The UK Jewish Film Festival winners have been revealed. The Best Debut Feature Award has gone to Leona, directed by Isaac Cherem. The Spanish-language Mexican film, which received its UK premiere at the event, follows a young Jewish woman from Mexico City who finds herself torn between her family and her forbidden love with a non-Jewish man. The Dorfman Best Film Award went to Polish film Dolce Fine Giornata, directed by Jacek Borcuch. Pic charts how the stable family life of a poetess begins to fall apart as she makes a controversial speech. The movie beat out other titles Flawless, Jojo Rabbit, My Polish Honeymoon, Stripped and The Unorthodox. The Best Documentary Award winner has been announced as Advocate, directed by Philippe Bellaiche and Rachel Leah Jones. The film is a look at the life and work of Jewish-Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel who has represented political prisoners for nearly 50 years. The 2019 Audience Award will be announced later this week. The festival took place from 6 — 21 November at 15 cinemas across London.
Chinese entertainment group Huahua Media has signed a deal to co-produce the first major China-Nigeria co-production, 30 Days In China. According to CNN, the deal was made with Nigerian comedian Ayo Makun, known as AY, as is the latest in a series of comedy films in the franchise including 30 days In Atlanta and 10 days In Sun City. The pic will cast further Nollywood names alongside Chinese actors. Nigerian outfit FilmOne Entertainment is involved in the production; the influential company is also a cinema owner and distributor with titles including the Nigerian box office smash The Wedding Party, which became the country's highest grossing title in 2016 before being surpassed by its sequel in 2017.
The first Turks and Caicos International Film Festival TCIFF wrapped this week with the audience award going to Rob Stewarts's Sharkwater Extinction about the illegal fishing industry that threatens the survival of the world’s sharks. Films to screen at the event included Sea Fever, Fisherman's Friends, Yesterday, The Dead Don't Die and Abominable. The three-day festival opened with documentary Sea of Shadows, executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Ikusmira Berriak, a script residency and development program organized by the San Sebastian International Film Festival, has named the five filmmakers for its latest edition. The selected quintet are: Gabriel Azorín, Jaoine Camborda, Diego Céspedes, Elena Martín Gimeno, and Jessica Sarah Rinland. They will take part in an eight-week residency up from six weeks at the previous edition at the Tabakalera, a former Tobacco factory-turned-cultural centre in San Sebastian, from March 2. In September, they will travel to the San Sebastian festival to complete the final two weeks of the program, before sharing their work with attending industry in an organised pitching session. Each project will also receive a $5,500 €5,000 grant. This year's call for selections received 185 total proposals, up 6% on last year. The event is run with the Tabakalera – International Centre for Contemporary Culture and Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola.
Everything is delayed, canceled, or on hold at the moment due to the coronavirus COVID-19, which means that film festivals are having to make some tough choices. Cannes is postponed. SXSW was canceled, but they recently announced they would try to put together an online film festival with Amazon Prime Video. TIFF has yet to make a decision one way or another, but festival runners Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey mentioned last week that they were considering a potential digital festival. Digital film festivals are a distinct possibility in several locations, but there’s one fest that has flat-out refused to go digital: the Venice Film Festival.
With the coronavirus continuing to upend film festivals across the globe, some are wondering if virtual, online film festivals might be the solution for the time being. And while some fests – SXSW, TIFF – are open to this idea, the Venice Film Festival isn’t having it. Speaking with Variety, a Venice spokesperson said: “The Venice Film Festival cannot be replaced by an online event,” adding that “there is obviously the possibility that we use technology for some initiatives, [but] it’s too early for this to be decided.”
The Venice Film Festival is supposed to run in September, and as of now, everyone involved with the fest is still operating under the assumption that the festival is still on. Organizers have put out a call for “projects for its Final Cut in Venice co-production workshop dedicated to supporting works from the Middle East and Africa, currently scheduled to be held during the fest.”
Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera was quoted as saying he and his team “are working just the same as in past years” and that they “cannot provide specifics about the future.” The only thing they can confirm is that no matter what happens, the festival will not go digital. While some are more than happy to accept the idea of a digital festival – no travel fees! – not everyone is okay with the idea. For one thing, if a film without distribution were to debut digitally and then immediately be pirated, it would hurt its chances at eventual purchase. Plus, many filmmakers and producers long for that festival buzz that can only be achieved by screening titles for a live audience.
But we remain in uncharted territory for the moment, and it’s unclear just when the coronavirus situation will end. As of now, Italy remains in strict lockdown, and if that continues into the fall, there’s very little chance the Venice Film Festival will go off as planned.