Ignas Jonynas, Payal Kapadia, Francisco Vargas Projects Hit Locarno’s Match Me!

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Anyone wanting signs that film production is alive and kicking in some parts of the world – and not only the most obvious – need go no further than Locarno’s Match Me!

A networking event, expanded this year from 24 to 32 producers and fortified by the first-time presence of France, Match Me! focuses on emerging producers. 

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Featuring new projects from tracked auteurs – Lithuania’s Ignas Jonynas, India’s Payal Kapadia and Mexico’s Francisco Vargas – and winners at Cannes, San Sebastian and other major meets, many producers look only a title or two from full emergence. 

If the fulsome slates of some producers are anything to go by – DR’s Leticia Brea, Estonia’s Tallifornia and Kask Films, for instance – production is a going concern in countries outside traditional production centers. (Distribution, whether to platforms or in theaters, may be another matter).

Out of necessity or ambition, producers are scaling up, pushing ever more into genre and reaching out to production partners and talent from around the world. Some producers produce more foreign than domestic directors.

A brief drill-down on the producers, companies, projects and productions at this year’s Match Me!:

Manolo Kabezabolo - Credit: Courtesy of Du Cardelin Studio
Manolo Kabezabolo - Credit: Courtesy of Du Cardelin Studio

Courtesy of Du Cardelin Studio

Dominican Republic

Leticia Brea, Menos es Más Producciones

It says much about the pulling power and ambitions of Dominican Republic that Menos es Mas can lead produce a film by celebrated Mexican auteur Francisco Vargas – “Fronteras,” now in post. Ronni Castillo’s “Au revoir” shot in France, and Leticia Tonos’ Caribbean sci-fi survival drama, lensed at DR’s Pinewood Studios. Morocco Operation.will partly film in Morocco. An impressive, outward-looking slate. 

Alexandra Santana, Minervas Productions

Currently developing “Without a Name,” the company’s first feature directed by DR-based Venezuelan Valeria Valentina.  Turning on Marcela, a schizophrenic mother who believes her condition prevents her from being a good mother, the film was selected, it was selected for Cannes 2020 La Fabrique and has secured Ibermedia development funding. 

Estonia

Andreas Kask, Nafta Films

Adventurously delving into spy thrillers (“Dawn of War”) and a medieval detective film trilogy, begun with “Melchior the Apothecary.” Upcoming films from Nafta, where Kask works as a producer an head of development, include “Serafima and Bogdan,” a sect-themed dark thriller from Karlovy vary winner Veiko Õunpuu (“The Temptation of St. Tony”).

Tōnu Hiielaid, Tallifornia

Tallis-based, and launched three years ago with the ambition of making 10 features in five years, with three released and six at least on the way, including  Rain Rannu’s “Jailbreak,” half live action half taking place in a real playable computer game. Tallifornia also handles a private-sector film fund, aiming to invest in 15 features from Tallifornia and third parties. A company which is living up to its name.

Jailbreak - Credit: Courtesy of Tallifornia
Jailbreak - Credit: Courtesy of Tallifornia

Courtesy of Tallifornia

France

Thomas Hakim, Petit Chaos

Founded in 2018 by Hakim and Julien Graff, Petit Chaos hit the ground running with its first feature, “A Night of Knowing Nothing,” from India’s Payal Kapadia, which world premiered at 2021’s Directors’ Fortnight winning Cannes’ best documentary Œil d’Or. He’s at Locarno with Kapadia’s follow-up,”All We Imagine as Light,” a collective dream-layered drama about two women, “Ikimanuka,” from Rwandan Samuel Ishimwe, a Berlin Silver Bear winner for short “Imfura,” and Pablo Dury’s “Animals.” A highly cosmopolitan slate.

Elsa Klugheit, Jonas Films

Having produced the Texas and New Mexico-set doc features “Southern Belle” and “Seekers,” and “Tan,” a take on contemporary Iran, upcoming projects from Jonas Films include “The Island,” inspired by director Hong-kai Liang’s one year of military service in Taiwan. Also on Jonas Films’ Locarno lineup: “The Best Part,” the feature debut as a director of “Call My Agent!” and “Stalk” writer Victor Rodenbach.

