Becoming an Astronaut, an ambitious documentary focusing on four new astronauts to be announced by the European Space Agency (ESA) this November, has won the Zurich Film Festival’s Focal Audience & Market Strategies pitching event.
Organized by Focal, the Lausanne Foundation for Film and Audiovisual Media Education, Audience & Market Strategies is a three-part training program that helps producers promote their projects at an early stage. This year’s event presented eight Swiss projects in various stages of development.
The crowning glory of the program was the pitching event, where the producers presented their projects to representatives of distribution companies, industry experts and an international jury consisting of Stephen Kelliher from Bankside Films, Lars Wiebe from Netflix, Olivier Tournaud from Cinephil and Sven Wälti, Head of Film at Swiss, presented pubcaster SRG SSR and Diana Lodderhose from Deadline.
Produced by Franziska Sonder of Ensemble Film and directed by Roman Hodel, who caused a stir in 2020 with his short documentary The Game, Becoming an Astronaut follows the astronauts chosen by ESA after an extensive selection process of more than 22,500 Applicants, over a four-year period, in an ongoing competition to see who will be the first to travel to space. Sonder has been given unprecedented access to ESA for the project.
Special mentions went to two projects, including DockLab’s “Dom” from producer Corinna Dästner. The documentary deals with the topical issue of Russians who have fled their homeland for political reasons and their dissatisfaction with the Kremlin’s policies and the war in Ukraine. It follows a group of people from across Russia who have found refuge in Tbilisi, Georgia, including a student couple, a singer, a journalist, an activist, a gay blogger and a former politician, in search of a new home -” Cathedral”. in Russian.
Maja Tschumi’s “Immortals”, a documentary film produced by Nadine Lüchinger and Azra Djurdjevic from Filmgerberei, also received an award. The film follows Milo, a queer feminist activist in Iraq, and her friend Khalili. The two only know hopelessness in their country, which has been devastated since the US invasion. Together they took part in the 2019 youth protests – the largest ever in Iraq – where Khalili was shot, kidnapped and tortured by militias. Despite the bloody crackdown, the two continue to fight for a better life and dream of a new Iraq.
Other projects included “Bloesch” by director Markus Imboden (“The Foster Boy”), presented by Núria Gysin from Contrast Film. Based on Beat Sterchi’s novel, the film revolves around xenophobia and the inhumanity of industrialized agricultural production. Set in 1961, it follows Ambrosio, a Spanish migrant worker employed on a Swiss farm with a unique connection to animals, particularly a troubled cow, Blosch, who is destined to play a fateful role in his future.
In Maiara, a feature film produced by Amel Soudani of Amka Films Productions, a troubled Swiss woman returns to her homeland after living in Buenos Aires for a decade and reconnects with her father and an old friend. She suffers from severe anxiety but finds comfort and support in butterflies, which help her recover.
“Naima”, a documentary by Anna Thommen and produced by Judith Lichtneckert of Emilia Productions in Zurich and Perron X in Basel, follows a 46-year-old Venezuelan woman in Switzerland struggling to survive after losing her job. While she initially lands a nursing teaching position in a psychiatric ward, she still faces her most difficult challenge of all: standing up for herself.
Dario Schoch from Catpics presented Piet Baumgartner’s “The Driven Ones”, a long-term documentary about five young business students from different countries on their way to the top. The film, which is currently in post-production, accompanies the protagonists for more than five years, from their studies at the University of St. Gallen to the start of their careers in top management consultancies and beyond. The Driven Ones also explores the responsibilities and challenges these young business leaders face as they rise to positions of power.
In the historical drama “The Marmot Hunt”, produced by Cyrill Gerber and Caroline Meier of Milan Film and based on the classic novel by Ulrich Becher, journalist Albert Trebla and his wife Xane escape Nazi persecution in Austria in 1938 and find refuge in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The tense atmosphere in the village heightens Trebla’s fears that he and his wife may become targets of a Nazi death squad. The producers, who are looking for a director, describe the film as a genre mix with elements of romance, noir and comedy with crossover appeal.
(Pictured: Franziska Sonder, Roman Hodel)
https://variety.com/2022/film/festivals/becoming-an-astronaut-marketing-pitch-zurich-film-festival-1235382770/ “Becoming an Astronaut” wins marketing pitch at Zurich Film Festival