Magazine article Screen International

Jerusalem's Sam Spiegel Film Lab Primed for 5th Edition

Magazine article Screen International

Jerusalem's Sam Spiegel Film Lab Primed for 5th Edition

Article excerpt

40 international delegates set to attend this year.

Presenting the latest round of projects from its seven-month development programme, Sam Spiegel International Film Lab is holding its sixth pitching event on the fringes of Jerusalem Film Festival, beginning on Friday (July 14).

Some 40 international buyers, sellers and producers will join an international jury presided over by Hengameh Panahi, founder and CEO of Celluloid Dreams, for two days of pitches and one-on-one mentoring sessions. Prizes worth $70,000, sponsored by the Beracha Foundation, will be handed out on the final day.

What the lab’s namesake, legendary producer Sam Spiegel, would have thought of the initiative, we will never know.

Chances are the producer of classics such as The African Queen and Lawrence Of Arabia - who passed away in 1985 - would have been struck by the variety of the selection, in terms of subject matter, genre and origin.

“They’re all very different and more than half of them are directed by women this year,” comments Renen Schorr, director of Jerusalem’s Sam Spiegel Film & Television School, who spearheaded the creation of the event in 2011 and now oversees it with associate director Ifat Tubi.

“We’re looking for character-driven stories rather than special-effects or cast-driven works, whether they’re autobiographical, inspired by social issues or trying to make a political statement - we’re open to everything,” he explains. “It’s important to stress we’re also not just about arthouse projects, and strive for a mix. We love comedies. We try to include at least one in each selection.”

International projects

This year’s joker in the pack is Norwegian director Gunhild Enger’s dark comedy Bulevardi Bill Clinton, about a group of seemingly liberal Norwegian friends whose hidden prejudices and rivalries are laid bare on a tour of Kosovo and Albania.

Philippine-based Malaysian filmmaker Bradley Liew will present his morality drama Motel Acacia, about a young man who inherits a brothel with a government-backed mandate to lure and then exterminate illegal immigrants.

Georgian director Dea Kulumbegashvili will present her debut feature Naked Sky, a personal redemption about a disillusioned writer who returns to his village to reconcile with his dying father. Kulumbegashvili also developed the project at the Cannes Cinéfondation Résidence in Paris, having premiered her debut short Invisible Spaces at the festival in 2014. Her second short, Lethe, premiered in Directors’ Fortnight in 2016.

Other international projects include Dutch director Ricky Rijneke’s The Hunter’s Son, which revolves around an isolated teenager living in a remote borderland area with his violent father. It is Rijneke’s second feature, after her well-travelled debut Silent Ones. France’s Myriam Gharbi will present her energetic drama Pirates, about a young woman who falls in with a group of anarchic squatters on being released from prison.

Israeli projects

The selection is traditionally split roughly 50/50 between international and local Israeli projects. This year’s Israeli participants include Maya Dreifuss’ thriller Highway 65, about a small-town female police officer investigating the disappearance of a local woman. Pini Tavger will unveil culture-clash drama Pinhas, about a young Russian immigrant growing up in a poor neighbourhood inhabited by both religious and secular families.

Other Israeli projects include Hadar Morag’s Talitha Kumi, an intense study of guilt and revenge revolving around the sadomasochistic relationship between an elderly man and his female carer. …

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