summer festival breakout films

Source: Beta Cinema/mk2 Films/LevelK

‘Lara’, ‘A Girl Missing’, ‘Bellbird’

Between Cannes and Venice, a handful of smaller features from first and second-time directors are emerging from the summer festivals with strong word-of-mouth, picking up sales agents and looking set to pack their bags for the circuit.

Cat In The Wall (Bul-UK-Fr) - premiered at Locarno
Dir.  Vesela Kazakova, Mina Mileva
Logline:  South-East London, in the multicultural neighborhood of Peckham, in a municipal building. A Bulgarian family goes into serious conflict with their neighbors due to an abandoned cat.
Screen’s critical take:
”What’s particularly striking is the authenticity of British working class voices, something that UK cinema sometimes struggles to get right.” 

Bellbird (NZ) - premiered at Sydney
Dir. Hamish Bennett
Logline: A farmer and his son struggle to cope with loss on a small New Zealand dairy farm.
Screen’s critical take“An assured feature debut in which viewers discover the gentle joys of an understated drama with an open heart and a lithe sense of humour.”
Contact: Lauren Valmadre, LevelK

Marona’s Fantastic Tale (Fr) - premiered at Annecy
Dir. Anca Damian
Logline: A dying dog looks back on a life filled with unconditional devotion to her passing owners.
Screen’s critical take: “Told with charm, wit and invention, this is family entertainment with an appeal that should cross the generations.”
Contact: Charades

Samurai Marathon (Jap-UK) - premiered at Edinburgh
Dir: Bernard Rose
Logline: The producers of 13 Assassins deliver an epic sword-slasher.
Screen’s critical take“The 36-mile chase that is the foundation of the story is embellished with treachery, betrayal, outrageous cheating and numerous decapitations. It’s undeniably enjoyable stuff.”
Contact: HanWay Films 

Strange But True (UK) - premiered at Edinburgh
Dir: Rowan Athale
Logline: A woman claims to be pregnant by a man who died five years earlier.
Screen’s critical take “A cast with talent and name recognition to spare — including Margaret Qualley, Brian Cox, Amy Ryan, Blythe Danner and Greg Kinnear — will be key to the allure of Athale’s follow-up to The Rise.”
Contact: Bankside Films 

Lara (Ger) - premiered at Munich, Karlovy Vary
Dir: Jan-Ole Gerster
Logline: A jealous mother struggles to cope with the prospect of her son’s success where she has failed.
Screen’s critical take“Between the writing, the confident direction and the calm camerawork, we see a complex woman who is difficult and resolutely unsympathetic, and yet, we understand her. Some may even see the worst part of themselves reflected in her panicked, calculating eyes.”
Contact: Beta Cinema 

Mosaic Portrait (China) - premiered at Karlovy Vary
Dir: Zhai Yixiang
Logline: An investigation into the rape of a 14-year-old girl.
Screen’s critical take“A masterfully constructed, mesmerisingly mysterious drama, which packs a hefty emotional punch through its teenage protagonist. Young writer/director Zhai Yixiang’s second film, after This Worldly Life (2014), confirms a new Chinese talent who is likely to make a mark on the international stage.” 
Contact Xie Meng, Rediance 

A Bump Along The Way (UK) - premiered at Galway
Dir: Shelly Love
Logline: A rambunctious middle-aged single mother of an insecure teenage girl becomes pregnant by a man half her age.
Screen’s critical take“What starts out as a low-budget, Derry-set broad comedy takes a poignant detour through the subtle and unsubtle bullying of women of all ages to emerge as a rewarding mother-daughter romance.”
Contact: Northern Ireland Screen 

H Is For Happiness (Australia) - premiered at Melbourne
Dir: John Sheedy
Logline: A girl tries to fix her family’s problems in this sparky Aussie debut.
Screen’s critical take“Finding its genial, quirky groove early on, this family film flirts with tweeness but ultimately bubbles with the same spark as its can-do protagonist.”
Contact: Lauren Valmadre, LevelK 

A Girl Missing (Jap) - premiered at Locarno
Dir: Koji Fukada
Logline: A homecare nurse becomes collateral damage when a schoolgirl is abducted.
Screen’s critical take“The time-hopping puzzle pieces fall into place with exquisitely deployed skill. Writer/director Fukada makes his protagonist’s dilemma deeply Japanese yet easy to identify with.”
Contact: mk2 Films 

Maternal (Arg-It) - premiered at Locarno
Dir: Maura Delpero
Logline: A young nun struggles with her maternal instincts in this debut feature set in a Buenos Aires refuge for unmarried mothers.
Screen’s critical take: “Its formidable stylistic control results in a film that is highly emotionally charged beneath its surface of detached austerity. Maternal is a cert both for festivals and upmarket arthouse acquisition.”
Contact: Charades 

Compiled by Fionnuala Halligan