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THE FACE OF THE JELLYFISH has been on my mind since the day director Melisa Liebenthal first mentioned it to me,” explains producer Eugenia Campos Guevara. “It is not a film about animals, or a film focused on the harms or benefits of zoos. Neither is it a film that intends to develop a fictional character with its mundane interests or fears. This subtle and aloof film is about our search as humans to connect with animal life forms. And how those connections we try to establish become ways of empathy, of violence, of domination, of incarceration, of passion, of fear and love.”

The 90-minute film, budgeted at €110,000, is in an advanced stage of production with 40% of it shot. With a teaser available at NFF Professionals, it concerns a researcher (pleasingly called Marina) who studies the faces of the creatures she sees in aquaria and zoos. Falling in and out of love and experiencing regular heartbreak, she continually observes human attempts to communicate with the animals in captivity, watching and being watched by them. But then she comes across the ostensibly faceless jellyfish. How do you communicate with a creature who cannot gaze back?

“This is Melisa’s second feature (after the multi award-winning THE PRETTY ONES, 2017),” points out producer Guevara. “But the soundness and understanding between the two of us, as a team, are much stronger than with the previous film. The expectations and trust of the ones that hear that this film is in process is also bigger. Melisa shapes up as a young director with a genuine, unprejudiced, sensitive and sharp point of view on any subject that catches her attention. She is probably the most creative and open-minded director I know still in her twenties. She has the ability to go through things, images and subjects a thousand times, always finding possible new ways of reading materials and of connecting them.”

On her Boost NL expectations, Guevara is keen to explain to potential partners that creative, technical and financial workflow considerations must be assessed and actioned in parallel. “Although it has much more fictional elements than her last film, THE FACE OF THE JELLYFISH is also, in a way, an essay-film where the narrative is led by the course of a reflection rather than of an action. And that implies, once again, that the production stages converge and overlap; that editing, writing and shooting co-exist, preventing an orthodox organization of the financial needs.”

“I hope that the Boost NL experience helps professionals see more clearly if the whole production planning we have made and carried this far is well designed, or if we have to think anything over. It would also be very important to find some allies during these days that might want to join us as co-producers. The film has some scenes that should be shot in Europe, and it would be great to leave Utrecht with some interest (and to continue the conversations with distributors and sales agents) during the following months. I think this project is now at a stage that it has become quite easy to understand in terms of its tone and which narrative places it aims to reach.”
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