Second features by Burhan Qurbani, Barmak Akram and Viktor Chouchkov Jr and debuts by Lili Horváth and Tom Shoval are among 18 projects being pitched at the eighth edition of the Sofia Meetings which kicks off in the Bulgarian capital on Thursday.

Qurbani, whose debut Shahada was in competition at the Berlinale last year, will be in Sofia with his producer Leif Alexis of Ludwigsburg-based teamWorx Television & Film to present We Are Young, We Are Strong which is the fictional dramatization of riots in a Rostock suburb in 1992 when several Vietnamese were the subject of xenophobic attacks by local residents and neo-Nazis.

Producer Daniel Burlac will pitch Afghan-born Akram’s second feature the Kabul- and Romania-set existentialist thriller Firuza which follows his award-winning debut Kabuly Kid from 2008, while Viktor and Borislav Chouchkov will be looking for co-producers and sales interest for their adaptation of Zachary Karabashliev’s bestselling novel of the same name. Chouchkov Jr’s feature debut Tilt is screening in the International Competition of this year’s Sofia International Film Festival, the first time ever that Bulgarian films are competing for the Grand Prix Award.

Other second features coming to Sofia for partners include new projects by Serbia’s Vladimir Paskaljevic and Hungary’s Robert Lakatos.

Meanwhile, the Plus Minus One Pitching selection will be providing a platform for debuts by Lili Horváth’s (The Wednesday Child), Israel’s Tom Shoval (Youth) and Ivan Bolotnikov (Kharms), among others. Youth was previously pitched at Thessaloniki’s Crossroads, while Kharms – inspired by the life of the poet, writer and dramatist Daniel Kharms - was pitched at last June’s Moscow Co-production Forum.

Apart from the public pitchings, the Sofia Meetings’ programme will include workshops with screenwriter Paul Fraser, Israel Film Fund’s Katriel Schory and producers Jozko Rutar and Conor Barry as well as presentations of the Robert Bosch Foundation Co-Production Prize, LVT Digimage Group, the ACE producers programme, Festival Scope and VODO.

Moreover, the Sofia Meetings hosts the Balkan Screenings showcasing more than 50 films and ‘works in progress’, including My Mate Manchester United, Shelter and The Rules Of Single Life.

This year will also see the board of the European Film Academy holding its annual meeting in Sofia at the weekend, while Europa Distribution will be organising a workshop on viral marketing and social networks for 30 marketing managers from European distribution companies during the Meetings.

The 15th jubilee edition of the Sofia International Film Festival was opened this year by Darren Aronofsky’s Oscar-winning Black Swan and will close on Saturday evening after the awards ceremony with a gala screening of Danis Tanovic’s Cirkus Columbia at the National Palace of Culture.