Swedish-Iranian filmmaker Milad Alami’s “Opponent,” Sasha Polak’s “Silver Haze” and Sophia Mocorrea’s “Marriage by Abduction” have won the top awards at Les Arcs Festival‘s popular industry village.
Curated by Frederic Boyer, Tribeca and Les Arcs’ artistic director, the Work-In-Progress presentation is part of the festival’s industry sidebar, which also includes the Coproduction Village, Talent Village and Music Village. Nearly 500 guests, including sales agents, distributors and festival programmers, flocked to the 11th edition of the event in spite of the ongoing pandemic.
“Opponent” won the TitraFilm Award which consists of €10,000 ($11,300) worth of post-production services for image and/or sound. One of the 14 projects presented at the Work-in-Progress event, “Opponent” marks Alami’s sophomore outing after “The Charmer” which won prizes at San Sebastian and Palm Springs, among other festivals. “Opponent” follows Iman, a professional wrestler, and his family who are forced to flee Iran in the aftermath of a devastating rumor and end up in a run-down hotel in Northern Sweden.
“Opponent” was produced by Sweden’s Tangy and Norway’s Ape&Bjørn. It was praised by the jury for its “dynamic compelling visual language and the film’s use of wrestling and its physicality to explore the thematic of freedom.”
The jury was composed of Florence Almozini, programmer at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, Kevin Chan, co-head of acquisitions at MUBI, and Mimi Plauché, artistic director of the Chicago International Film Festival.
The Teheran-born Alami ranks as one of Sweden’s most exciting up-and-comers. He recently directed “When the Dust Settles,” a thought-provoking mini-series following different people before and after a terrorist attack in Copenhagen.
“Silver Haze,” Polak’s fourth feature, won a special mention from the jury for its “striking cinematography, and the way director Sacha Polak works with the actors to elicit emotionally resonant performances and create complex authentic characters.”
“Silver Haze” marks Polak’s follow up to “Dirty God” which competed at Sundance and was nominated for four British Independent Film Awards. The movie re-teams Polak with Vicky Knight, a healthcare assistant and actor who starred in “Dirty God,” where she played Franky, a 23 year-old woman who falls in love with a girl and runs away from home while her brother converts to Islam. The movie is being produced by Dutch banner Viking Film and the U.K.’s Emu Films.
Polak, who was born in Amsterdam, made her debut with “Hemel” which won the FIPRESCI prize at Berlin in 2012 and recently directed episodes of David Farr’s Amazon original series “Hanna.” She also directed several documentaries, including “New Boobs” and “Nieuwe Tieten.”
Polak said “Silver Haze” is “a fictional story with documentary components — it plays with real life but it also strays from it. ” The movie shot on location in the U.K., in Dagenham, an underprivileged area of London, and in Southend.
“Family, love and growth are important themes in Silver Haze. Family, not just in the sense of blood relatives, because it can be found in unexpected places, or in religion. The film is also a love story and a coming of age film,” said the producers. The movie is also “steeped in the uncertainty of modern times,” as a “result of the pandemic and Brexit.”
Other prizes went to Katia de Vidas’s music documentary “Stranger in My Own Skin,” an intimate portrayal of Peter Doherty. The film won the Alphapanda Audience Engagement Award from a jury which included Didar Domehri, Maneki Films founder and producer; Mathias Noschis, film marketing strategist and founder of Alphapanda; and Joanna Solecka, film marketing and social media strategist and head of Alphapanda.
The jury said “Stranger in my Own Skin” is “a moving and inspiring intimate portrait of Peter Doherty” which “puts a light on a complex personality in a new chapter of his life.” The jury said “this story will give audiences hope for a possible change and will touch viewers far beyond music communities.” “Stranger in my Own Skin” was shot over 10 years by de Vidas who fell in love with Doherty during the making of the film and recently married him.
The Talent Village Award, which consists in a cash prize granted by Les Arcs Film Festival, went to Mocorrea’s short film “Marriage by abduction.”
The jury, comprising Savina Neirotti, head of program of Venice Production Bridge and the Biennale College; Thomas Rosso, program manager of Cannes Critics’ Week; and Laure Caillol, head of acquisitions at Haut et Court, said the film stood out of its “cinematic quality and powerful mise en scene,” as well as its “ability to address the implication of cross cultural relationships and to balance the weight of traditions.”
The ArteKino International Award, consisting of in a grant of €6,000 from Franco-German network Arte, went to Ninna Pálmadóttir’s “Solitude” which was presented as part of the Coproduction Village. The project is being developed by Pegasus Pictures in Iceland, and MP Film Production in Croatia.
“The ArteKino International Award‘s choice went to the project of a young director, who has expressed her talent in two sensitive and poetic short films,” said Rémi Burah, CEO of Arte France Cinema, who presides over the ArteKino Foundation. “Her first feature echoes harmoniously with the characters of her shorts and her universe with the one of her scriptwriter, a very talented Icelandic director,” added Burah.
Les Arcs Film Festival wraps its 13th edition on Dec. 18.
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