Rokhaya Marieme Balde, Ann Oren Tease Pics at Alliance 4 Development

Alliance 4 Development – a co-development initiative for film projects from Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland hosted by Locarno Pro – is ready to embrace a “variety of genres, themes and visions,” says project manager Francesca Palleschi.

Among 11 titles selected for its 8th edition, emerging filmmakers will be featured alongside their more established colleagues. 

“We are proud to support these projects along the path of their development, including several debuts and more than half helmed by female directors,”  she adds.

That said, Alliance 4 Development, part of Locarno Pro, headed by Markus Duffner (pictured) features most of the bigger projects being brought to market at Locarno, some bigger-budgeted by European standards. 

Ann Oren will bring her unique point of view to “Objet a,” about a couple that, she states, “falls out of sync,” and starts following a mysterious woman with “unusually wild armpit hair.” 

“They enter a surreal dialogue with nature, which turns into an absurd and sensual commentary on contemporary life, in which we are driven by products and productivity while constantly trying to control nature,” she told Variety.

“Calm” will see Vienna-based FreibeuterFilm, also behind “Great Freedom” by Sebastian Meise, join forces with Sara Fattahi to deliver an “enigmatic, atmospherically outstanding parable about displacement,” while in “Prince Aden,” Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio will take on Italian fascism and colonialism, as seen through the eyes of a shepherd who became the titular “prince.”

Pier Lorenzo Pisano is set to make his feature debut with “Urania,” described as an “auteur sci-fi teen movie with few special effects and a high-quality writing,” and Lorenz Merz will feel the need for speed in “Who/Man” about a woman giving it her all during a three-day rally car race. 

In the road movie “The Young One,” Despina Athanassiadis will also focus on drivers: Two female truck drivers, to be exact, stuck together and forging an uneasy friendship.   

“In movies, as in reality, they are very rare. Only 4% of truck drivers are women,” she shares.

“At the beginning, they don’t want to share the same space. Their interaction will be based on silences, looks and short sentences, and trying to avoid someone that’s very close to you, Which is, of course, very difficult.”

But they will warm up to each other, she assures. 

“Time will do its job, but also the dangers of the road and the fact that they are two women facing a man’s world. They both have a secret and they both love their job: the interaction between them is inevitable.” 

While thinking about the present, some of the projects will travel back to the past, like “Mila/Marija” by Andrina Mračnikar, set in 1942, or “Irina Makinskaïa,” taking place in 1919 during the Russian Civil War.  

“The film depicts something that seems absolutely impossible and yet happened for real: an entire social class, the aristocracy, losing all their privileges overnight and having to learn how to survive from scratch. It’s loosely based on the memoirs of my great aunt,” says director Alexandra de Saint Blanquat. 

Omar El Kadi and Nadia Turincev produce for Easy Riders Films, also behind “Mauripolis 2” or “Runner.” 

“Irina, our main character, will have to face really dark choices that you are bound to during the war: You have to choose a side, but everything comes at a human cost. Still, the film won’t be just dark. I want her to be fierce, have a sense of humor and a poetic perspective on life,” she adds. 

Rokhaya Marieme Balde will also explore the past, or rather past hero in “The Passion of Aline”: Aline Sitoé Diatta, who fought against French colonization in Senegal.

“I wish to create a hybrid film on the border between the intimate and the mystical, with the allure of an initiation story. Playing on the hybridization of genres to approach the so-called ‘heavy subjects’ with a lightness that doesn’t distract from the reality of colonial oppression at the time and its neo-colonialist vestiges,” she says. 

“For me, this film is a return to my roots, a communion with this woman who, in a way, has haunted me since my childhood.” 

According to producer Chantal Scheiner at Seeland Filmproduktion, the film opens up universal questions from a whole new perspective. 

“We hope that audiences in Switzerland, and internationally, will be touched by this intimate, mystical and historical film.” 

In “Pas Ta Maman,” Michèle Flury will show one woman’s awakening.

“Mandy’s journey will be that of a woman who experiences sexual violence and comes to realize that she is a victim, even if she denies it at first. Gradually, she finds a way to break free from the role assigned to her by the perpetrators and fights back, and allies with two other women fighting the same battle,” she states.

