Dir. Christos Nikou
Greece’s Nikou has served as an assistant director on films including Yorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth, and made the 2012 short Km. His feature debut as a writer/director, Apples (Mila) — which opens Horizons and is also among Telluride’s list of declared titles — is the timely tale of a man in a memory-recovery programme after a sweeping pandemic causes people to develop sudden amnesia. Greece’s Boo Productions produces in a co-production with Poland’s Lava Films and Slovenia’s Perfo Production.
Contact: Alpha Violet
The Best Is Yet To Come (China)
Dir. Wang Jing
Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke produced his protégé Wang Jing’s feature debut, which takes place in 2003 in China’s pre-internet days when print media still rules. Based on true events, the drama focuses on a young investigative journalist who attempts to use a single newspaper article to change the fate of 100 million hepatitis B carriers. The film will also screen in Toronto. Born in the same Shanxi province as Jia, Wang worked as his assistant director on films including Mountains May Depart and Ash Is Purest White.
Careless Crime (Iran)
Dir. Shahram Mokri
Following a 2018 Berlin bow for Invasion, Iranian filmmaker Mokri returns to Venice’s Horizons, where his Fish & Cat premiered in 2013. Forty years after the Iranian Revolution saw protesters set fire to cinemas as symbols of western culture, causing multiple fatalities, four individuals also decide to burn down a movie theatre. The cast includes Babak Karimi, who appeared in Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, The Past and The Salesman as well as in Mokri’s Fish & Cat.
Contact: DreamLab Films
The Furnace (Australia)
Dir. Roderick MacKay
Australian writer/director MacKay has formal training in visual arts and a background in graphic design. Following his shorts Trigger (2011) and Factory 293 (2014), he makes his feature debut with this adventure set amid Western Australia’s 1890s gold rush. Developed at the eQuinoxe Europe script programme’s Australia edition, The Furnace centres on a young Afghan cameleer (Ahmed Malek) who partners with a bushman on the run with stolen Crown-marked gold bars. David Wenham also stars. Screen Australia provided significant production investment, and Umbrella Films will distribute in Australia and New Zealand.
Contact: Arclight Films
Gaza Mon Amour (Palestine-Fr-Ger-Port-Qat)
Dirs. Tarzan Nasser, Arab Nasser
The Palestinian Nasser brothers’ debut feature Degradé, set in a Gaza hair salon, premiered in Critics’ Week at Cannes in 2015. This second feature, originally announced with the title of Apollo, stars Palestinian actor Salim Daw (Tel Aviv On Fire) as a Gaza fisherman whose courtship of a local market stallholder (Hiam Abbass) takes on fresh ardour after he discovers an ancient phallic statue of Apollo in his nets. The feature is lead produced by Rani Massalha and Marie Legrand at France-based Les Films du Tambour, with support from Germany’s Riva Filmproduktion and Portugal’s Ukbar Filmes, and backing from Doha Film Institute.
Genus, Pan (Phil)
Dir. Lav Diaz
Diaz, who won Venice’s Golden Lion in 2016 for The Woman Who Left, had long wanted to make a film about animals. Inspired by the notion the human race still retains certain behavioural traits of its chimpanzee cousins, Genus, Pan (Lahi, Hayop) is about man as animal fuelled by aggressive and egotistical instincts. Shot in Diaz’s signature black and white, the film’s 150-minute running time is relatively brisk compared to some of his previous works, including The Women Who Left (225 minutes) and 2016 Berlin Silver Bear winner A Lullaby To The Sorrowful Mystery (480 minutes).
Contact: Hazel Orencio, Sine Olivia Pilipinas
Guerra E Pace (It-Switz)
Dirs. Martina Parenti, Massimo D’Anolfi
The growing reputation of avant-garde documentary directors Parenti and D’Anolfi has been marked in recent years by, among other things, a film in Competition in Venice (Spira Mirabilis, 2016) and a retrospective at the 2019 Visions du Reél festival. Their latest explores the history of cinema’s relationship with war, from the silent newsreels of the early 20th century to today’s citizen journalist footage. Among the cine archives accessed by the directors — who produce, photograph, edit and score all their films — is that of the International Red Cross in Lausanne.
