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.
Here’s what they submitted:
“Dreams at Sunset”
Producers: Genovéva Petrovits, Kristóf Sólyom, Kino Alfa (Hungary)
Director: Ibolya Simó
Genre: Creative documentary
Synopsis: Procrastination is a basic human trait. Often we fail to do exactly what we want because we’re afraid we won’t succeed. Transylvania’s impoverished villages are largely populated by the elderly who have spent their entire lives in manual, agricultural and farm work. With the help of a social worker, motivated by only good intentions, they will be brought out of their comfort zone.
Pitch: We have already seen elderly people in documentary films, but we have not seen those living among the hidden mountains of Transylvania through the eyes of a young filmmaker who was born and raised there after communism. The disturbing truth is that these people were throughout their life driven, controlled, and followed others’ orders. But maybe with the arrival of the end of their life, they have already learnt to say no and to do what they want.
“Beyond the Fold”
Producers: Roisín Geraghty, Bronte Stahl, Night Staff, Little Rose Films (Ireland, U.K.)
Director: Ross McClean
Genre: Observational documentary
Synopsis: Ryan dreams of his own sheep farm following release from a Northern Irish prison. But the challenges on the outside threaten to unravel his ambitions. Filmed on two sides of the prison walls, the film contemplates whether it is within Ryan’s power to break the cycle.
Pitch: Northern Irish cinema to this day continues to suffer from the tyranny of the Troubles. “Beyond the Fold,” conversely, represents a man whose path is in some ways determined by the legacy of the Troubles, having grown up in Unionist social housing, a world hardly ever represented in cinema, through a direct observational approach.
“Hold Time for Me”
Producers: Matheus Mello, Migranta Films (Spain); Fradique (Angola); Laura Kloeckner, Seera Films (Germany); Kamy Lara (Angola); WonderMaria (Portugal)
Genre: Road movie
Synopsis: When Luanda is sinking, a grieving young state photographer is assigned to find an eccentric overly-suspicious Cuban biologist who disappeared after she joined a secret expedition to find a new capital for Angola, 30 years ago.
Pitch: “Hold Time for Me” is the second feature film by the thought-provoking Angolan filmmaker Fradique. On the road, two travellers burdened with grief share their memories and unspoken fears, igniting hope amidst an environmental crisis where a city becomes an island, mushrooms speak, and cars transform into boats in the desert.
“In Cod We Trust”
Producers: Pasi Hakkio, Wacky Tie Films (Finland), Benedikte Bredesen, f(x) produksjoner (Norway)
Director: Guro Saniola Bjerk
Synopsis: In the 80s, rumors about Båtsjord as a fish-Klondike spread. Since then, this tiny fishing village in the far north of Norway has attracted people from all over the world in search of a better life. Nowadays Båtsfjord has only 2,200 inhabitants, but more than 30 different nationalities.
Pitch: The world is divided into us and others. In Båtsjord, you do not have the possibility to do so. A warm film with warm characters. A film full of life. It is planned to be ready in late 2024.
Producers: Rui Ribeiro and Sophie Barbara, Barca13/Insulares Filmes (Portugal)
Director: Gonçalo Tocha
Synopsis: In the Azores Triangle, a territory comprised of three volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, deeply rooted insular communities adapt to evolving contemporary challenges amidst mysterious and powerful nature, seismic events, holy rituals and scientific research, seafarers and whales, old and new settlers.
Pitch: Shot over five years on an almost daily basis, “Mistérios” marks the return of filmmaker Gonçalo Tocha to the Azores, where he filmed the award-winning “It’s the Earth, Not the Moon” in 2011. As a result of privileged access to people, places and events, coupled with a deeply immersive and personal approach, “Mistérios” features a distinctive scope and scale.
“Making Friends With the Idea of a Father”
Producers: Ralitsa Golemanova, Smarty Pants Shooter (Bulgaria)
Director: Nikolay Stefanov
Synopsis: Director Nikolay Stefanov seeks reconciliation with the past through his investigation of the unsolved murder of his father in 1994. But his clash with present-day reality in Eastern Europe reveals the pressing need for collective reconciliation with the region’s post-totalitarian legacy.
Pitch: Merging the personal and the historical, the past and the present, the film tells an intimate story about fatherhood, parents and children, and moving on from past traumas. This is Nikolay Stefanov’s second documentary, after 2022’s “No Place for You in Our Town” (CPH:DOX, and 25 plus festivals; five awards), and the second part of his trilogy about his homeland.
“Searching for Home”
Producers: Florent Coulon, VraiVrai Films (France)
Director: Dima Abou Ghoush
Synopsis: Dima is a Palestinian filmmaker. She is forced to move into a neighborhood run by the Israeli administration, where her family has no residence permit. In order to explore the issue of her identity, she decides to make a film in which she recounts her own life, searching to understand what it means “to be at home.”
Pitch: This project is an exploration of the concept of “home” immersed in the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Dima’s journey through various locations has a deep personal and historical significance, shedding light on Palestinian struggles. Through personal archives and animated sequences, this family road-movie emphasizes the importance of respecting human needs in the pursuit of a meaningful “home.”
“Dolce Far Niente”
Producers: Rūta Adelė Jekentaitė, Baltic Productions (Lithuania)
Director: Elena Kairytė
Synopsis: Lora Guerra, the widow of renowned scriptwriter Tonino Guerra, maintains her commitment to him: boldly preserving their home and his legacy against the passage of time. This intimate documentary celebrates love’s endurance and ponders what remains after we’re gone. Through touching, comic and everyday moments, the story delicately captures the struggle of fading memories.