“When pushed back again by her rapists, it leads her to her inevitable act: Tyrannicide. It is for this reason that we will show the tyrannicide on screen but not the rape,” adds producer Felix Schreiber of Sommerhaus Filmproduktion. 

Finally, some levity will be provided by Jela Hasler’s “To Put Out One Fire,” about an “overeager” protagonist who finds herself “torn between saving the tree, her career and the gardener’s reputation.” 

“Socially, caring and social consciousness are attributed to women, so her attitude allows us to address the patriarchal structures of our society,” notes producer Olivier Zobrist, also explaining the film’s setting.

“We thought it made sense to locate the story in the forestry department of the city, because urban trees are a good example of how and where the needs of people are transferred to nature. They are seen as a service for people and not as nature in its own right.” 

The three-day program will culminate in an award ceremony, where  projects have a chance to win the Alphapanda Market Breakout Award, worth €3,000, a script consultancy residency at DreamAgo, offered by the Valais Film Commission (CHF 5,000, equivalent to $5,700), the Midpoint Consulting Award and the Ticino Film Commission Residence Award, consisting of a two-day location scout and letter of intent for financial support for the production company, worth up to CHF 12,000 $13,700), if all or part of the film is shot in Switzerland’s Ticino.

Alliance 4 Development runs Aug. 4 – 6.


Dir: Sara Fattahi

Countries of production: Austria, France, Lebanon, Germany

Syrian-born Fattahi, also behind “Coma” and “Chaos,” will talk about Leila, who makes a surprising decision: 20 years after the end of the war in Syria, she leaves her life in Vienna and ends up in Beirut, hoping to return to her native Damascus. “It’s a film about the traces left by war in the memory of individuals. Where does reality begin? What remains of a story that’s never told?,” stated the director, promising that “reality blends with the imagination, the future with the past, while the present flickers on the edge of the abyss.” Sabine Moser and Oliver Neumann produce for FreibeuterFilm. 

“Prince Aden” (“Il principe Aden”)

Directors: Gianluca De Serio and Massimiliano De Serio

Country of production: Italy 

In this Alessandro Borrelli-produced film, set up at La Sarraz Pictures, young Somali Aden Scirè goes from war hero of fascism to partisan fighting for liberation. “It speaks of ghosts from our history that re-emerge and reveal themselves as subjects, claiming their right to be an active part of our history. We would like to give these ghosts bodies and bring them to life,” said the directors. Borelli adds: “We imagine a film where emotion and action combine in the narrative, together with important moments of historical and social reflection that provide thought-provoking counterpoints.” Portugal’s O Som e a Furia co-produces. 

“Irina Makinskaïa”

Dir: Alexandra de Saint Blanquat

Country of production: France

Omar El Kadi and Nadia Turincev (Easy Riders Films) are on board for this tale set in 1919 and loosely inspired by the director’s own family story. During the Russian Civil War, a fallen aristocrat fights for the survival of her siblings. “I wanted to depict the war from the point of view of women and attempt to renew the genre,” she noted, focusing on “the emancipation of a Russian aristocrat’s daughter amid an ideological war.” The film is currently in development. Alexandra de Saint Blanquat is also behind the script, written alongside Claire Maugendre. 

“The Passion of Aline” (“La Passion d’Aline”)

Dir: Rokhaya Marieme Balde

Countries of production: Switzerland, Senegal, France 

Inspired by themes she has already explored in her graduation film, Rokhaya Marieme Balde returns in her debut feature to the true story of Aline Sitoé Diatta, a Senegalese heroine of the opposition to the French empire. Linda Vogel, Cyril Schäublin and Chantal Scheiner produce for Zurich-based Seeland Filmproduktion. “Her story was briefly summarized in a framed photograph on our living room wall [that said:] ‘Heroine of Senegal, 1920 – 1944.’ My father taught me about her story, our history. ‘The history with a small h, he said, the history that falls too often into oblivion’,” stated Balde.

