Paris-based international sales and production company Totem Films have boarded debutant Malika Musaeva’s “The Cage is Looking for a Bird,” which will receive its world premiere in the Encounters strand of the upcoming Berlin Film Festival.
The film focuses on a group of Chechen women living in a remote rural village and their struggles to defend their right for freedom and the choice to live their own lives. At the centre is a friendship between two teenage girls, on the verge of adulthood, who seek refuge in each other as they navigate decisions around their future.
Musaeva was born in Grozny, Chechnya, in 1992. During the Second Chechen War in 1999 her family fled and lived in Ingushetia and Ukraine, before settling in Germany. In 2003 her family returned to Russia and lived in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria. In 2010, she enrolled in the Kabardino-Balkarian State University and studied under the acclaimed film director Aleksandr Sokurov. She currently lives and works in Germany.
The film is produced by Ilya Stewart’s Hype Studios in co-production with the Sokurov fund and in association with Totem Films. The filmmakers will donate 50% of all proceeds to Human Rights Watch.
Musaeva said: “The experiences of my characters are very familiar to me, and I can relate to them. In the process of making the film, I realised that to some extent I myself am the protagonist. The fact that this is the first time a film in the Chechen language will be shown at an event of this magnitude makes it even more important for me personally.”
Stewart said: “Alexander Sokurov is single-handedly responsible for introducing the world to a generation of talented and fearless voices. As a graduate of his acclaimed film school, Malika carries Sokurov’s values and traditions with grace and dignity. Her feature film debut is a unique exploration of the price of freedom and a powerful cinematic experience, heavily inspired by her own circumstances and encounters.”
Totem Films said in a statement: “Malika’s cinema is a blend of painting and quiet rage. We are so proud to accompany her first international steps. It’s rare to encounter such a strong cinema gesture.”
Hype Studios’ upcoming projects include new features by Kirill Serebrennikov, Malgorzata Szumowska and Egor Abramenko.
Totem’s recent titles include a brace of 2023 Sundance winners – Sofia Alaoui’s “Animalia” and Marija Kavtaradze’s “Slow.”