NIEVA EN BENIDORM (It Snows in Bernidorm), by Isabel Coixet (Spain) – Opening Film / Out of Competition
Peter Riordan, a lonely, maniacal and methodical man obsessed with weather phenomena. When he is given early retirement at the Manchester bank where he has worked all his life, he decides to visit his brother, Daniel, who lives in Benidorm (Spain). Upon arriving in the city, he learns that his brother has gone missing. Daniel is the owner of a burlesque club where Alex works —a mysterious woman who exerts a powerful fascination over him. Peter and Álex try to find out what happened to Daniel with the help of a female police officer obsessed with the British poet and writer Sylvia Plath, who spent a few weeks in Benidorm in the 1950s as part of her honeymoon.
With a degree in 18th and 19th century History from the University of Barcelona, Isabel Coixet made her scriptwriting and directorial debut in 1989 with ‘Too Old to Die Young’. Since then she has directed fifteen feature films, in addition to documentaries, television series like ‘Foodie Love ‘(2018), numerous commercials and short films. Her films have been selected at such international festivals as Berlin (‘My Life Without Me’, 2003; ‘Elegy’, 2008; ‘Yesterday Never Ends’, 2012; ‘Elisa & Marcela’, 2019), Cannes (the collaborative film ‘Paris, je t’aime’, 2005; ‘Map of the Sounds of Tokyo’, 2009) or Venice (‘The Secret Life of Words’, 2005, the winner of four Goya Awards), among others. In 2015 the Valladolid Festival Week closed its 60th edition with ‘Nobody Wants the Night’ and in 2017 her film ‘The Bookshop’, which would go on to win three Goya Awards, opened that year’s edition of Seminci.
DASHTEKHAMOUSH (La tierra baldía / The Wasteland), by Ahmad Bahrami (Iran)
A remote brick manufacture factory produces bricks in an ancient way. Many families with different ethnicities work in the factory and the boss seems to hold the key to solving their problems. Forty-year-old Lotfollah, who has been born on-site, is the factory supervisor and acts as go-between for the workers and the boss. Boss has Lotfollah gather all the workers in front of his office. He wants to talk to them about the shutdown of the factory. All matters now to Lotfollah is to keep Sarvar unharmed, the woman he has been in love with for a long time.
Born in 1972 in Shahryar, Ahmad Bahrami holds a BA degree in Cinema Direction. He shot a few short films and after participating in Abbas Kiarostami’s Filmmaking Workshop in Iran in 2010, he made his directorial debut in 2017 with the feature film ‘Panah’. In this film, set in heart of the Iranian desert, the life of a small village is entirely dependent on the main character, a judicious young boy who is always willing to help others but is also full of doubts and questions about his future. ‘The Wasteland’ is the second feature film he has written and directed.
THE DISCIPLE (El discípulo), by Chaitanya Tamhane (India)
Sharad Nerulkar has devoted himself to becoming an Indian classical vocalist, a lifelong quest in which few succeed. Initiated into this centuries-old tradition by his father, he follows his dream with sincerity and discipline, committing himself entirely to his artistic journey. As he strives to attain the highest level of his craft, Sharad traces his way through the hallowed mysteries and rituals of past musical legends. But as the years pass, Sharad will be forced to negotiate between the complex realities of life in contemporary Mumbai and his chosen path, leading him to find his true voice in music and in life.
Chaitanya Tamhane is an independent filmmaker based in Mumbai. His films include the short ‘Six Strands’ (2011) and his feature directorial debut, ‘Court’ (2014), which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it was awarded the Best Film – Orizzonti and the Lion of the Future award. It has since gone on to win over 30 awards at film festivals worldwide. In 2016 he was selected to be mentored by Alfonso Cuarón as part of the Rolex Mentor-Protégé Arts Initiative. His new film, ‘The Disciple’, was awarded the Sundance Institute Open Borders Fellowship presented by Netflix.
FELKÉSZÜLÉS MEGHATÁROZATLAN IDEIG TARTÓ EGYÜTTLÉTRE (Preparativos para estar juntos un periodo de tiempo desconocido / Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time), by Lili Horváth (Hungary)
Márta, a 40-year-old neurosurgeon, falls in love. She leaves her shining American career behind and returns to Budapest to start a new life with the man she loves. She waits for him in vain at the Liberty Bridge —he does not appear at the rendezvous. Márta starts to search for him desperately, but when she fi nally fi nds him, the love of her life claims that they have never met before.
