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Nigerian film, Eyimofe, others up for GWFF Best First Feature Award

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Nigerian film, Eyimofe (This Is My Desire), which will have its world premiere at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival, has been nominated for the GWFF Best First Feature Award.

Directed by Arie and Chuko Esiri, Eyimofe was nominated in the Forum section, alongside Chico ventana también quisiera tener un submarino (Window Boy Would Also Like to Have A Submarine) from Uruguay / Argentina / Brazil / Netherlands / Philippines, by Alex Piperno; Gorod usnul (In Deep Sleep) from Russia by Maria Ignatenko; and Namo (The Alien) from Iran by Nader Saeiviar.

Presented by GDN Studios, Eyimofe was written by Chuko Esiri and produced by Melissa Adeyemo. The film, which has Lady Maiden Alex Ibru, Toke Alex Ibru, Olorogun Oskar Ibru, Kayode Akindele and Ifeoma Esiri as executive producers, was a 2018 Purple List Award winner and one of 10 projects chosen for last year’s IFP Narrative Lab in New York.

Wholly financed by Nigerian investors and shot on 16mm across Lagos State, Eyimofe is a diptych that tells the story of two people’s quest for what they believe will be a better life in Europe.

Described as the alternate migrant tale Eyimofe approaches a much-discussed topic from a new perspective: one in which you get to know who the people caught in raids and rescued from the sea are, and their dreams and desires.

It stars Jude Akuwudike, Tomiwa Edun, Temi Ami-Williams, Cynthia Ebijie, Chioma Omeruah and Jacob Alexander.

Arseni Khachaturan is the director of photography while Taisa Malouf handled production design with Daniel Obasi handling costume; Andrew Stephen Lee (editor) and Akin Adebowale was in charge of music.

Since 2006, when it introduced the GWFF Best First Feature Award, the Berlinale has shown a serious commitment to supporting the next generation of filmmakers. The award is endowed with 50,000 Euros, which was donated by the GWFF (Gesellschaft zur Wahrnehmung von Film- und Fernsehrechten), a society dedicated to safeguarding film and television rights. The prize money is to be split between the producer and the director of the winning film. Additionally, the director will be awarded with a high-quality viewfinder as both a useful instrument and memorable trophy.

In total, 21 directional feature film debuts from the sections — Encounters, Panorama, Forum, Generation and Perspektive Deutsches Kino — are nominated for the GWFF Best First Feature Award. A three-person jury made up of Ognjen Glavoni, Hala Lotfy and Gonzalo de Pedro Amatria will decide the Best First Feature.

Born in 1985, the Serbian director and writer Glavonić studied Film and TV directing at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade. His remarkable filmography includes Živan pravi pank festival (Živan Makes a Punk Festival, 2014), which premiered at the Cinéma du Réel festival in Paris and Dubina dva (Depth Two, 2016), which garnered numerous awards at 70 festivals, after premiering at the Berlinale Forum in 2016. His latest work, Teret (The Load, 2018), is his first feature fiction film.

Lotfy is an Egyptian director, producer and the founder of Hassala Films collective. Ann Al Sho’our Bel Berouda (Feeling Cold, 2005) is one of her notable documentary works, which received numerous awards including the Special Jury Prize at the National Film Festival in Egypt. Lotfy also created seven documentaries for the TV series Arabs of Latin America for Al Jazeera. In 2011, she was chosen by Charlotte Rampling to receive the Katrin Cartlidge Foundation Award. Lotfy’s feature fiction debut Al-khoroug lel-nahar (Coming Forth by Day, 2012) had its European premiere at the Berlinale Forum in 2013 and won many awards including the Prize of the FIPRESCI jury and Best Director from the Arab World at Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

Amatria is a film programmer and scholar from Pamplona, Spain. Working as a university professor for Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, he also published essays on filmmakers, such as Hong Sangsoo, Ross McElwee, Jem Cohen or Werner Herzog. His programming experience involves the work as a programme coordinator at the Punto de Vista Festival in Pamplona until 2014 and curating film series for the likes of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, FIDMarseille and Museo Reina Sofía.

Nominated in the Encounter section are Los Conductos (France / Colombia / Brazil) by Camilo Restrepo, with Luis Felipe Lozano and Fernando Úsaga Higuíta; Nackte Tiere (Germany) by Melanie Waelde, with Marie Tragousti, Sammy Scheuritzel, Michelangelo Fortuzzi, Luna Schaller and Paul Michael Stiehler; and animation film Zabij to i wyjedz z tego miasta (Poland) by Mariusz Wilczyński, with the voices of Krystyna Janda, Andrzej Chyra, Maja Ostaszewska and Małgorzata Kożuchowska.

