Wim Wenders Film on Architecture, Omar Sharif Documentary Among Projects to Be Pitched at Venice Gap-Financing Market

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A thought-provoking film about the importance of architecture by three-time Oscar nominee Wim Wenders, and an investigative documentary about the troubled life and times of Egyptian heart-throb Omar Sharif are among 30 feature film projects to be pitched as part of the 8th edition of the Venice Gap-Financing Market, which runs Sept. 3-5 at the Venice Film Festival.

The projects, which all have at least 70% of their funding in place already, include the works of many other leading filmmakers, such as Fien Troch, Martin Rejtman, Jean-Gabriel Periot, Marjana Karanović, Aditya Vikram Sengupta and Simone Jaquemet.

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Wenders’ documentary “The Secret of Places” investigates the role played by architecture in our everyday lives. It takes viewers on a tour of architect Peter Zumthor’s best-known buildings, and accompanies him during the construction of two recent creations – the new Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the extension of the Fondation Beyeler in Basel.

<img class="size-horizontal wp-image-1235035288" src="https://variety.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/The-Secret-of-Places.jpg?w=1000&quot; alt=" - Credit: Courtesy of Road Movies" width="1000" height="563" srcset="https://variety.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/The-Secret-of-Places.jpg 1000w, https://variety.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/The-Secret-of-Places.jpg?resize=150,84 150w, https://variety.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/The-Secret-of-Places.jpg?resize=300,169 300w, https://variety.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/The-Secret-of-Places.jpg?resize=125,70 125w, https://variety.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/The-Secret-of-Places.jpg?resize=681,383 681w, https://variety.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/The-Secret-of-Places.jpg?resize=450,253 450w, https://variety.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/The-Secret-of-Places.jpg?resize=250,140 250w" sizes="(min-width: 87.5rem) 1000px, (min-width: 78.75rem) 681px, (min-width: 48rem) 450px, (max-width: 48rem) 250px" />Courtesy of Road Movies

In a statement, Wenders observes: “Architecture affects us all more than we generally assume. It reaches deep into our subconscious and shapes the individuals we are. It is at the very core of us. That is exactly what I want to tap into with my film: architecture as a basic human experience, as something that is part of our lives by necessity.”

The producers are Karsten Brünig and Léa Germain at Road Movies. Co-production companies are DCM Film Distribution and Oslo Pictures. The partners attached include Atelier Zumthor and HanWay Films.

Wenders’ documentaries include “Buena Vista Social Club,” “Pina” and “The Salt of the Earth,” all three Oscar nominated. His fiction films include Palme d’Or winner “Paris, Texas,” Cannes best director winner “Wings of Desire,” and Berlin Silver Bear winner “Million Dollar Hotel.”

Axel Petersén and Mark Lotfy’s documentary “The Life and Times of Omar Sharif” tracks the Egyptian actor’s descent from national treasure to traitor in the land of his birth. Petersén’s debut feature “Avalon” won the Fipresci International Critics’ Award in Toronto in 2011. His latest feature, “The Real Estate,” had its world premiere in competition in Berlin in 2018.

In a joint statement, the directors said that, before embarking on the project, they had “two completely different conceptions” of Sharif. Petersén, from Sweden, knew him as a “glamorous superstar”; Egyptian Lotfy knew him as “an Egyptian Judas, a persona-non-grata.” This contradiction was “the initial spark of the film.” They continue: “We started digging into his past. Mark dug from the East. Axel dug from the West. After two years of research we’ve come to realize that the Omar Sharif we both knew was just a persona. An adjustable and larger-than-life persona that was utilized by different agendas and political narratives, in life and in fiction, by the man himself and by the political forces that surrounded him.”

They say that through their research and the writing process the film has become a “thriller-like investigation on why the persona Omar Sharif was created, why it became the perfect vessel of ideology and why it was the most spellbinding reflection of the changes in the Eastern-Western conflict during the last century.”

Troch, who won the best director award in Venice’s Horizons section in 2016 for “Home,” returns to Venice with “Holly.” The film centers on a 15-year-old girl, who claims to have had a premonition of a devastating school fire. The traumatized community looks for consolation to the girl with special gifts, who has the ability to bring people peace of mind, warmth and hope. Then the first cracks start to appear in her mental health.

