Panel selects two documentaries for support from the BFI Film Fund.

The BFI Film Fund has announced support for two feature documentaries following its latest pitching round in London.

The projects were selected from a short list of the strongest projects submitted to the BFI for support through the second round of the Film Fund’s documentary pitch meetings, in partnership with Sheffield Doc/Fest, which took place on Dec 9.

Five applications were shortlisted by a team of senior executives from the BFI and Doc/Fest, and selected to present to a panel including representatives from the BFI, Sheffield Doc/Fest, leading documentary distributor Dogwoof and Dutch Public Broadcaster VPR.

In line with the panel’s recommendations, the Film Fund has committed to supporting two films:

Tomer and Barak Heymann’s Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?, which is co-directed and co-produced with Alexander Bodin Saphir, follows the journey of an Israeli man rejected by his community, but whose HIV diagnosis becomes a catalyst for him to make  drastic changes to his life; and

Sean McAllister’s A Syrian Love Story, produced with Elhum Shakerifar, a political love story filmed over four years in Syria, Lebanon and France, where two revolutionaries struggle for freedom on a journey of hope, dreams and despair for their homeland, each other and an unfolding civil war.

Ben Roberts, director of the BFI Film Fund, said: “It’s as difficult as ever to predict which projects will resonate with cinema audiences, and the calibre of the shortlist was very strong, but the presentations for these two projects were particularly moving and quite profound. We’re excited to be involved with both of them.”

The short listed teams were asked to give a seven-minute pitch followed by questions from the panel in order to demonstrate the project’s cinematic potential.

The panel comprised BFI Film Fund director Ben Roberts and senior executive Lizzie Francke; BFI creative director Heather Stewart; Sheffield Doc/Fest deputy director Charlie Phillips; Dogwoof co-founder and CEO Anna Godas; and commissioning editor documentaries for Dutch public broadcaster VPR, Barbara Truyen.

The teams chosen by the panel receive a positive decision in principle and will be issued with a Letter of Intent from the BFI Film Fund.

Due to renewed industry interest in the documentary form and following a sharp increase in applications for funding, the BFI Film Fund designed its new pitching events in recognition of the specialised consideration the genre requires, particularly for emerging talent.

At the last pitching round, held at Doc/Fest in June, the Film Fund backed Louise Osmond’s Dark Horse, and Brian Hill’s Thomas Quick, both of which are now in production.

The next BFI Film Fund documentary pitch will take place at Sheffield Doc/Fest on June 11, 2014. The deadline for applications is March 7, with a workshop for selected projects on May 12.

Information about the successful projects

Who’s Gonna Love Me Now?
Production company: Breaking Productions Ltd. and Heymann Brothers Films
Directed and produced by Tomer and Barak Heymann
Co-directed and co-produced by Alexander Bodin Saphir

Saar grew up in a conservative kibbutz on the Israeli/Jordanian border; when he was 19 years old and away on military training, his mother found a love letter he had written…to another man. Rejected by his community Saar fled to London, where he started to build a new life, but when he is diagnosed with HIV his world falls apart and the one thing he craves more than anything else is reconciliation with his family. But will they, after all these years, welcome him back into the fold or will his HIV status cause him to be shunned for the rest of his life?

 A Syrian Love Story
Production company: 10ft Films Ltd.
Director/writer: Sean McAllister
Producer: Sean McAllister and Elhum Shakerifar for 10Ft Films

Filmed over four years in Syria, Lebanon and France; two revolutionaries struggle for freedom on a journey of hope, dreams and despair for their homeland, each other and an unfolding civil war. Amer and Ragda were political activists who met and fell in love in a Syrian prison; when Ragda is imprisoned again for publically condemning the Assad regime Amer must bring up their children alone. The film follows the family as they are reunited and are forced to flee to Lebanon and finally find safety in France, but in their new found ‘freedom’ they find themselves at now war with each other. This intimate family portrait helps us to understand why people are literally dying for change in the Arab world, and reveals the brutality of a regime not yet prepared to allow for that change.