Liselot Verbrugge Launches Film Harbour With Berlinale Films ‘A Bit of a Stranger,’ ‘The Secret Drawer’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Liselot Verbrugge, former CEO of Deckert Distribution, has started a new chapter in her career with the launch of Film Harbour, a world sales company for non-fiction films. At this month’s European Film Market, Verbrugge will kick off sales for two feature documentaries selected for the Berlin Film Festival: Svitlana Lishchynska’s “A Bit of a Stranger,” which plays in Panorama, and Costanza Quatriglio’s “The Secret Drawer,” which screens in Forum.

Film Harbour launched at the beginning of this year, with its base in Amsterdam, Netherlands. As well as taking over a selection of Deckert’s catalog, it is also adding new titles.

More from Variety

Verbrugge will be attending the EFM together with festival and marketing manager Hanne Biermann, who joined Film Harbour from the former Deckert Distribution team.

In “A Bit of a Stranger,” Lishchynska becomes also a protagonist as she follows four generations of women in her family, including herself, as they explore how their ethnic identity has been destroyed through the full-scale invasion by Russia of Ukraine.

Growing up in Mariupol during the Soviet era, Lishchynska faced suppression of individuality. In independent Ukraine, she struggled to find her identity, impacting her daughter Alexandra’s upbringing. Today, each woman in the family faces a different political reality. When war disrupts their lives, Svitlana’s mother Valentina is forced to move from Mariupol to Kiev permanently, while Alexandra and her daughter flee to the U.K.

All of them embark on an emotional journey shaped by new found memories and family history.

“My family and I come from the eastern part of Ukraine, which was heavily influenced by Russia,” Lishchynska explains. “The regime that existed in the USSR was designed to destroy all individuality: a person should not stand out, meant nothing, and should live in poverty, without any kind of opinion. As a result, the country consists of a society vulnerable to propaganda. I am among them. Having neither individuality nor ethical foundations, I raised my daughter without passing any values on to her.”

“After the full-scale invasion, we were all faced with a choice: to stay in Ukraine, which is bombed daily, sinking into trauma and where democracy is weakening, or to look for a calmer place on this planet. With this film, I want to show how the consciousness of people has been transformed under the influence of dictatorship and imperial policy of Russia, by combining a personal and political history, past and present.”

“The Secret Drawer” sees Quatriglio return to her childhood home in Sicily. There, she opens its doors to archivists and librarians to donate to the Sicilian Region the universe of knowledge belonging to her journalist father. It is the library and archive of Giuseppe Quatriglio, a historical figure of the Giornale di Sicilia and other important newspapers, a writer, essayist, and friend of intellectuals of the 20th century.

A sentimental journey begins through photographs, 8mm reels, and sound recordings made by Giuseppe Quatriglio from the 1940s onwards in Europe and around the world. These are accompanied by footage shot by the director between 2010 and 2011 with him, almost 90 years old. Palermo and Sicily, with their history and culture, are the point of observation of the world from which everything starts and to which everything returns.

“Creating the film took shape from the intense work dedicated to my father’s library and archive, which began in January 2022 in preparation for the donation I made to the Sicilian Region,” Quatriglio says about her film. “The discovery of over 60,000 photographic negatives taken by my father from 1947 onwards, dozens of 8mm reels, and hundreds of hours of sound recordings made me realize that I had the extraordinary opportunity to create a film that would place a web of events and lived lives. The house where I grew up became the set for an elaborate tale that unfolds from its walls to embrace Sicily, Europe, and the world, spanning a century of history. In addition, I already filmed in my house between 2010 and 2011, having a dialogue with my nearly 90-year-old father, and filming him among his books and papers. Through cinema, emptying his library became now an act of filling. Because the space, transforming over the months in front of the camera, becomes a protagonist itself, alongside the narrated events and the history of us all.”

Verbrugge commented: “Launching Film Harbour with two such powerful projects feels exceptional. Both Svitlana Lishchynska and Constanza Quatriglio created stories out of their most inner core: family history. While the starting point of their projects lies in similar roots, both films depict two very different worlds. A family is faced with the struggle of identity due to the consequences of a generation-long invasion, while a daughter is tracing back her father’s past to get closer to hers. It is the question of your own legacy in today’s society which captivates throughout both films, and we are happy to be part of their journeys.”

“A Bit of a Stranger” is produced by Anna Kapustina for her Ukraine-based company Albatros Communicos Film and co-produced by ZDF/ARTE, Fredrik Lange Swedish-based company Vilda Bomben Film, Anthony Muir and Kristina Börjeson at Film i Vast.

Kapustina produced Iryna Tsilyk’s “The Earth Is Blue As an Orange,” which world premiered in the 2020 competition at Sundance Film Festival, where it won the best director award, and was shown at Berlinale Generation, IDFA, CPH:DOX, HotDocs and more than 100 festivals afterwards.

“The Secret Drawer” is produced by Indyca, Luce Cinecittà and RAI Cinema. Co-produced by Rough Cat and RSI Radiotelevisione Svizzera, supported by the Italian Ministry of Culture’s Film and Audiovisual Department, with additional support from the Sicily Region, the Sicilia Film Commission and the Film Commission Torino Piemonte.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.