Transilvania Co-Production Forum Toasts 10 Years Bringing Region’s Top Talents to the World

Celebrating its tenth anniversary as part of the industry program of the Transilvania Film Festival, the Transilvania Pitch Stop — one of the leading co-production and co-financing platforms for filmmakers from Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the wider Black Sea region — will showcase 10 projects by first- and second-time directors searching for potential European partners on June 15 in the historic medieval city of Cluj.

The selection, which includes projects from eight countries, is a diverse crop that ranges from intimate personal dramas to stories casting a wider net, capturing their protagonists in the throes of historical forces.

“They are very different this year,” said Dumitrana Lupu, who took over as TIFF’s head of industry in 2022. “We have genre. We have mystery. We have some magical realism.”

For the first time, the organizers selected a documentary to pitch during TPS — “Second Line,” Ukrainian director-producer Olga Stuga’s chronicle of life since the Russian invasion — as well as two Romanian docs for its First Cut Lab, a tailor-made workshop for projects in post-production.

That decision, said Lupu, was a “statement” that for its tenth edition, “it was time to open the industry events to documentary.”

Launched in 2014 as a five-day workshop for first- and second-time directors from Romania and Moldova, the TPS expanded in 2017 to include a co-production platform with projects from countries across the region.

Among the films supported by the TPS since its first edition are “Apples,” by Greece’s Christos Nikou, which opened the Horizons sidebar of the Venice Film Festival and is executive produced by Cate Blanchett; “The Man Who Surprised Everyone,” a Horizons prize winner from Russia’s Natasha Merkulova and Alexey Chupov;  “La Civil,” by Romania’s Teodora Ana Mihai, which won the Prize of Courage in the Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard sidebar in 2021; and Ukrainian director Maksym Nakonechnyi’s “Butterfly Vision,” which bowed in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section last year.

Joining that list this year is the Transilvania competition entry “Carbon,” a tragicomedy about Moldova’s absurd past from director Ion Borș, which was awarded by the Transilvania Pitch Stop jury in 2019 and premiered last year in San Sebastian’s New Directors section.

This year’s selection includes “Little Death,” the feature directorial debut of Greece’s Efthimis Kosemund-Sanidis, whose short films have premiered at Venice, Locarno and Clermont-Ferrand. The story of a debt-ridden young man who sets out to claim his inheritance from his long-estranged father, it’s produced by Romania’s Anamaria Antoci and Greece’s Yorgos Tsourgiannis, whose credits include Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2009 Cannes sensation “Dogtooth.”

Several of the projects feature characters wrestling with personal trauma, such as Cosmin Nicolae’s “Pyrrhic,” produced by Velvet Moraru, about an army veteran sent into a downward spiral after returning home from Afghanistan, and “Soft Hours,” directed by Anna Gyimesi and produced by Zsuzsanna Gyurin, Genovéva Petrovits and Adrienn Bács, about a middle-aged mother mourning the loss of a son who’s been missing for a decade. Meanwhile, Turkish director-producer Elif Sözen’s “Veha,” selected in partnership with the Istanbul Film Festival’s Meetings on the Bridge, centers a woman forced to confront the past when she returns to her village after the death of her father.

In “The Life We Never Had,” produced by Victoria Mitreva and Vanya Rainova, Bulgarian filmmaker Martin Markov examines the fallout when a failed painter pursues an unnatural obsession, while Turkish director Michael Önder and producer Jozef Erçevik Amado explore the increasingly violent stakes when a family’s weekend getaway takes a tragic turn. Another dark tale, “The Circle,” from Moldova’s Vareriu Andriuta, follows a young detective sent to a remote village to investigate a mysterious death. Pic is produced by Iulia Andriuta.

On the lighter side, the Romanian dark comedy “F.E.Z.Z.,” directed by Teodor Mirea and produced by Liviu Marghidan and Ruxandra Flonta, follows three friends who try to navigate the chaotic aftermath of a sudden tragic death. Finally, Georgian director Stefan Tolz’s “Just One Drop” tells the story of a soda seller who unexpectedly changes the course of Soviet history, in a film produced by Tolz, Martichka Bozhilova and Karine Jana Sardlishvili.