Charlotte Vande Vyvre, Balade Sauvage Productions

Set up in 2016 by Vande Vyvre and Francesca Betteni-Barnes, Balade Sauvage’s Match Me! slate is led by “Magistrate,” the projected feature film debut of France’s Pierre Mazingarbe, director of a series of often fantasy-laced comedic shorts (“Grub,” “Moonkup”), in which a brilliant and badass prosecutor transfers to a court whose clerk is her highly estranged mother. Also coming to Locarno, “La Sarramauca,” from Sarah Lasry (“Spell on You”).

Italy

Francesca Delise, Illmatic Film Group

“Sadly it is getting very difficult to distribute theatrically internationally,” says Delise. So Illmatic, a production-sales house, is fighting back “working more and more with broadcasters and platforms” and “focusing on genre films which are more placeable commercially-speaking.” Little wonder then that its top Match Me! Play will be dark fantasy thriller “Resvrgis,” Francesco Carnesecchi’s follow-up to “La Partita,” a Netflix worldwide pick-up. Also talking up Daniele Mariani’s debut feature “Tony Marasco,” a comedy.

Luca Marino, Indaco Film

Having snagged two David di Donatello short film awards – for 2018’s “Bismillah” and 2020’s Timo’s Winter,” Marino hails into Locarno with Mario Vitale’s “21st Century,” about a father’s movie effort to save his family from the decline of the West. It follows up Vitale’s 2021 “The Aphid and the Ant,” screened on Sky Cinema, Amazon and RAI.

Raffaella Pontarelli, Amarena Film  

“Our business model is based on developing projects and distributing them worldwide,” says Pontarelli, at Amarena, a production-sales combo. Weighing in as its biggest Locarno bet: Francesco Romano’s late ‘80s-set “The White House” (“La casa Bianca”), based on true events and a short story by Armando Iovino about the relationship between a lonely woman and Camorra boss whom she hides. 

Casa de Fieras - Credit: Courtesy of Almaina Producciones
Casa de Fieras - Credit: Courtesy of Almaina Producciones

Courtesy of Almaina Producciones

Latvia

Dominiks Jarmakovičs, Studio Locomotive.

Behind Signe Baumane’s Annecy winner “My Love Affair with Marriage” and Riga Fest laureate “The Year Before the War.” After 2019 “Izmisums”(“Despair”), Jamakovics is reteaming with director Kārlis Lesiņš and producer Roberts Vinovskis on “The Legend of Latvian Wolf,” a doc feature about the extraordinary life odyssey from humble immigrant to Mexican wrestling super star.

Alise Rogule, Mima Films

Rogule started out as a commercials producer and then diversified into film production, founding Mima Films, which produced Lise Zarina’ “Nearby” (2019,) which scored a best screenplay award at the Latvian National Film Festival. Focusing on experimental low-budget movies, Rogule secured funding from the Latvian National Film Center for Mima Films’ next feature, on which Rogule aims to find new collaborators at this Locarno’ Match Me! edition.

Lithuania

Rūta Jekentaitė, Baltic Productions,

Founded by Jekentaitė and Martynas Mickėna, Baltic Productions upcoming projects include the third feature from Baltics star director Ignas Jonynas (“The Gambler,” “Invisible”). His “Border Wall,” centers on the father of an autistic daughter who turns on a local smuggling clan. Also brought to Locarno a doc “Roberta,” director Elena Kairyte’s feature debut, about the now grown up XYZ generation.

Rūta Petronyte, Kreatûra

“Lithuanian cinema is experiencing a renaissance, especially with young directors with different aesthetics, attitudes and values,” notes Petronyte. Focusing on Lithuanian talent and international co-production, Kreatûra aims to ride this wave. At Locarno, Petronyte will be pushing “Ship,” an art doc about Lithuanian Algirdas Stravinskas a star choreographer who worked in the Soviet Union,

Philippines

April Batican, Epicmedia

Epicmedia is currently finalising the next feature from celebrated Filipino director Lav Diaz, a 2014 Locarno Golden Leopard winner with “From What is Before.” The new film is a political thriller turning on police brutality against drug gangs becomes usual in the war against drugs. Batican has now joined up with director Carlo Enciso Catu on “Hold My Gaze” which is currently under development.

