BoostNL recap 2020

The fifth edition of BoostNL, the tailor-made profes­sional programme run in collab­o­ra­tion with IFFR Cine­Mart to offer essen­tial industry expo­sure to 8 new projects from The Nether­lands, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt and Georgia, kicked off this week at Utrecht. Once again, special atten­tion was paid to script devel­op­ment as well as advice on festival, sales and marketing strate­gies. The 5‑month Boost NL programme, which commenced online at HFM before concluding at IFFR in January 2021, has become a renowned plat­form for the devel­op­ment of bril­liant audio­vi­sual works, such as The Reports on Sarah and Saleem (Muayad & Rami Alayan), Jessica (Ninja Thyberg) and Sacha Polak’s Dirty God. La última primavera by Isabel Lamberti (produced by Ijswater Films) was part of BoostNL 2018 and HFM 2019, and was selected for online Cannes 2020.

Inter­na­tional projects (moder­ated by Eye’s Ido Abrams)

Holy Elec­tricity (Georgia)
It is the story of two guys with a lot of ideas but no money,” explained director Geor­gian Tato Kotetishvili of his black comedy about two guys who hit upon the idea to sell neon crosses illu­mi­nated with stolen elec­tricity. Selling neon crosses charged by stolen elec­tricity.” In their pitch, they under­lined how a cross is a symbol of Christ\‘s sacri­fice for us, reminding us to live by Chris­tian values. Neon symbol­izes the commer­cial­iza­tion of our world full of neon signs, bill­boards and tele­vi­sion screens. Thus, a neon cross is a great metaphor for the role of the church in our society: it incor­po­rates human values and the reality of a commer­cial busi­ness at the same time.” The €300,000 film is almost halfway financed and has Dutch part­ners on board in the form of The Film Kitchen (Amsterdam) and Stout&Smits (Rotterdam). It was also recip­ient of an HBF devel­op­ment grant. A real Rotterdam/​Georgian connec­tion, I like that as a Rotterdam person,” said moder­ator Ido Abram, who further asked producer Irakli Metreveli what the project can deliver to an inter­na­tional audi­ence. We believe that this project is unique because it brings a new voice from Georgia which has not been presented yet,” she responded. We think that Tato the director has a very unique style and the place where we are going to shoot is inter­esting for an inter­na­tional audi­ence. The topic we are dealing with is done with humour, and people from all around the world can relate to it, [although it’s from] a small Geor­gian world.
A Flying Char­acter (Argentina)
The Argen­tinian project A Flying Char­acter by Martina Juncadella is the recip­ient of Hubert Bals Fund Script and Project Devel­op­ment support and picked up an Arte Kino Award at BAFICI BAL. The film tells a story of over­coming grief. After his mother’s death, a writer attempts to cleans up his life without success until he finds a unique way to trans­form his pain. He will adopt another iden­tity, parallel to his own, with its own histo­ries, fears and desires. From the begin­ning of the devel­op­ment of the idea I was capti­vated by Martina’s way of creating a very inti­mate audio­vi­sual world which concen­trates its forces on the acting pres­ence and the picto­rial and plastic language,” stressed producer (and sister to Martina) Julieta Juncadella. She added of her €350,000 budget, 100-minute drama that she is looking for part­ners in The Nether­lands, who are inter­ested in unique and risky audio­vi­sual narra­tives. This film is a unique and personal approach to queer narra­tives and tran­si­tioning iden­ti­ties. This contem­po­rary theme is urgent [and must] be repre­sented in cinema.” In her pitch director Martina asked, how may iden­ti­ties fit in a life? How many do we know? How many we don\‘t know? A Flying Char­acter is conceived from the fasci­na­tion of imag­ining one life becoming another one. In my personal expe­ri­ence as an actress I live composing and creating char­ac­ters which I enter and exit. That trans­forms the person that I am.” She added how the drama will also feature non-profes­sional actors. I am an actress but I can say that I love non-actors. I will reach a mix between those two universes, between real people and profes­sional actors, The acting, yes, it’s central.”
