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30 Jan – 9 Feb 2025

CineMart 2024: exploring the margins

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Although each project at CineMart 2024 was absolutely unique, they all had the shared desire to forge new creative paths, to ask difficult questions and to explore untold narratives – looking into the margins and taking the road less travelled. IFFR Pro spoke to a few of the selected projects.

“I think it’s our time now to tell our stories and show our country from our perspective,” says Angolan filmmaker Fradique on his next project, Hold Time For Me. Fradique is well known in Rotterdam, with his acclaimed previous film Air Conditioner having its world premiere at IFFR. The motivation for the new project was to leave the capital Luanda and to take a cinematic road trip. “I want to start telling stories from outside of the capital because we have a very vast country that is still to be seen on the big screen, especially by Angola and filmmakers.” 

“Find new ways of communicating and thinking about our own society.”

In the project set in a not-so-distant future, environmental collapse looms large as a young photographer travels the country in search of a lost Cuban scientist who might offer some salvation. The film “comes from the same universe of Air Conditioner”, says Fradique, “where we have characters that are able to build these weird contraptions and machines out of society leftovers, what we consider trash, and are able to, with those machines, find new ways of communicating, thinking about our own society.”

Concept still: Hold Time For Me dir. Fradique

If Fradique dreams of ‘holding time’ as a means of using the utopian dreams of the past to aid the problems of the present, then he might have much in common with Polish filmmaker Barbara Rupik, who also seeks to hold time in her unique way in her feature debut Cherub

“In Poland there’s a grave with an inscription on it: ‘the last płanetnik’, which is some kind of cloud shepherd. It’s very moving. I was thinking: ‘was it really the last płanetnik in the world?’” Rupik’s grandmother was from a rural village, and often told her stories from folklore, which inspired her stop-motion animation project on a shape-shifting angelic cherub trapped on earth. 

“To not let it disappear completely, but take care of it.”

“This world is probably disappearing before our eyes. So for this film, I want to sensitise the viewer to this world, to encourage viewers to discover this world, to not let it disappear completely, but take care of it, of the folk culture.” 

The project picked up two awards during the IFFR Pro Awards: the Wouter Barendrecht Award and the Eurimages New Lab Award – Innovation, which certainly signals enthusiasm for the film’s style. “I have a very unique technique because it combines clay puppet animation with painting animation. I can call it some kind of wet stop motion because I cover characters frame by frame with oil and it creates a very unique effect. It makes characters look even more alive. Sweating, crying, decaying, like living tissue.”

Another world in need of care and resurrection is that of the homes and communities lost by flood victims in the latest work from Australian immersive duo Isobel Knowles and Van SowerwineThe World Came Flooding In. “The idea started because we were travelling around in 2022 in Australia for work quite a lot and we just kept having near misses with floods.” They started having workshops with residents of Lismore in regional Australia who had lost their homes, and reconstructed their homes for the immersive world now in development. 

“It feels like a very open, exciting place to be.”

“For their memories sake, it was really meaningful. They took a lot of care over it and a lot of stories came up and it was a really great way for us to hear more about people’s experiences.” The project, which speaks broadly to flooding and the stories of those victims of climate change worldwide, received the 4DR Studios Award. “It feels like a very open, exciting place to be”, they say of CineMart.

Two-time Tiger Short Award winner Beatrice Gibson also draws on stories from those around her for her debut feature La nuit, where after an abortion, a woman wanders the streets, embarking on a series of quiet encounters under a neon glow. “The people in the film are playing themselves and all versions of themselves and the material is very personal. They’re drawn from my immediate community, a sort of wide and diverse array of different characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds. That’s one of the aims of the film, to try to put differences and contrasting opinions sort of tenderly alongside each other.”

Concept still: The World Came Flooding In dir. Isobel Knowles and Van Sowerwine

“This confusion led me to really want to dig into their cases.”

Another former IFFR winner who came to CineMart to present her latest project was Shengze Zhu with her Hubert Bals Fund-backed A Distant House Smokes on the Horizon. The starting point was the true story of three teenagers in China who robbed and killed the owner of a convenience store. The premise puzzled Shengze: “I think it’s more like confusion. Like, I don’t understand. And this confusion led me to really want to dig into their cases.”

Part of what she found was the cases of the marginalised and forgotten in China. “All of them are kind of left behind by their parents. That’s also a very common issue in China with those left behind children or teenagers, because in the countryside, many people just move to bigger cities to look for jobs.” 

Concept still: A Distant House Smokes on the Horizon dir. Shengze Zhu

Shengze’s Tiger Award-winning documentary Present.Perfect was about the impact of the internet on Chinese culture, and the latest project shares this angle. “I think the internet really changes the lives of everyone. In China, for youngsters, especially those who live in the countryside or from small cities, I think many of them just rely on the internet to get to know the outside world because they don’t have access to it.” 

Any clues on how this latest project will look? “I think for now I would like to keep it a secret.” Just like for the rest then, we’ll eagerly await its realisation, and hope CineMart had an important role to play.

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