Sari Dalena, Kino Arts

“We’re looking to expand Filipino sci-fi and original animation which is underrepresented,” say director-producer Dalena and producer-editor Keith Sicat at Kino Arts. True to their word, their lead Locarno project is “Eve” (“Ewa”), set in a future of intergalactic migrant workers, as a scientist marooned on a hostile world struggles to reconnect with her child who is lightyears away. Project honors Filipino migrant mothers, “and how the bond of love with their children cannot be broken by time or space.”

Geo Lomuntad, Project 8 Projects

Manila-based, Project 8 Projects slate currently take in Netflix’ title “Cuddle Weather,” “Kitty K7” and “Fan Girl.” It is co-producing director Janos Victoria’s feature, “Kodokushi,” developed with support from Talents Tokyo and the Torino Film Lab. In development, “Boldstar” and “Iti Mapukpukaw.”

Poland

Kuba Kosma, Serce

Having produced “All Our Fears,” a big winner at this year’s Polish Film Awards,  Kosma is currently developing Netflix feature “Luigi,” co-produced by Italy’s Disparte. Inspired by true events, the story turns sister Emilia and mobster Luigi, and their contrasting spiritual faith.

Marta Lewandowska, Friends With Benefits Studios

Friends With Benefits’ recent work includes Netflix original “Erotica 2022,” the stories of five women, all with an erotic element; and “Fucking Borhnolm,” a mid-age relationship crisis drama set on Denmark Bornholm’ island. Lewandowska is also backing Flip Jan Rymsza (“A Final Cut for Orson,” “Mosquito State”) on the development of his next project, “Object Permanence.”

David Szurmiej, Studio Agart

Scoring at the Warsaw Film Festival with “Robert Mitchum is Dead” and doc “100 Voices: A Journey Home” and now developing lockdown comedy, “Oy Gevalt!,”  “Finches,” about Zoya’s relationship with her painter’ grandmother; and “There Will Be No Other Ending,” a family reconciliation drama.

Portugal

Justin Amorim, Promenade

Producer-director Amorim (“Leviano”) hits Match Me! with one of the event’s biggest and best-financed slates: Six titles, with most of their budgets covered., ranging from genre (“We Live in Fear,” Pedro Henrique) to romcom (“Lovefool,” Hermano Moreira) and doc features. Amorim’s key project: “Dreaming of Lions,” by Paolo Marinou-Blanco, a heartfelt dark comedy about euthanasia, straddling Lisbon and Belgium, set up already as a four-way international co-production.  

Daniel Pereira, The Stone and the Plot

A production house, but also classic film distributor and book publisher. At Locarno with a singular animated feature, “049,” about a man who arrives in a city in Asia to die but is revived – momentarily – by a chance encounter with a woman he thought he lost five decades before. António Nuno Júnior (“Contextual Portraits 999”) and illustrator-graphic artist Rui Rasquinho direct.

049 - Credit: Courtesy of The Stone and the Plot
049 - Credit: Courtesy of The Stone and the Plot

Courtesy of The Stone and the Plot

Mafalda Rebelo, Cimbalino Filmes

Winning the Ziff Youth Award at Zinebi with “Our Land, Our Altar,” Rebelo has in post “50/50,” a doc feature she directed on couples balancing raising children and work; in development, the autism-themed “Normality,” by André Guitar, and seven-part series “Rio Grande,” a migration tale, turning on a couple from Alentejo who moves to the Lisbon suburbs in search of a better life.

Spain

Nati Escobar Gutiérrez, Galapagos Media

Founded in 2016 by two young veterans – Escobar, an international sales exec at Lolafilms and producer Pau Calpe, who worked with Elías Querejeta, Galápagos will arrive at Match Me! with “Purgatory,” a new project by Agusti Villalonga – news by any measure – and “Sea Men,” in which a cab driver accompanies her dying fisherman father for one last trip to the Gran Sol fishing grounds off the English coast, themselves nearing extinction. 

