The South-Asian Door Is Open!
The Locarno Festival’s Open Doors section, which celebrates its fifteenth anniversary in 2017, continues its exploration, in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, of filmmaking in Southern Asia, as part of a three-year program inaugurated in 2016 to draw attention to the emerging cinematic talent, diversity and creativity from that area. This year, the three countries in focus are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The public portion of the initiative consists primarily of the Open Doors Screenings, showcasing ten feature films and twelve shorts from the three aforementioned countries. These films are made by directors who have achieved international acclaim, including Sabiha Sumar, who won the Pardo d’oro in 2003 with Khamosh Pani (Silent Waters) and is also showing her new film, Azmaish (A Journey through the Subcontinent), in the Fuori concorso section. The selection also includes a world premiere: Namai Ba Rahis Gomhor (A Letter to the President), a first feature (eligible for the Swatch First Feature Award) directed by Afghan filmmaker Roya Sadat, one of the strongest female voices emerging from the region.
The more industry-specific part of the section is, as always, split in two: the Open Doors Hub has selected eight projects from six of the concerned countries (Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar), offering directors and producers the chance to meet international co-producers, buyers and distributors, in order to boost the international prospects for their films; the Open Doors Lab, on the other hand, gives eight producers from the region the opportunity to participate in activities that are specifically tailored to their professional needs, including networking sessions with visiting industry representatives from all over the world. Once again, diversity is key: “We have experimental films, dramas, film noir, social documentaries. It’s a wide spectrum, and in most cases these are first films, showcasing the birth of talent in the region,” says head of section Sophie Bourdon. Moreover, the three-year plan for the South-Asian focus allows for two projects from last year’s Lab to be part of the current Hub. “Who knows, one day they may show up in Piazza Grande,” adds Bourdon.
The Open Doors Hub participants are eligible for the customary section awards, courtesy of Visions Sud Est fund, the city of Bellinzona, the CNC and ARTE. In addition, two new awards will be given to Open Doors Lab participants this year: the TorinoFilmLab will present the Open Doors – TFL Award, granting the selected producer the opportunity to attend the TFL Meeting Event in Turin at the end of the year, while Initiative Film will offer assistance for six months in the development of one of the proposed projects, alongside the director, via the Open Doors to Development – Initiative Film Grant.Max Borg