African Diaspora Feature Projects Selected For Berlin’s Co-Production Market

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 16, 2014 6:25 PM
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Wanuri Kahiu

39 new feature film projects from 30 countries will be presented at the 11th Berlinale Co-Production Market (which runs from February 9 - 11, 2014). The Berlinale Co-Production Market gives all of these projects the opportunity to present during pre-scheduled individual meetings with 450 potential co-production and financial partners - the obvious goal being to walk away with a co-production or financing deal, on the road to producing a completed film.

Chosen from 328 entries, the official selection includes 20 new feature film projects from around the world. All of them will be realized by experienced producers and already have 30% of their financing in place. The budgets of the projects range from 700,000 to 6.5 million euros (or about $950,000 to $9 million).

Included in the event is the Talent Project Market, which sees 10 new producers and directors selected to be primed for the international market. Their projects are selected out of 216 entries. The Talent Project Market is a program that allows co-production partners to discover promising projects each year.

The Berlinale Co-Production Market boasts a success rate of over 40% of projects selected for the initiative have made it all the way through completion. The Co-Production Market’s strict structural and content-related selection criteria ensure that the participating producers, world sales agents, TV broadcasters, distributors, funders, and financiers can meet reliable partners with marketable projects whose chances of being realized are particularly high.

The Berlinale Co-Production Market is part of the European Film Market.

Browsing this year's selections, I immediately identified a project from Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu (Pumzi), titled Jambula Tree - a project we've been tracking since first learning about it in mid-2012.

Produced by super South African producer Steven Markovitz (Viva Riva!African Metropolis), plot details on Jambula Tree (based on a short story that won the Caine Prize in 2007) are being kept under wraps for now, although we can tell you that, broadly, it centers on 2 Kenyan girls, on 2 different paths, and the difficult decisions each has to make about the life each leads, and the ramifications of those choices.

In a 2013 interview with Africultures, Kahiu spoke much more in-depth about the project, revealing further details about it. Here's a snip:

My first and foremost concern was to find a love story. This is what I wanted to do. When I came across Jambula Tree, because of the texture and the nuances, just the profound love that the main characters had to each other, I wanted to tell that story. Even though it's a hard subject because it's taboo, two girls falling in love with each other in a country where this is outlawed, it was very important for me to tell a love story because that's what it is: how true love can triumph above anything. And I think, having been in many situations in my own life, the most courageous thing that anyone can do is to choose true love above one else and I think it takes a special kind of skill to choose true love that is difficult instead of what is expected. 

You can read much more on the project, and her collaboration with Markovitz at: http://www.africultures.com/php/index.php?nav=article&no=11754#sthash.y58UVGpW.dpuf

Thanks to the African Women In Cinema blog for the link.

The author of the short story that the film will be based on, Ugandan Monica Arac de Nyeko, was the eighth winner of the annual Caine Prize, created in honor of the late Sir Michael Caine, a British businessman with African interests who, for almost 25 years, chaired the management committee of what is today known as the Man Booker Prize

Sudanese writer Jamal Mahjoub, chairman of the 2007 Caine judges, praised Jambula Tree as "a witty and touching portrait of a community... affected forever by a love which blossoms between two adolescents.

At a reading before she was named the Caine Prize winner, Arac de Nyeko summed up the story as simply "a story really about innocence."

The full list of the 2014 Berlinale Co-Production Market follows below. Wanuri's is the only one I was able to recognize. The other titles are unfamiliar to me. But I'll certainly be scrubbing the entire list for any other diaspora titles to profile here on S&A, so watch for future highlights (if any) soon.

The official selection of projects for the Berlinale Co-Production Market 2014 (listed alphabetically by production company):

The Smuggler (dir: Pål Sletaune), 4 ½ Fiksjon, Norway
Afterlands (dir: Pall Grimsson), Alcina Pictures, Canada
18 Drops (dir: Oliver Schmitz), Bedlam Productions, United Kingdom
Jambula Tree (dir: Wanuri Kahiu), Big World Cinema, South Africa
The Last One (dir: Veiko Õunpuu), Bufo, Finland
Good Manners (dir: Juliana Rojas & Marco Dutra), Dezenove Som e Imagens, Brazil
In the Shade of the Trees (dir: Matías Rojas Valencia), Don Quijote Films, Chile
Gingko (dir: Gábor Rohonyi & Mónika Mécs), Inforg-M&M Film, Hungary
Family (dir: Veronica Kedar), Inosan Productions, Israel
Happy Birthday (dir: Christos Georgiou), Lychnari Productions, Cyprus / Greece & Twenty Twenty Vision, Germany
Grooms (dir: Arvin Chen), Making Film Productions, Hong Kong
- Kuessipan (dir: Myriam Verreault), Max Films, Canada
6.9 on the Richter Scale (dir: Nae Caranfil), Mobra Films, Romania
I Want to Be Like You (dir: Konstantin Bojanov), Multfilm, Bulgaria & KinoElektron, France
My Father's Garden (dir: Ben Sombogaart), NL Film, Netherlands
Astrid (dir: Pernille Fischer Christensen), Nordisk Film Production, Sweden / Denmark
Pyromaniac (dir: Erik Skjoldbjærg), Pravda Film, Norway
Lonely Girl (dir: Natasha Pincus), Second Sight Productions, Australia
The Thin Yellow Line (dir: Celso García), Springall Pictures & Tequila Gang, Mexico
Saving Neta (dir: Nir Bergman), United Channels Movies, Israel

“Rotterdam-Berlinale Express”:

Let There Be Morning (dir: Eran Kolirin), Dori Media Paran, Israel
Fresh (dir: Peter Webber), Full House, France
United States of Love (dir: Tomasz Wasilewski), Mañana, Poland

Berlinale Residency projects:

Operation: Baby (dir: José Luis Valle), Caverna Cine, Mexico
Iguazú (dir: Sebastián Lelio), Fabula, Chile
House of Isaura (dir: Bence Fliegauf), Fraktál Film, Hungary
Son of Sofia (dir: Elina Psykou), Heretic, Greece
Oyster (dir: Alistair Banks Griffin), Influence Machine Productions, USA
The Wounded Angel (dir: Emir Baigazin), Kazakhfilm, Kazakhstan

“Talent Project Market” (listed alphabetically by Talent):

The Matchmaker, director Alina Abdullaeva, Azerbaijan 
A Yellow Bird, producer Fran Borgia, Singapore
The Insect King, producer Bridget Callow-Wright, Australia
Souvenir, director Bavo Defurne, Belgium
The Garbage Helicopter, producer Andreas Emanuelsson, Sweden
The German Cakemaker, director Ofir Paul Graizer, Germany / Israel
Beasts, producer Pamela Hansson, United Kingdom / USA
The Swan, director Ása Hjörleifsdóttir, Iceland
The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson, producer Kaleena Kiff, Canada / United Kingdom
The Family, director Gustavo Rondón Córdova, Venezuela

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