Contact: Taskovski Films
Dir. Ana Rocha De Sousa
Lisbon-born actress Rocha De Sousa — also known as Ana Rita Rocha — has directed several shorts since 2009, and now makes her feature directing debut with this story of a Portuguese immigrant couple forced to defy UK social services when their deaf daughter is in jeopardy. Rocha De Sousa wrote the script with Aaron Brookner and Paula Vaccaro, who collaborated on titles including 2016 documentary Uncle Howard, and who produce Listen via Pinball London alongside Rodrigo Areias for Portugal’s Bando a Parte.
Contact: Magnolia Pictures International
Dir. Gia Coppola
Coppola played in Telluride and Venice with her 2014 feature debut Palo Alto, adapted from James Franco’s semi-autobiographical short story collection. She returns to Venice with Mainstream, billed as a cautionary tale about three people forming an eccentric love triangle in the fast-moving internet age. The cast includes Maya Hawke, Andrew Garfield, Chris Messina, Jason Schwartzman and Nat Wolff, while American Zoetrope produces alongside several other companies including La La Land producer Fred Berger’s Automatik Entertainment.
Contact: Wild Bunch International
The Man Who Sold His Skin (Tun-Fr-Ger-Bel-Swe)
Dir. Kaouther Ben Hania
Against the backdrop of the Beirut art world, a Syrian refugee agrees to have a visa tattooed on his back as part of an art installation. Yahya Mahayni stars in a cast that features Monica Bellucci and Koen de Bouw. Tunisian filmmaker Ben Hania presented her breakthrough mockumentary The Challat Of Tunis in the Venice Final Cut industry showcase in 2013 and returned in 2018 as a member of the Luigi De Laurentiis jury for first features. Her debut fiction feature Beauty And The Dogs, about a rape victim seeking justice, premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2017. Longtime collaborator Habib Attia at Tunis-based Cinétéléfilms and Nadim Cheikhrouha at Paris-based Tanit Films lead produce with support from Germany’s Twenty Twenty Vision, Belgium’s Kwassa Films and Sweden’s Laika Film & Television.
Contact: Bac Films
Dir. Ivan Ayr
Following his feature debut Soni, which premiered in Horizons in 2018 and went on to win best film at China’s Pingyao International Film Festival, Ayr returns with his second film, a contemplative character study of a widowed truck driver struggling with his complicated past and feeling threatened at work by a younger colleague. It was shot during the deep north Indian winter in New Delhi’s enormous transport hub, a location rarely seen in Indian cinema.
Contact: Kimsi Singh, Jabberwockee
Night Of The Kings (Ivory Coast-Fr-Can-Sen)
Dir. Philippe Lacôte
Ivorian filmmaker Lacôte’s debut feature Run, about a young man who assassinates his country’s prime minister, premiered in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2014. Unfolding against the backdrop of a notorious prison in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan, this second fiction feature (aka La Nuit Des Rois) is a Scheherazade-style tale inspired by a real-life street gang leader. The production was presented at the Venice Gap-Financing Market in 2019, and is also showing in Toronto. It is lead produced by Delphine Jaquet at Paris-based Banshee Films in co-production with Ernest Konan at Abidjan-based Wassakara Productions, Yanick Létourneau of Canada’s Peripheria and Yoro Mbaye at Yennenga Production in Senegal.
Contact: Memento Films International
Nowhere Special (It-Rom-UK)
Dir. Uberto Pasolini
The Full Monty producer Pasolini won four awards when Still Life — his second feature as director, following 2008’s Machan — premiered in Horizons in 2013. Inspired by a true story, Nowhere Special — which Pasolini also writes and produces — stars James Norton as a single father who learns he has a terminal illness, and searches for the perfect family to look after his three-year-old son after he has gone. Pasolini’s UK-based Redwave Films produces alongside Italy’s Picomedia and Romania’s Digital Cube.