Pitch: “Dolce Far Niente” is a compelling and intimately profound exploration of love’s enduring essence. Director Elena Kairytė skilfully employs the observational method for this cinematic journey. The film delves into the challenges and victories of preserving memories and legacy, offering universal themes, heartfelt moments, and nostalgic undertones. It promises to deeply resonate with audiences, igniting a powerful emotional connection.
Producers: Andrijana Sofranić Šućur, Set Sail Films (Serbia)
Director: Marija Stojnić
Genre: Animated documentary
Synopsis: “Total Eclipse” tells a story of the unusual reception of the total solar eclipse of 1999 in Yugoslavia, as experienced by ordinary people shortly after the bombing of the country in the spring of that year. Emergency measures were introduced to protect the population from the harmful effects of the eclipse, leading to a countrywide lockdown.
Pitch: In this short, animated documentary, the director reconstructs the eclipse of ‘99 by juxtaposing elusive memories of the witnesses with surreal TV archival footage. This occasionally humorous film is a cautionary tale about the consequences that arise when collective trauma and susceptibility to media manipulation collide.
“Up in the Air”
Producer: Oksana Syhareva (Ukraine)
Director: Oksana Syhareva
Synopsis: Young Ukrainian circus acrobats develop their skills and performance up in the air. First, a century-old circus building, and local government officials challenge the path to their dreams. Now the war has taken away their home and they have set off on a journey to tell the world about themselves.
Pitch: In my documentary, the values and worlds of three generations of Ukrainian circus artists collide. The older generation honors Soviet values, while the younger generation wants to create a new world. The war finally divided these worlds. How to find the ground under the feet of the youngest among them?
Producer: Tereza Tokárová, CinePunkt (Slovakia)
Director: Martin Piga
Synopsis: In a rapidly evolving world, Pavol and Marianna reject the limitations of the status quo. Through parallel structures, lifehacking and borderless freedom, they challenge societal norms and limitless possibilities of our time. The question is how the system works in the world of anarchists?
Pitch: “Parallel Polis” is a documentary exploring the lives of digital-era enthusiasts. Director Martin Piga presents their “sci-fi” reality with an intimate, long-term observational approach. This documentary invites viewers to question societal conventions and offers a glimpse of a different way of life through strong protagonists on this thought-provoking journey.
“The Magic City – Birmingham According to Sun Ra”
Producers: Beata Saboova and Vincent Metzinger, Naoko Films (Belgium); Sophie de Hijes and Nicolas Lesoult, Les Films de la Butte (France)
Directors: Guillaume Maupin and Pablo Guarise
Synopsis: Herman Poole Blount, later known as Sun Ra, born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1914, became a legendary jazz musician and the founder of a strange cosmic philosophy. The “Magic City” inspired his mystical thinking and music. The film portrays Sun Ra’s early years, depicting the city’s political and magical essence.
Pitch: This unique film explores the early years of one of the major musical figures of the 20th century and showcases Birmingham as a city at the crossroads of music and political histories. Blending documentary and fiction, it offers a compelling portrait through playful and inventive storytelling involving Birmingham’s communities.
“The Cloud Factory”
Producers: Mareike Wegener, Hannes Lang, Petrolio Film (Germany) in co-production with Arte/La Lucarne
Director: Hannes Lang
Genre: Documentary short
Synopsis: “The Cloud Factory” is an experimental exploration of the sky above the industrial landscape of the Rhenish coal mining region, where emission-enriched air masses ascend into the atmosphere to transform the climate. What can these anthropogenic clouds tell us about our future? And what kind of castles can we build in this air?
Pitch: “The Cloud Factory” attempts to capture our present, this decisive moment in time, in which decarbonization and negative emissions might still be able to put an end to global warming. With its unique artistic approach, the film seeks to contemplate the future of humanity and the relationship to our habitat in a singular place that stands in for the larger global situation.
“Insurance Against Meteorites”
Producers: Kasia Kuczyńska, Haka Films (Poland)
Director: Natalia Śliwowska
Genre: Documentary/personal true crime
Synopsis: Since her brother died in a mysterious car accident, Natalia grew up under the weight of her mother’s obsession with his unresolved death. Twenty years later Natalia decides to search for the truth to end the frozen state of mourning that her family has been stuck in ever since.
Pitch: Using bold and surprising tools, we explore the impact of unprocessed grief on the life of the whole family. Following different threads, from extensive evidence, through reapproaching the witnesses, and finally looking for answers within the spiritual world, the director will attempt to give closure to her loved ones and herself.
“Garden of Dreams”
Producers: Hana Blaha Šilarová, Frame Films (Czech Republic)
Director: Marta Zveibil Hrubá
Synopsis: Capturing four seasons of the year at a community garden, the film shows the clash between the old and the new. While the senior gardeners have been working on their lots for decades, new gardeners have appeared in recent years, bringing approaches such as community gardening and more ecological methods.
Pitch: “Garden of Dreams” shows a passion for gardening and illustrates the generational divide in the approach to it. The director is an enthusiastic gardener herself and explores our possibilities of coexisting with nature in an urban context. We want to create a feel-good film, inviting the audience to our green oasis.
“How to Fix Yourself”
Producers: Gints Grūbe and Inese Boka-Grūbe, Mistrus Media (Latvia)
Production manager: Anete Ruperte
Director: Armands Začs
Synopsis: The film “How to Fix Yourself” portrays the generation of its director, a depression and anxiety-prone man in his thirties: the struggle of self-preservation and being socially accepted, intergenerational relationships and individual tragedies.
Pitch: “How to Fix Yourself” stands out by focusing on the present struggle. It not only highlights the issue but also shows that we’re resisting it and that there are ways to fight against it.
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