Carmen Pérez, Du Cardelin Studio

Zaragoza-based, “telling stories that excite us due to their authenticity and truth,” Du Cardelin is near post on “Manolo Kabezabolo,” a rollicking portrait of the wild, irreverent and extraordinarily resilient punk singer, and “Calle Varsovia,” from José Alberto Andrés Lacasta, the portrait of Spanish Civil War exile seeking, after decades of political struggle, to explain her life in 1999 to her uncomprehending children. 

Raquel Pedreira, Almaina Producciones

With long experience in short film production, Pedreira and partner David Moreno’s first feature project, Eva San’s debut “Casa de fieras,” has gone from strength-to-strength, being chosen for the highly select ECAM Incubator 2021 program with Saiz featuring this mat as one of 10 Spanish Directors on the Rise. A “vivid portrait of childhood and children’s reality coping mechanisms,” say Pedreira and Moreno, it turns on Pablo, 6, who invents and then loses an imaginary friend.   

Producers Raquel Pedreira, Shee Heng Kuek, Raffaela Pontarelli - Credit: Courtesy Raquel Pedreira/Shee Heng Kuek/Raffaela Pontarelli
Producers Raquel Pedreira, Shee Heng Kuek, Raffaela Pontarelli - Credit: Courtesy Raquel Pedreira/Shee Heng Kuek/Raffaela Pontarelli

Courtesy Raquel Pedreira/Shee Heng Kuek/Raffaela Pontarelli

Taiwan

Celine Kao, Original Films

Representing Original Films and focusing on female-centric stories in Asia, Kao’s lead Match Me! title is “The Horse,” exec produced by top Taiwanese editor Liao Ching-Sung (“The Assassin”). The story of a mourning daughter’s halting reconnection with life, Yi-Tzu Lan’s feature debut is a new talent development lab fave, selected at Talents Tokyo, the Produire au Sud Workshop, TAICCA x Ties That Bind Workshop, and TAICCA x Focus Asia 2022.

Shee Heng Kuek, Aview Images

Founded in 2016 by Sheeheng Kuek and now focusing on international co-production, Shee Heng Kuek’s top Match Me! is the buzzy “Malice.” In it, a captain sets out with his son and young foreign boy to catch the giant swordfish whose chase led to an accident which killed his son.

Alice You, Flash Forward Entertainment  

Working at Flash Forward,, a production company that has made major fest titles – Cannes Un Certain Regard’s “Moneyboys” (2021); “Suburban Birds,” at Locarno’s 2018 Cineasti de Presente – Alice You hails into Locarno with “Mothers in Transit,” a drama set as Russia invades Ukraine and parents in Taiwan seek their potentially stateless newborn.

U.K.

Sorcha Bacon, Try Hard Films

Bafta nominated and a champion of character-led stories and marginalised voices, she says, Try Hard is currently developing a slate of feature films with partners including BBC Films (Claire Fowler’s “Procession”), Film4 (Lotje Sodderland’s “In Between”) and The Bureau (“Dry Stone,” to be directed by Charlie Manton). Recent credits take in shorts such as Kate Stonehill’s “Mother” (2020) and this year’s “Pram Snatcher” by Theo Krekis.

Fawzia Mahmood, NW Pictures

Mahmood, whose first feature as a producer, “Acta Non Verba”, premiered at Locarno in 2017, is developing with BBC Film an upcoming feature from writer, director, musician and Turner Prize-winning artist, Imran Perretta. Moonspun Films executive produces. At her London-based company NW Pictures, Fawzia is currently developing an international slate of projects that, she says, cut across genre, platform, budget level and borders.

Zadoc Nava, Stray Dog Films

A new kid on the block, set up in 2022, but developing several features including “The Far Mountains,” a nuanced coming-of-age tale with an allegorical undertow as a reflection of the little/no future state of Iran’s young which has already attracted impressive international backing. To be helmed by Iranian artist-turned-writer-director Mitra Tabrizian, whose feature debut, 2017’s “Gholam,” met with high praise.

Producers Carmen Perez, Luca Marino, Francesca Delise - Credit: Courtesy Carmen Perez/Luca Marino/Francesca Delise
Producers Carmen Perez, Luca Marino, Francesca Delise - Credit: Courtesy Carmen Perez/Luca Marino/Francesca Delise

Courtesy Carmen Perez/Luca Marino/Francesca Delise

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