Marina (Brazil)
Marina is movie for a youth audi­ence, it\‘s a story that mixes teenage love with social tragedy and it takes place in a touristic city of Brazil which is my home town Maceió, says writer and co-director Laís Santos Araújo (with Pethrus Tibúrcio) of her Boost NL project. In the project Marina (14), the only black girl in a wealthy private school, prepares for her 15th birthday party. She is unaf­fected by the ongoing discovery of bullet-ridden bodies until she start to go out with Pedro, the son of her seam­stress. Maceió is beau­tiful,” says Laís, getting to the heart of the film’s dilemma. It is also one of the safest cities of Brazil, it’s where you are least likely to get killed. But only if you are wealthy and white. If you happen to be black and you happen to be poor it is one of the most dangerous cities in the country. And that’s where we are in this movie. In this trop­ical city of inequal­i­ties and contrasts.” €300,000 of the €560,000 budget is already sourced in Brazil. During Boost NL, producer Nara Aragão of Carnaval Filmes is looking for co-pro part­ners to bridge the gap, as well as interest sales enti­ties and distrib­u­tors. Laís adds: I wrote this film based on my personal expe­ri­ences during high school and things that I saw friends of mine go through. When I was around sixteen, 40 people were murdered around my neigh­bour­hood and in my home town. They were home­less and nobody was ever punished. Since then I have been researching about segre­ga­tion and violence and producing art and other types of work around it, and this is where the movie comes from.”
The Settle­ment (Egypt)
At the begin­ning of his very personal Utrecht Boost NL pitch director Mohamed Rashad stated, how heart-breaking it is to start to build your feature over the death of someone else. It is espe­cially more painful when this person was close to you. He is your father.” In the film, when a young­ster is offered a job in the same factory that killed his father, he is not sure if it is a reward or a curse. Being a crucial element in the narra­tive, the dialogue is written with intel­li­gence and wit. It doesn\‘t expose or explain the feel­ings of the char­ac­ters, but gives a sense about them leaving them for the viewer\‘s inter­pre­ta­tion. Infor­ma­tion beats are not given through dialogue, but through the complex struc­ture of the char­ac­ters and their arcs,” Mohamed further stresses. Producer Hala Lofty has raised a fifth of the €250,000 budget. Partner Etienne de Ricaud of Carac­tere Produc­tions (France) stressed of the project that this can become one of the land­marks in contem­po­rary Egyptian cinema.” Lofty artic­u­lates the essence of the HBF-backed project: Rashad captures a neglected, a remote, isolated and almost taboo area in Egypt… where facto­ries were built first and then came the workers… where the rules were designed to serve the inter­ests of the factory owners, and where the govern­ment is totally absent and only shows up to commit more oppres­sion over the workers,” she says. It is an unheard comminity and what Rashad is trying to do is giving them voice, talking in a very beau­tiful and artistic way about the hard life they are leading.”