Notably, nine female producers are taking part in this year’s Pitch Stop, which Lupu describes as a first. “We’re proud to showcase these female filmmakers,” she said.

Elsewhere, the recently installed industry head said she hopes to bring a fresh perspective and more changes to the popular Transilvania program.

“This is my second year as head of industry, and I’m grateful and honored that they chose me to be here,” she said. “I would like to introduce new initiatives and strengthen partnerships with other international organizations, [such as] film funds and institutions. I would like to bring more and more relevant guests to the pitch, which is exactly what I did this year.”

Those goals, she hopes, will help the TPS to better serve as a launching pad for the projects it showcases. “I want them to be more visible,” she said. “I want them to be heard.”

Here are the projects selected for this year’s Transilvania Pitch Stop:

The Life We Never Had (Bulgaria)
Director: Martin Markov
Producer: Victoria Mitreva, Vanya Rainova (Portokal) 
When a renowned artist dies in a car accident, the unfulfilled painter Boyan understands that his girlfriend had previously had an affair with him and gets obsessed with his life and art. This obsession costs him his relationships and friendships but liberates him from his fear of failure as he starts to draw.

Just One Drop (Georgia)
Director: Stefan Tolz
Producers: Martichka Bozhilova (agitprop), Karine Jana Sardlishvili (Studio 99), Stefan Tolz (Filmpunkt) 
A master of soft drinks seeks to still his thirst for love with a soda of happiness, while incidentally changing the course of Soviet history.

Little Death (Greece)
Director: Efthimis Kosemund-Sanidis
Producers: Yorgos Tsourgiannis (Horsefly Films), Anamaria Antoci (Tangaj Production) 
Ilias, a young man with a debt on his shoulders, crosses the sea hoping to claim the will of his long-estranged father, a doctor. But instead of resolving his debt he meets Kalliopi, and while a series of inexplicable illnesses spread, love grows.

Soft Hours (Hungary)
Director: Anna Gyimesi
Producer: Zsuzsanna Gyurin, Genovéva Petrovits, Adrienn Bács (Kino Alfa)
In order to move forward in her life, the middle-aged Ilona must defy social taboos and mourn her son, who has been missing for a decade.

The Circle (Moldova)
Director: Vareriu Andriuta
Producer: Iulia Andriuta (Amprenta Films)
Aghachi, a young investigator, is assigned to travel to a remote village to investigate a death by misadventure. Being at the start of his career, Agachi is keen to follow procedures by the book and uncovers an entirely different reality than the eyewitness account.

Pyrrhic (Romania)
Director: Cosmin Nicolae
Producer: Velvet Moraru (ICON Production) 
Victoria, an army veteran who just returned from Afghanistan to her hometown on the Black Sea coast, is plunged in a downward spiral after a harrowing discovery jeopardizes the process of coming to terms with her own traumas and with a drifting society.

F.E.Z.Z (Romania)
Director: Teodor Mirea
Producers: Liviu Marghidan, Ruxandra Flonta (Scharf Film Production)
In a world where daily existence feels futile, three friends must navigate a web of darkly comedic chaos after their father figure unexpectedly dies during a boys’ night in. Desperate to avoid any connection to the death, they hatch a daring plan to stage it, only to find themselves entangled in a series of absurd events involving a bag of marijuana, a relentless building administrator, and a naked breakdown on the toilet. “F.E.Z.Z” is a darkly humorous reminder that in the face of death, resistance is futile.

Pastoral (Turkey)
Director: Michael Önder
Producer: Jozef Erçevik Amado (Bluff Film) 
During a weekend trip to his boss’ country house, a lawyer and his wife attempt to conceal that their 8-year-old son has fatally harmed their hosts’ pet dog. The search for the missing dog creates tension with the locals, slowly escalating into violence.

Veha (Turkey)
Director: Elif Sözen
Producer: Elif Sözen (Elves Films)
After the sudden death of her father, Meral returns to her village in Turkey from Germany with her 6-year-old son and a plan that she hides from everyone. With her childhood friend visiting them to offer her condolences, Meral will have to confront the past.

Second Line (Ukraine)
Director-producer: Olga Stuga
The full-scale invasion of 2022 scatters my family across Europe, forcing us to make impossible choices between a safe life with the family and our duty in front of society and ourselves.

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