Troch’s first feature, “Someone Else’s Happiness,” had its world premiere at Toronto in 2005, and went on to win numerous awards. Her second feature, “Unspoken,” played in Toronto and San Sebastian in 2008. Her third feature, “Kid,” premiered at Rotterdam in 2012. Her fourth, “Home,” was selected for Venice, and won the Horizons Award for best director in 2016.

Rejtman, one of the key figures in Argentine cinema, will be pitching documentary “El Repartidor está en camino riders.” The film follows fast-food delivery riders, mostly Venezuelan immigrants, during the COVID-19 crisis in Buenos Aires. Rejtman’s directing credits include “Rapado,” “The Magic Gloves” and “Two Shots Fired,” which were all in competition at Locarno.

Sengupta, who has “Once Upon a Time in Calcutta” playing in the Horizons section of Venice this year, is pitching “Birthmark.” The film centers on Saba, a young Muslim single mother, who works as a maid, and Shalini, who finds herself suffocated in a patriarchal Hindu household. As their suffering and a longing to be free help the two women develop a deep bond, the family hatches a plan that proves to be catastrophic.

Sengupta’s first film, “Labor of Love,” premiered at Venice in 2014. His other feature was the art-house favorite “Jonaki,” which premiered at Rotterdam in 2018.

Périot’s two-part documentary “Facing Darkness” focuses on the siege of Sarajevo in Bosnia, which ran from April 1992 to February 1996. The first part will be a montage composed of films made during the war, mainly by local filmmakers. The second will consist of interviews conducted today with the youngest of these filmmakers. Then aged between 18 and 25, some of them voluntarily joined the army, others were mobilized, and still others preferred to be integrated into civil defense.

Périot’s first documentary feature, “A German Youth,” opened Panorama at Berlinale in 2015. “Natsu no hikari,” his first fiction feature film, premiered at San Sebastian in 2016. “Our Defeats” premiered in the Forum at Berlinale in 2019, and “Returning to Reims [Fragment]” was selected for Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes this year.

Jaquemet comes to Venice with “Electric Child,” which follows computer-scientist Sonny. When his son’s life is threatened by a rare disease, Sonny enters a pact with the complex AI life-form he is developing, with devastating effect.

Jaquemet’s first feature, “War” (Chrieg), premiered in 2014 in San Sebastian’s New Directors competition, followed by major festivals like Locarno, Karlovy Vary and Berlinale. His second feature, “The Innocent” (Der Unschuldige), premiered in the Platform section of Toronto in 2018, followed by San Sebastian’s Official Selection, touring at more than 40 festivals and winning several awards.

Karanović’s “Mother Mara” centers on Mara, a successful businesswoman and single mother. When her 18-year-old son, Nemanja, dies from a heart attack, she shuts herself off from her family and friends, burying the trauma deep inside of her. When she meets 25-year-old gigolo Milan, she embarks on a physical relationship with him as a way of escaping reality. Slowly a friendship forms between the two.

As an actress, Karanović was best known for her starring role in Emir Kusturica’s “When Father Was Away on Business,” and Jasmila Žbanić’s “Grbavica,” winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin. As a director, Karanović made her debut with “A Good Wife,” which played at Sundance in 2016 and screened at more than 40 festivals.

Among the decision-makers listening to the pitches will be producers, private and public financiers, distributors, sales agents, TV commissioners, and executives from banks, internet companies, video platforms, institutions and post-production companies.

As well as the 30 feature films in the Venice Gap-Financing Market, there are 13 VR immersive story projects, 11 VR projects developed by the Biennale College Cinema VR, and the three fiction projects developed by the Biennale College Cinema.

Venice Gap-Financing Market runs as part of Venice Production Bridge, the festival’s industry program.

Speaking to Variety about this year’s edition, VPB head Pascal Diot says: “I am relieved that we are able to provide more on-site activities and to welcome more professionals than last year, but the health safety of everyone is our main goal, and we thank all participants in advance for their understanding in regards with the COVID protocols we have to put in place.”