Lili Horváth. Born in Budapest in 1982, she studied Audiovisual Arts at the Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, and fi lm directing at the University of Theatre and Film in Budapest. In 2005 she received an Erasmus grant to attend the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen (HFF) Konrad Wolf in Potsdam-Babelsberg. She has directed the short films ‘Vákácio’ (2006) and ‘Uszodai tolvaj ’ (2007); the documentary film ‘Budapest ostroma: episode IV’ (2007); the medium-length feature ‘Sunstroke’ (2009) and the TV drama ‘Hazafelé’ (2009). ‘The Wednesday Child’, Lili’s fi rst feature, won the East of the West competition at Karlovy Vary 2015 and was selected for the Valladolid Festival’s Meeting Point section. ‘Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time’ is Lili Horváth’s second feature.
GAZA MON AMOUR, by Arab and Tarzan Nasser (France / Germany / Portugal / Palestine / Qatar)
Gaza, today. Sixty-year-old fisherman Issa is secretly in love with Siham, a woman who works as a dressmaker at the market with her daughter Leila. When Issa discovers an ancient phallic statue of Apollo in his fishing net, he decides to hide it at home, not yet knowing what to do with such a mysterious and powerful treasure. Still he senses somehow that this discovery will change his life forever. Interestingly, his self-confidence begins to grow until he finally decides to approach Siham.
Arab Nasser, Tarzan Nasser. Twin brothers Tarzan and Arab Nasser were born in Gaza, Palestine, in 1988. They graduated in Fine Arts (Painting) from Al-Aqsa University (Gaza) before turning to filmmaking with their short films ‘Colourful Journey’ (2010) ‘Condom Lead’ (2013, selected in Official Competition at the Cannes Film Festival, ‘Apartment 10/14’ (2014) and ‘With Premeditation’ (2014), which they co-directed. In 2014, they directed their first feature film, ‘Dégradé’, which had its world premiere at Cannes Critics’ Week in 2015. Venice-selected ‘Gaza Mon Amour’ is their second feature film.
HINE ANACHNU (Here We Are), by Nir Bergman (Israel / Italy)
Aharon has devoted his life to raising his son Uri. They live together in a gentle routine, away from the real world. But Uri is autistic, and now as a young adult it might be time for him to live in a specialized home. While on their way to the institution, Aharon decides to run away with his son and hits the road, knowing that Uri is not ready for this separation. Or is it, in fact, his father who is not ready?
Nir Bergman was born in Haifa, Israel, in 1969. After studying Humanities at Tel Aviv University, he graduated with honors from the Sam Spiegel School of Film and Television, Jerusalem. His graduation film ‘Sea Horses’, was screened in the section dedicated to that School at 45th Seminci and at more than forty festivals across the world. In 2002 he made his feature film debut with ‘Broken Wings’, the winner of the Meeting Point section’s Youth Award in the 47th edition of the Valladolid Festival. He has written and directed several television series, such as ‘In Therapy’ (the winner of an Emmy), and films like ‘Intimate Grammar’ (2010), ‘Yona’ (2014) or ‘Saving Neta’ (2016). ‘Here We Are’ received the stamp of approval from the Cannes 2020 Film Festival.
JOSEP, by Aurel (France / Spain / Belgium)
February 1939. Spanish republicans are fleeing Franco’s dictatorship to France. The French government built concentration camps to confine the refugees, where they barely have access to hygiene, water and food. In one of these camps, separated by barbed wire, two men will become friends. One is a guard, the other is Josep Bartolí (Barcelona 1910 – NYC 1995), an illustrator who fights against Franco’s regime.
Aurel was born in Ardèche in 1980. A press cartoonist, he works for the daily ‘Le Monde’ and the weekly magazines ‘Marianne’ and ‘Politis’. He is also a graphic designer for the groups Massilia Sound System and Oai Star. As a draftsman-reporter, since 2007 he has published one major report per year in ‘Le Monde diplomatique’, co-signed with news reporter Pierre Daum. With the journalist Renaud Dély, he is the author of two journalistic investigations in comic book format on Nicolas Sarkozy. In 2010 Aurel co-directed (with screenwriter Florence Corre) his first animated short, ‘Octobre Noir’, which dealt with the demonstrations of October 17, 1961 in Paris.