Contact: Beta Cinema
The Predators (It)
Dir. Pietro Castellitto
The debut film by the son of actor/director Sergio Castellitto and novelist/screenwriter Margaret Mazzantini is the only Italian dramatic feature selected for Horizons this year. It is a social comedy-drama about an accident that brings a well-to-do family of left-leaning Roman intellectuals into conflict with a proletarian family on the opposite side of the political spectrum. Producer Fandango has been investing in new local talent recently: its 2020-21 slate is made up entirely of first or second features.
Contact: Margherita Martelli, Fandango Sales
Selva Tragica (Mex-Fr-Col)
Dir. Yulene Olaizola
A conquistador scaled a volcano in Olaizola’s 2015 Tallinn Black Nights selection Epitafio and the Mexican filmmaker has succumbed to the allure of inhospitable territory yet again. Selva Tragica takes place in 1920 in the lawless hinterland between Mexico and Belize, as a mysterious woman arouses passions among gum workers and a Mayan demon awakens. Mexico’s Malacosa Cine and Varios Lobos produce and Manny Films (France) is among the co-producers. The film received support from various sources including Germany’s Arri Group.
Contact: Pablo Zimbron, Varios Lobos
The Third War (Fr)
Dir. Giovanni Aloi
Italian director Aloi is having a banner 2020, launching his debut fiction feature Tensione Superficiale earlier this year and now his sophomore feature, a larger-scale French production. Anthony Bajon (The Prayer), Karim Leklou (The World Is Yours) and Leïla Bekhti (A Prophet) star in the story of three Parisian soldiers patrolling the streets after terrorism attacks. As a period of inaction breeds paranoia, one of the soldiers spins out of control. Thierry Lounas, whose credits include The Death Of Louis XIV, produces for Capricci.
Contact: Wild Bunch International
The Wasteland (Iran)
Dir. Ahmad Bahrami
Iranian filmmaker Bahrami makes his major festival debut with his second feature (following 2017’s Panah), focusing on a supervisor who acts as go-between for the workers and boss at a brick factory. He finds himself the focus of suspicion and resentment when the factory faces shutdown. The black-and-white drama, which Bahrami also scripted, is produced by Saeed Bashiri and financed by Bashiri and Ahmad Bahrami.
Contact: Persia Film Distribution
Yellow Cat (Kaz-Fr)
Dir. Adilkhan Yerzhanov
Born in what is now Kazakhstan, the prolific Yerzhanov has made nine features since 2011, which have premiered at the likes of Rotterdam, San Sebastian and Cannes. He makes his Venice debut with this drama about an ex-con who wants to escape the crime-infested Kazakh steppes with his girlfriend, and dreams of building a cinema in the mountains. A trio of Kazakh companies produces alongside France’s Arizona Productions.
Contact: Guillaume de Seille, Arizona Productions
Zanka Contact (Fr-Mor-Bel)
Dir. Ismael El Iraki
Moroccan filmmaker El Iraki, who studied directing at France’s prestigious La Fémis film school, divides his time between Paris and Casablanca. His first feature revolves around a heroin-addicted, has-been rocker and a prostitute who fall in love against the backdrop of the Casablanca underworld, and attempt to make a fresh start together. A passion for rock music and the post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by El Iraki after surviving the Bataclan terror attack in Paris in 2015 have fed into the film. The director’s short films Carcasse(2007) and Harash (2009) were feted at Cannes and Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival respectively. Saïd Hamich, who operates under the banners of Paris-based Barney Production and Casablanca-based Mont Fleuri Production, lead produces with support from Belgium’s Velvet Films.
Contact: Barney Production
Profiles by Ben Dalton, Charles Gant, Melanie Goodfellow, Jeremy Kay, Lee Marshall, Wendy Mitchell, Michael Rosser, Silvia Wong