“The Young One” (“La P’tite”)

Country of production: France

Dir: Despina Athanassiadis

Quentin Daniel’s Wombat Films is behind this drama with comical elements, set mostly in a truck and focusing on female truck drivers. Athanassiadis, also coming back to a topic from her previous short, takes a look at an experienced driver Sabine, forced to work with Manon, a young recruit. While they have to bring an express delivery to Greece, they will have to share the same space and drive all along roads that can be dangerous. “These women, they travel miles every day in absolute solitude and evolve in a universe of men. I want to make a road movie about two outsiders.” 


Dir: Andrina Mračnikar

Countries of production: Austria, Slovenia 

Mračnikar heads to Austrian Carinthia in 1942, under the German occupation. Mila and her brother, who are part of the Slovenian ethnic group in the region, join the armed resistance. Mila becomes a partisan commander at the age of 20 and soon finds herself making decisions about life and death. Alexander Dumreicher-Ivanceanu produces for Amour Fou, while Daniel Hočevar co-produces for Vertigo. “The history of the Carinthian Slovenian ethnic group, and the anti-fascist resistance associated with them, have preoccupied me from an early age. This is part of my own family history,” admitted the director. 

“Objet a”

Dir: Ann Oren

Country of production: Germany

Ann Oren, also behind Locarno premiere “Piaffe,” sets out to explore objectophilia, taking a look at Ingeborg and Adam, who live and work together as hand surgeons. When Ingeborg hurts her ankle and gets a walking aid, envious Adam finds his own object of desire. Simone Bucio will star, while Kristof Gerega produces for Schuldenberg Films. “The film deals with our relationship to objects and our projection of meanings into them, vis-a-vis our detachment from nature. The protagonists live in an indistinct city near a forest, and it gradually closes in on their home, bodies and objects.” 

“Pas Ta Maman”

Dir: Michèle Flury

Countries of production: Germany, Switzerland, Greece

Flury, editor of the popular “All Cats Are Grey in The Dark,” shows the struggles of Mandy, a new nanny to diplomats. After assaults by the husband, she continues as if nothing happened. She befriends his wife and the elderly Carmen, but after her death, she is raped by friends of the husband. “We not only tell an encouraging story of a young woman seeking for freedom in the patriarchal society but the story of three generations of women and their experience and dealing with sexual abuse,” says producer Felix Schreiber (Sommerhaus

Filmproduktion). “Mandy represents a generation that fights back.” 

“To Put Out One Fire”

Dir: Jela Hasler

Country of production: Switzerland 

Hasler will dabble in some uncomfortable humor in her feature debut, delivering the story of Anna, a woman who always tries to do her best. But when she starts her job in the forestry department of her city, her convictions rub up against the reality of work and her colleagues. When one of the gardeners damages a tree, she finds herself in a conflict of loyalties. “I am no stranger to Anna’s conflict: I too struggle with my ideals and their compatibility with my life,” she shared. “I am interested in how these struggles manifest themselves in everyday life.” Olivier Zobrist of Switzerland’s Langfilm, founded in 1980, is on board. 


Dir: Pier Lorenzo Pisano

Country of production: Italy 

Domenico Procacci and Laura Paolucci of Fandango are backing this drama/science-fiction revolving around the person who made the first real contact with aliens: introverted teen Bianca grieving her father’s death. “Our company has always taken pains to make room for new voices, and we are certain this film will mark the surprising debut of an extraordinarily promising writer,” said the producers. Pisano states: “It’s a story from her point of view – a partial perspective. A teen camera that still has to learn to control the movements, that comes too close to the characters and distorts them with wide angle shots.”


Dir: Lorenz Merz

Countries of production: Switzerland, Italy, France 

Marsha is about to make history by becoming the first woman to win a world title, all thanks to a three-day race through primeval African landscape. But her father is fighting for his life and his survival seems to depend on her victory. “I would like to capture emotional impulses and irrational hopes that are inherent in all of us and continue to exist in a demystified world. [The film] is supposed to be a fundamental reflection on ‘being human’ and a love hymn to the peculiarities of women, set in a timeless era,” teased the director. Michela Pini – who recently co-produced Alice Rorwacher’s “La Chimera” – produces for Swiss company 8horses.

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