FICTION
“¡Caigan Las Rosas Blancas!” (Argentina, Brazil, France) Dir: Albertina Carri. Prod. co: Gentil Cine
“A Rooster on the Fire Escape” (France, Haiti) Dir: Guetty Felin. Prod. co: Aldabra Films
“Året Jag Började Onanera” (The Year I Started Masturbating) (Sweden) Dir: Erika Wasserman. Prod. co: Gimme A Break
“Ashkal” (Tunisia, France, The Netherlands) Dir: Youssef Chebbi. Prod. co: Supernova Films
“Birthmark” (India, Luxembourg, Denmark, France, Norway) Dir: Aditya Vikram Sengupta. Prod. co: For Films
“Bufis” (Kenya, Germany) Dir: Mahad Ahmed and Vincenzo Cavallo, Cultural Video Production. Prod. co: Unafilm
“Electric Child” (Switzerland, Germany) Dir: Simon Jaquemet. Prod. co: 8horses
“Floating” (The Netherlands, Belgium) Dir: Quirine Racké, Helena Muskens. Prod. co: Family Affair Films
“Halissa” (Israel) Dir: Sophie Artus. Prod. co: July August Productions
“Holly” (Belgium, The Netherlands, France) Dir: Fien Troch. Prod. co: Prime Time
“Kipkemboi” (Canada, Kenya) Dir: Hubert Davis. Prod. co: New Real Films
“La Piel Pulpo” (Ecuador, Mexico, Greece, Germany) Dir: Ana Cristina Barragán. Prod. co: Caleidoscopio Cine
“Los Colonos” (Chile, France, Denmark, Argentina) Dir: Felipe Gálvez. Prod. co: Quijote Films
“Majka Mara” (Mother Mara) (Serbia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina) Dir: Mirjana Karanovic. Prod. co: This and That Productions
“Non Morirò Di Fame” (Italy, Poland) Dir: Umberto Spinazzola. Prod. co: La Sarraz Pictures
“Pamfir” (Ukraine, France, Poland, Chile) Dir: Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk. Prod. co: Bosonfilm
“Plan 75” (Japan, France, The Philippines) Dir: Chie Hayakawa. Prod. co: Loaded Films
“Retour En Alexandrie” (Switzerland) Dir: Tamer Ruggli. Prod. co: Tipi’mages Productions
“Sem Coração” (Brazil, France, Germany) Dir: Nara Normande and Tião. Prod. co: Les Valseurs
“The Silent Treatment” (Belgium, The Netherlands, Hungary) Dir: Caroline Strubbe. Prod. co: Minds Meet

DOCUMENTARY
“Affronter L’obscurité” (France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Germany) Dir: Jean-Gabriel Periot. Prod. co: Alter Ego Production
“Au Cimetière De La Pellicule” (France, Senegal, Guinea) Dir: Thierno Souleymane Diallo. Prod. co: L’Image d’Après
“El Repartidor Está En Camino” (Argentina, Portugal), Dir: Martín Rejtman. Prod. co: Un Puma
“Kabul Melody” (Afghanistan, France) Dir: Sarah Mani. Prod. co: AfghanistanDocHouse
“Shenren Zhi Jia” (A Holy Family) (Taiwan, France) Dir: Elvis A-Liang Lu. Prod. co: Volos Films
“The Life and Times of Omar Sharif” (working title) (Sweden, Egypt, U.K.) Dir: Axel Petersén and Mark Lotfy. Prod. co: Fedra
“The Secret of Places” (Germany, Switzerland, Norway) Dir: Wim Wenders. Prod. co: Road Movies

ANIMATION
“Allah N’est Pas Obligé” (France, Luxembourg, Belgium) Dir: Zaven Najjar. Prod. co: Special Touch Studios
“Butiken” (The Store) (Italy, Sweden, Norway) Dir: Hanna Sköld. Prod. co: Indyca
“Los Angeles” (Chile) Dir: Joaquin Cociña and Cristóbal León. Prod. co: Globo Rojo Films

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