“Kingdom of the Blind,” “Little Trouble Girls” and “Wind, Talk To Me” were among the projects which won prizes at the milestone 15th edition of Les Arcs Film Festival‘s Industry Village.
The event, held in a popular French Alps resort, was attended by more than 700 professionals, including top sales agents, distributors and festival programmers, on top of high profile talent, such as two-time Palme d’Or winning Ruben Ostlund (“Triangle of Sadness”) who was the festival’s guest of honor.
The growing popularity of Les Arcs’s industry sidebar underscores “the resilience of the independent European film market and the continued interest in original stories along with feature debuts,” said Jeremy Zelnik, an indie producer (“Kubrick by Kubrick”) who heads the Industry Village and co-founded the festival with Pierre-Emmanuel Fleurantin, Guillaume Calop and Fabienne Silvestre.
This year, the Coproduction Village and Work in Progress section received a record 680 projects in development and 181 films in post-production, respectively. Championed and co-curated by Frederic Boyer, the artistic director of both Tribeca and Les Arcs Film Festival, alongside Lison Hervé, the event also lured an unprecedented number of international professionals, not just from France but from U.K. (Hanway, Protagonist, Bankside, Film Constellation), Canada (AZ Films), Switzerland (Cineworks), Italy (Wanted) and Scandinavia (Non Stop Entertainment), among others. Festival programmers from Cannes’ Critics’ Week and Venice Days, as well as streamers’ executive also turned up.
A number of prizes were handed out to projects, notably the ArteKino International Award which went to “Kingdom of the Blind,” directed by François Robin. Set in the French Pyrénées, the film follows Magda who returns to the village she fled from after her parents were accused of several disappearances.
“We are thrilled to reward a first time filmmaker with an already strong experience with few shorts and who has developed an original story exploring the thriller genre in a very creative and sensitive way, keeping it off the beaten path,” said the ArteKino jury which is led by Arte France CEO Remi Burah and Malo Jacquemin.
“Cute,” directed by Marlene Emilie Lyngstad, won the top prize at the Talent Village from a jury comprising of “Disco Boy” director Giacomo Abbruzzese, Roxana Richters, producer at Germany’s Chromosom Film and TrustNordisk’s managing director Susan Wendt.
The jury said “Cute” delivered an “impressive clear vision on a complex storytelling about human relations.” A special mention was given to “Docile” directed by Joséphine Darcy Hopkins.
The Work in Progress session, meanwhile, handed out its TitraFilm Award to “Little Trouble Girls,” a coming of age story directed by Slovenian helmer Urška Djukić. The film follows a year in the life of 16-year-old Lucija, an introverted young girl who enters the local Catholic high school choir to fulfill her mother’s expectations.
The jury, which included Paul Ridd, the new Edinburgh festival head, filmmaker Fien (“Troch Holly”) and festival programmer Annina Wettstein, said “Little Trouble Girls” “demonstrated a powerful magnetism of imagery and ideas from a small sample of striking images.” The jury also praised the film for its “visual ambition and boldness.”
The TitraFilm Special Mention went to the project “Wind, Talk To Me” by Serbian director Stefan Djordjevic. The film follows Stefan, a 34-year-old man who is making a film about his mother who recently died. The jury said ‘Wind, Talk To Me” was both “daring and personal.”
The Alphapanda Audience Engagement Award was granted to Nelson Foix’s “Zion” which revolves around Chris, a 26-year-old drug dealer who starts working for a ringleader and finds himself taking care of an abandoned baby delivered on his doorsteps. The jury was made up of Frédéric Mercier (“Positif”), Mathias Noschis and Joanna Solecka.
Frida Kempff’s biopic “The Swedish Torpedo,” meanwhile, won the 22D Music Award, from a jury including Carole Baraton from Charades, Emmanuel Delétang, 22D Music CEO, and Delphine Malausséna, composer. The film stars Josefin Neldén (“Border,” “438 Days”) as Sally Bauer, the first Scandinavian to swim across the English Channel in 1939.
“We were quite impressed not only by the cinematography of the footage but could as well envision a very singular woman character portrait through personal and historical troubled times, a quest which is still relevant in the contemporary world,” said the jury.
Hervé acknowledged the challenging landscape for independent films today and has worked closely with Boyer and the rest of the committee to select crossover arthouse movies that have a clearer commercial appeal along with films that are considered more “auteur.”
“We try to defend independent European cinema and look for daring propositions and rising talents who dare to explore new creative ground,” said Hervé, adding that the roster includes “a large majority of feature debut. “It’s a trend that we want to keep,” Hervé continued.
Zelnik, who co-founded the festival, said Les Arcs’ industry Village has become a go-to place for distributors and sales agents on the lookout for gems because of their curation efforts. On the other end, the idea isn’t to pick projects that will be impossible to finance. “We look to have at least a well established producer, or a director who’s made critically acclaimed shorts, or projects that already have a part of finanicing in place,” Zelnik said.
The pair noted that a number of projects tacked contemporary themes such as concerns over the environment and climate change. “There were lots of different genres, ranging from coming-of-age and thriller, but many of them shared similarities in the topics they explored,” said Hervé, citing the documentary “The Odyssey of the Deep,” as well as “Don’t Let us Drown” and “Shitballs.”
Based on the number of meetings booked at the event, projects that triggered the most interest from sales agents and distributors were Salvador Sunye’s “Basarda,” Ena Sendijarević’s “The Possessed” and Álfrún Örnólfsdóttir’s “Shitballs.” Popular work-in-progress titles included “Little Trouble Girls,” as well as “Paradise” and “Doctors says I’m Alright but Feeling Blue.”
Boyer, a cinephile who splits his time between France and New York, has played a key role in curating the Work in Progress section over the years and taking sales agents’ concerns into consideration. He said he was interested in opening up the selection to filmmakers from countries outside of Europe and also is also considering welcoming select distributors from North America in the future.