Visions du Réel Unveils 29 Projects, With Evangelical Father, Controversial Doctor, Northern Ireland Ex-Prisoner Among Subjects

Swiss documentary film festival Visions du Réel has unveiled its program for film professionals, VdR-Industry, which includes 29 projects in various stages of production. These will be pitched during the four-day event that runs April 14 through April 17, alongside the fest.

VdR-Industry, which sees more than a thousand film professionals descend on the small Swiss town of Nyon on the edge of Lake Geneva, aims at providing an opportunity to connect filmmakers with financing and distribution opportunities at a time when the documentary sector is faced with a contraction of funding from streamers and increased corporate consolidation.

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Speaking to Variety, VdR’s new head of industry, Alice Burgin, says she’s excited to welcome a raft of new players this year such as the U.S.’s the Points North Institute and the Whickers Foundation, which support emerging nonfiction storytellers, the Catapult film fund, which backs doc filmmakers in the early stages of funding, and the U.K.’s well-established Doc Society.

In addition to the existing networking opportunities such as the scheduled one-to-one coffee meets, this edition will be introducing new “funding sessions” entitled Real Talk: divided thematically, they will be open to anyone with an industry badge to go and meet funders — the goal being to match up funders, who often seem out of reach, with filmmakers, says Burgin.

The selected projects will run in four categories: 15 projects in development will be presented at VdR-Pitching, six works near completion will be pitched in the VdR-Work in Progress session, and the VdR-Rough Cut Lab and VdR-Development Lab will feature four projects each.

Some 641 works from more than a 100 countries were submitted this year — that’s up nearly 50% compared with the last edition. Half are directed or co-directed by women and 13 projects include directors and production companies from low-production countries.

True to its mission as a launchpad for emerging talent, the festival’s industry selection features both seasoned directors as well as newcomers.

Returning alumni include Mehran Tamadon (“My Worst Enemy,” “Iranian,” “Bassidji”) with “The Last Days of the Hospital,” an experiment in self-management of the dying days of a psychiatric hospital, Gianluca Matarrese (“Il posto”) with “GEN_,” about a controversial Milanese doctor navigating contemporary medical issues ranging from reproductive rights to teenagers’ gender transitions, and Tana Gilbert (“Malqueridas”) with “Burning Daddy,” which reflects on the complex shape of post-dictatorship Chilean fatherhood.

Ukrainian film collective Tabor, who won the Vision Sud Est Industry award last year with their project “The Days I Would Like to Forget,” are back with “Listening to the World” by Yelizaveta Smith, a gentle family portrait exploring deafness and disability in times of war.

Among the first-timers, Burgin cites Katy Scoggin, who was the cinematographer on Laura Poitras’ Academy Award winner “Citizenfour.” This year, with Poitras as executive producer, Scoggin turns the camera on herself, examining her complex relationship with her evangelical father in “Flood.”

“It’s very personal but it’s also a bigger story in the sense that we are becoming increasingly siloed in our own worlds, and it’s harder and harder to understand each other. For me, it was very moving and quite tragic, even though it’s got real elements of humor and light to it,” says Burgin, underlining the doc festival’s enduring commitment to acting as a mirror to the contemporary world.

In a similar vein, “Beyond the Fold,” by newcomer Ross McLean, follows a young man who comes out of prison and tries to find his way in a world that isn’t set up for him to succeed.

“There is such beautiful access and trust between the director and the main protagonist,” says Burgin. “It’s character-driven — a beautiful, powerful cinematic journey, that says a lot about the continuing impacts of the Troubles on the people of Northern Ireland. It’s important to remember the impacts of war, especially now.”

VdR–Pitching and VdR–Work in Progress projects are eligible for awards totalling over CHF 80,000 ($90,500) in cash and in-kind support, including the new Eurimages Co-production Development Award, valued at €20,000 ($21,700), which is aimed at encouraging international co-production from the initial stages of a project.

Visions du Réel runs in Nyon from April 12 through April 21.

Find all 29 VdR-Industry projects below:

“Burning Daddy” by Tana Gilbert, Chile, Germany
“Dreams of the Wild Oaks” by Marjan Khosravi, Iran, Spain
“Fixing the War” by Vadym Ilkov, Clare Stronge, Ukraine, Ireland
“GEN_” by Gianluca Matarrese, France, Italy
“Life of Tipu” by Bob Gallagher, Ireland
“Magnetic Letters” by Demie Dangla, Philippines, France, Germany
“On the Way” by Natalia Dolgowska, Poland
“Once You Shall Be One of Those Who Lived Long Ago” by Per Bifrost, Alexander Rynéus, Sweden 
“Pratopia” by Sean Ali Wang, Netherlands
“She Wrestles” by Charles Fairbanks,” U.S.
“The House of Shadows” by Amine Hattou, Algeria, France, Germany
“The Last Days of the Hospital” by Mehran Tamadon, France, Switzerland
“The Shadow of Yolüja” by Hanz Rippe Gabriel, Colombia
“Totemic” by Stéphanie Barbey, Switzerland, Germany
“To the Moon and Back” by Elisa Gómez Alvarez, Switzerland
VdR–Work in Progress
“At Least to See the Ocean” by Pablo Lozano, Dominican Republic 
“Beyond the Fold” by Ross McClean, Ireland, U.K., U.S.
“Listening to the World” by Yelizaveta Smith, Ukraine, Germany, Sweden
“Shifting Baselines” by Julien Elie, Canada
“The Myth of Mahmoud” by Mayar Hamdan, Shaima Al Tamimi Kenya, Lebanon, Palestine, U.S., Qatar, Yemen

VdR–Rough Cut Lab
“Cuitá, Stone from the Sky” by Antonia Cattan, Brazil
“Moondove” by Karim Kassem, Lebanon
“Flood” by Katy Scoggin, U.S. 
“TAU” by Timofey Stekolschuk, Georgia, Germany
“The Second Death” by Philip Cartelli, U.S.

VdR–Development Lab
“Leaf Remnants” by María José Alarcón Ardila, Colombia
“My Grandparents’ Window Overlooks a Cemetery” by Lamis Al Mohamad, Syria, Italy
“Plastic Atlantis” by Samira Vera-Cruz, Cabo Verde, Senegal
“The Unlikely Hero” by Ishani Roy, India

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