For the Panorama section are Cidade Pássaro (Brazil / France) by Matias Mariani, with O. C. Ukeje, Chukwudi Iwuji, Indira Nascimento, Paulo Andre and Ike Barry; Digger (Greece / France), by Georgis Grigorakis, with Vangelis Mourikis and Argyris Pandazaras; Futur Drei (Germany) by Faraz Shariat, with Benjamin Radjaipour, Banafshe Hourmazdi and Eidin Jalali; Kød & Blod (Denmark) by Jeanette Nordahl, with Sandra Guldberg Kampp, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Joachim Fjelstrup, Elliott Crosset Hove and Besir Zeciri; Minyan (USA), by Eric Steel, with Samuel H. Levine, Ron Rifkin, Christopher McCann, Mark Margolis and Richard Topol; Mogul Mowgli (United Kingdom) by Bassam Tariq, with Riz Ahmed; Pari (Greece / France / Netherlands / Bulgaria) by Siamak Etemadi, with Melika Foroutan, Shahbaz Noshir, Sofia Kokkali, Argyris Padazaras and Lena Kitsopoulou; Vento Seco (Brazil) by Daniel Nolasco, with Leandro Faria Lelo, Allan Jacinto Santana, Renata Carvalho and Rafael Theophilo.

The Generation Section has Irmã (Brazil) by Luciana Mazeto, Vinícius Lopes; Las niñas (Spain) by Pilar Palomero; Mamá, mamá, mamá (Argentina) by Sol Berruezo Pichon-Riviére; and Palazzo di Giustizia (Italy / Switzerland) by Chiara Bellosi. Nominees for Perspektive Deutsches Kino section are Kids Run (Germany) by Barbara Ott; and Schlaf (Germany) Michael Venus.

Meanwhile, organisers of the festival have unveiled members of international jury that will decide who goes home with the Golden and the Silver bears. All together, 18 films are competing for the awards in this year’s competition and the winners will be announced at the Berlinale Palast on February 29.

Actor Jeremy Irons will head the jury, while the other members are actress Bérénice Bejo (Argentina / France), producer Bettina Brokemper (Germany), director Annemarie Jacir (Palestine), playwright and filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan (USA), actor Luca Marinelli (Italy) as well as the programmer, film critic and director Kleber Mendonça Filho (Brazil).

Significantly, 2020 will be a pivotal year for the Berlinale. It is the first festival under the new management of artistic director Carlo Chatrian and executive director Mariette Rissenbeek. The duo replaced Dieter Kosslick, the festival director, who ran the event from 2001-2019. 

Speaking at a media briefing to unveil the lineup, Rissenbeek informed that 18 films would be in competition for 2020. The biggest title revealed is the world premiere of Onward, the new Pixar animated tentpole from director Dan Scanlon, which will screen out of competition in Berlin.

Of the competition titles, the lineup features a very Berlin-esque mixture of European art house and U.S. indie titles with a smattering of films from Asia and Latin America.

Alexanderplatz, a modern-day update of Alfred Döblin’s classic 1929 novel Berlin, Alexanderplatz, will screen in competition in its world premiere.

The drama stars Guinean actor Welket Bungué and Germany’s Jella Hasse. Döblin’s book was famously adapted as a TV miniseries in 1980 by the late German director, Rainer Werner Fassbinder. 

U.S. titles in competition this year include, Kelly Reichardt’s new feature First Cow, which premiered last year at Telluride; indie director Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama Never Rarely Sometimes Always, a hit at Sundance and which Chatrain described as a model for new feminist cinema; and Siberia, a non-narrative drama starring Willem Dafoe and directed by Abel Ferrara, which the veteran filmmaker initially planned to crowdfund via Kickstarter before Italian group Vivo Film and Germany’s Maze Pictures came on board as producers.

The Roads Not Taken by veteran Sally Potter, starring Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning and Salma Hayek, will be one of the few star-studded entries in competition this year. The Korean auteur Hong Sangsoo returns to Berlin with his latest, The Woman Who Ran, and Christian Petzold marks his fourth film in Berlin competition with Undine, a modern-day take on the Greek myth starring Paula Beer, Jacob Matschenz and Franz Rogowski.

HIdden Away, a biopic about self-trained painter Antonio Ligabue, his struggles with mental illness and his friendship with the sculptor Andrea Mozzali, will represent Italy in the fest’s competition section. Elio Germano, who played Italian poet and philosopher Giacomo Leopardi in Mario Martone’s Leopardi in 2014, stars as Ligabue alongside Andrea Gherpelli as Mozzali in the drama from director Giorgio Diritti (The Man Who Will Come).

Little Sister, from Swiss filmmakers Stéphanie Chuat and Véronique Reymond, will also screen in the competition section. The family drama features German stars Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger and Swiss actress Marthe Keller (Marathon Man).

Other highlights include Delete History from French helmers Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kerven; Bad Tales, a dark fairy tale from Italian filmmakers Damiano D’Innocenzo and Fabio D’Innocenz; and The Salt of Tears from Philippe Garrel, marking the French director’s first film in competition at Berlin.

Further competition titles include The Intruder, a film about a dubbing artist from Argentine director Natalia Meta; Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Parnh Irradiated, which is the only documentary in competition; Days from Tsai Ming-Liang; All the Dead Ones from Caetano Gotando and Marco Dutra; and DAU. Natasha from Ilya Khrzhanovsky and Jekaterina Oertel.

Additionally, There Is No Evil from Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, who is not allowed to work legally in his home country, is set to be one of the most political titles in this year’s lineup.


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