'Mother Vera'

Source: Locarno Film Festival

‘Mother Vera’ won the Creative Media First Look Award

Documentary filmmakers scooped the prizes in Locarno Pro’s First Look work-in-progress section, which is dedicated to UK films this year.

Mother Vera, co-directed by Cécile Embleton and Alys Tomlinson, won the new Creativity Media First Look Award covering services towards the completion of films in post-production up to the value of € 50,000.

Mother Vera follows a young Orthodox nun making her way from the thick snow of the Belarusian forest to the heat of the reeds in the French Camargue. After 20 years as a monastic, Vera faces deep inner conflict; she must confront her past and trust her instincts to find the liberation she desires.

The international First Look jury, comprising of Cannes Critics Week artistic director Ava Cahen, artistic director Gaia Furrer of Venice’s Giornate degli Autori and Sundance’s festival director Eugene Hernandez, described the documentary by Laura Shacham’s She Makes Productions as a “strikingly photographed stark portrait of a fascinating nun in Belarus”.

Mother Vera, which has been supported by the Sundance Film Institute, is the first feature documentary by British-French director Embleton and the directorial debut for London-based award-winning photographer Tomlinson

Another feature documentary, Sarah Lewis’ No Ifs Or Buts, a portrait filmed over 27 years of London barbershop `Cuts’, received both the Jannuzzi Smith Award - worth € 8,500 for the design of an international poster - and the award by the trade publication Le Film Français, which consists of advertising space to a value of €5,600.

Alliance 4 Development

Locarno Pro’s three-day co-development platform Alliance 4 Development also came to a close on 6 August, with Pas Ta Maman by Swiss feature debutant Michèle Flury receiving the Alphapanda Market Breakout Award, consisting of consultancy services worth € 3,500.

With elements of a thriller and a modern fairytale, the story of a young woman seeking freedom in the patriarchal society by committing tyrannicide is being planned by Berlin-based Sommerhaus Filmproduktion as a German-Swiss-Greek co-production to shoot at locations in the Mediterranean in autumn 2024.

Despina Athanassiadis’ road movie La P’tite (The Young One) about two female truck drivers forced to come together to make an express delivery to Greece won a script consultancy residency worth CHF 5,000 at DreamAgo and sponsored by the Valais Film Commission

The production by French producer Quentin Daniel’s Wombat Films will be his first feature film as a producer and a debut feature for Athanassiadis.

Meanwhile, the MIDPOINT Consulting Award for an in-depth online script consultancy with one of the MIDPOINT Institute experts went to WHO/MAN to be directed by Swiss filmmaker Lorenz Merz whose previous credits include the feature film Soul Of A Beast which screened in Locarno in 2021 and then garnered eight nominations at the 2022 Swiss Film Awards.

Meanwhile Ann Oren’s Objet A received the Ticino Film Commission Residence Award, consisting of a two-day location scouting worth CHF 4,000 and a Letter of Intent for financial support worth up to CHF 12,000 for the project’s production company Schuldenberg Films if all or part of the film is shot in the canton of Ticino.

Oren’s debut feature Piaffe had premiered in Locarno’s International Competition last year and went on to win numerous awards at several international film festivals. Another Schuldenberg Films production - Julia Fuhr Mann’s Life Is Not A Competition, But I’m Winning – was presented at Locarno’s First Look showcase of German films last year and has now been selected for this year’s Critics Week programme in Venice.

Heritage Online Restoration Contest

The awards ceremony on Sunday evening also saw the announcement of the winning film in Locarno’s first ever Heritage Online Restoration Contest with the selection by an international jury of Brazilian director Alberto Cavalcanti’s 1954 film Mulher de Verdade.

The film will be restored by the Zurich and Berlin-based company Cinegrell, with the restored film then premiering at Locarno’s next edition in the Histoire(s) du Cinéma: Heritage Online section.