Dutch projects (moder­ated by Eye’s Ido Abrams)

Jacob’s Way
In Jacob’s Way director Eelko Ferw­erda tells a fictional story, but one informed by his father’s early diag­nosis of Alzheimer’s. In the film, Jacob, 60, embarks on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela with his dog. After a risky climb in the rain, he loses his dog and must get into the car of a young man to recover. He wakes up on a gated estate, which he finds he is unable to leave, forced to stay… Alter­na­tive real­i­ties, imag­i­na­tion and height­ened realism are often returning subjects in my work,” says Ferw­erda. But above all the human percep­tion or the decon­struc­tion of it is always a starting point.” Since nobody knows exactly what it looks like inside a decon­structed mind that has less and less grip on the world around him, we have taken the poetic freedom to tell a compelling an suspenseful story from the perspec­tive of a patient,” he continues. Although Jacob’s Way is a work of fiction the events and char­ac­ters, with their own dilemmas and conflicts, are inspired by our exten­sive research into the dramatic world of Alzheimer’s patients and my own expe­ri­ences as well with my father.” The 90-minute film is produced by power­house Dutch outfit Bind and is budgeted at €1.8 million, of which €1.2 million is already raised. Their stated aims for Boost NL are a script session with an English native genre expert on suspense/​thriller dramas and to hook up with Dutch filmmaker/​trainer Gert de Graaff for advice and inspi­ra­tion.” Moder­ator Ido reminded the online audi­ence of Bind’s envi­able record at inter­na­tional festi­vals. Does this film offer the oppor­tu­nity of similar success? Let’s put it this way, we worked on films which have won awards, but in my view from the start I already had it in mind that this has great poten­tial,” answered company boss Joram Willink. The pov from the patient, an extreme pov, gives so many possi­bil­i­ties and makes it very exciting, and also inter­esting with all kinds of layers.”
Wood is an homage to the men of the lumber yard, men who do not always have the social skills to really express how they feel, but in those spare moments when they are really honest and show their vulner­a­bil­i­ties, they are men in their purest form, heart-breaking and touching at the same time,” was screen­writer Matthijs Bockting’s lyrical opening to the pitch for Wood, to be directed by Flynn von Kleist. In the film Ben (17), who has grown up without a father and with an unpre­dictable mother, strug­gles to hold his own within the harsh mascu­line world of the sawmill. Little by little he discovers that he is trans­forming into wood. Central to Wood is the theme of adult­hood, specif­i­cally male adult­hood,” says director Von Kleist. We are combining the coming of age genre with body horror… Ben’s envi­ron­ment is filled with imper­fect adults, espe­cially indif­ferent men. We are using body horror as a way of exter­nal­ising his inner trans­for­ma­tion.” The film­makers cite films such as Edward Scis­sorhands and Pan’s Labyrinth as influ­ences, as well Let the Right OneIn, Raw and When Animals Dream. Producer Guusje van Deuren (The Rogues) stresses of the €2 million budget film: At Boost in Utrecht we will be focussed mainly on the devel­op­ment of the script and the visual approach of the story. We are also very keen to talk to coaches and collab­o­ra­tors about early ideas for the marketing strategy and the use of genre. At IFFR there will be a whole new English-trans­lated version of the film, and we will be looking to talk then with part­ners about co-produc­tion, finance and sales.”
The Maal­stroom
While trans­porting a shipful of white desert sand from Le Havre to a beach in Rotterdam, Jan discovers an East African refugee camp in the hold of his ship, forcing him to re-eval­uate his life and values. The 100-minute €1.8 million project by feature debu­tant Teddy Cherim is described as a dark comedy, a road movie and a coming of age film. But with an intensely serious theme, the director notes. Jan is us’ and he has his own prob­lems and his life is diffi­cult enough, and he is not ready to be hospitable to all these new people,” says Cherim. But to me this is an impor­tant story because I am the grandson of refugees during the 2WW and so I know within my family the pain that it caused. It’s not so long ago that this was happening, and I find it appalling the way we are reacting to the current influx of refugees. That is why it is an impor­tant film to make.” Refugees will be cast in the film as a result of a collab­o­ra­tion agreed between producer Graniet Film and the NGO Body Project that helps refugees find work in the film industry. It\‘s a story about them and us coming together,” under­lines Teddy. Comments screen­writer Kim Kokosky Defor­chaux: We have refugees from lots of different coun­tries and they all have different expe­ri­ences, how the travel worked out and how diffi­cult it was to commu­ni­cate along the way with Euro­peans, and how did they see each other. These are insights that we could have never have devel­oped without these char­ac­ters.” Producer Marten van Warmerdam is looking to shoot in Belgium, France and the Nether­lands and is looking for sales and distri­b­u­tion as well as a French co-producers. Concluded director Teddy: This will be one of the sickest movies you have ever seen in your entire life.”
Another body trans­for­ma­tion film is Arianne Hinz’s debut feature Mari­onettes, a 70-minute dark drama budgeted at €850,000. Produced by Ibrahim Karatay of Rinkel film, the film focusses on 11-year old Lola who is desperate to join a group of kids playing mari­onettes in a theatre produc­tion. But as the kids iden­tify with their char­ac­ters they begin to lose grip on reality. When they plan the murder of a young woman, Lola ques­tions her involve­ment with them. The chil­dren turn into marionettes…but that doesn’t mean that it is a fantasy film with no link to reality,” said director Arianne. Because I think that the risk of giving up too much of your­self in order to belong, it happens all around us. In the real world this can lead to things like fascism and cults, and I think that this film can show how gradual this process is and how inno­cent it often starts, and we only find out what actu­ally happened after it is much too late.” Producer Ibrahim told Ido in Utrecht how he wants to avoid special effects, and that a short test film will be made in 2021 to hone the tech­niques neces­sary for later use in the feature, itself to be shot in 2022. He added that he is looking for sales interest, distrib­u­tors and co-producers, espe­cially from Germany, Spain, Belgium and the Nordic coun­tries. Mari­onettes is going to be a film for adult audi­ences,” he stressed. And why does Arianne find kids so fasci­nating, Ido asked. I seem to be drawn to telling stories from the child’s perspec­tive. There are many answers to this ques­tion, but one of them is I think that for chil­dren the differ­ence between fantasy and reality is smaller, which makes it easier in films to mix these two aspects,” she responded. If you work with adults, then you would have to invent a reason why they could believe they all of a sudden could become mari­onettes, whereas with chil­dren that is just part of their play.”
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