MINARI, by Lee Isaac Chung (United States)
It’s the 1980s, and David, a seven-year-old Korean American boy, is faced with new surroundings and a different way of life when his father, Jacob, moves their family from the West Coast to rural Arkansas. His mother, Monica, is aghast that they live in a mobile home in the middle of nowhere, and naughty little David and his sister are bored and aimless. When his sly, foul-mouthed, but incredibly loving grandmother arrives from Korea to live with them, her unfamiliar ways arouse David’s curiosity.
Lee Isaac Chung. Writer, director, producer, editor and cinematographer, he was born in Lincoln, Arkansas, on a small farm in the Ozark Mountains. He received his BA in Biology at Yale University and his MFA in film studies at the University of Utah. He is the co-founder (along with Jenny Lund and Samuel Anderson) of Almond Tree Films. His filmography includes the short films ‘Highway‘ (2004), ‘Sex and Coffee’ (2005) and ‘Los coyotes’ (2005). His first feature film was ‘Munyurangabo’, which premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival to great acclaim. His other feature films are ‘Lucky Life’ (2010) and ‘Abigail Harm’ (2012), and in 2015 he was the codirector with Samuel Gray Anderson of the documentary ‘I Have Seen My Last Born’.
NOWHERE SPECIAL, by Uberto Pasolini (Italy / Rumania / United Kingdom)
John, a 35-year-old window cleaner, devotes his life to raising his 4-year-old son Michael, as the child’s mother left them immediately after his birth. Their life is a simple one, made up of universal daily rituals, a life of complete dedication and innocent love that reveals the strength of their relationship. But John only has a few months to live. Since he has no family to turn to, he will spend the days left to him looking for a new and perfect one to adopt Michael, trying to protect his child from the terrible reality.
Uberto Pasolini was born in 1957 in Rome. His cinematic career began in 1983, when he worked as unit runner in Roland Joffe’s ‘The Killing Fields’ . In 1993 he founded Redwave Films and became an independent producer. In 1997 he produced the successful Oscar-nominated ‘Full Monty’. His directorial debut, ‘Machan’, in which he also participated as a producer, won the FEDIC and Label Europa Cinemas awards at the 2008 Venice Film Festival. His second film, ‘Still Life’, won the Orizzonti award for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival in 2013, as well as numerous jury and audience awards at other festivals. In 2017 he was a member of the International Jury of the 62 Valladolid Film Festival.
PERSIAN LESSONS (El profesor de persa), by Vadim Perelman (Russia / Germany / Belarus)
France, 1942. Gilles is arrested by SS soldiers along with other Jews and sent to a concentration camp in Germany. There he manages to avoid execution by swearing to the guards that he is not a Jew, but a Persian. Thanks to this ruse, Gilles manages to stay alive, but he will have to teach the camp officer a language that he does not know. While a great friendship grows between them, the suspicions of the soldiers are soon aroused.
Vadim Perelman. Born in 1963 in Kiev, Ukrainian SSR, USSR, he made his directorial debut in 2003 with House of Sand and Fog. The film, starring Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley, was nominated for three Academy Awards and also marks his first screenplay credit. His second feature ‘The Life Before Her Eyes’ (2007) was also a literary adaptation and starred Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood. He also established himself as an innovative director of commercials (his clients included Microsoft, Panasonic, Nike and Coors) as well as award-winning music videos. His filmography includes TV miniseries ‘Pepel’ (2013) and ‘Izmeny’ (2015), as well as feature-lengths ‘Yolki 5’ (2016) and ‘Kupi menya’ (2018).
PUPPY LOVE, by Michael Maxxis (Canada) – Out of Competition
Morgan is a prophetic young dishwasher with brain damage who pays a homeless drug addicted prostitute to be his friend. Soaking in the hot tub at the community swimming pool, he gives an unfiltered account of his wildly explicit year with the hooker, to an unprepared and unsuspecting audience. Morgan, innocent, gentle, and feeble minded lives with his older brother Danny, a barroom brawling, former kickboxing champ with a heavy appetite for booze and hookers. One night after finishing his business with a prostitute named Carla, Danny demands Morgan drive her away. On this fateful drive back to skid row Morgan is hit with inspiration. It occurs to him that Carla is available for hire, but instead of paying her for sex, he simply pays her to talk. They spend all night talking in his beat up Dodge Daytona, and an unlikely friendship is born.
Having just completed directing a music video Elle King’s Ex’s and Oh’s, Michael was stuck idling at a red light on the south side of Palmdale California when a mangy coyote jumped into his rental car through the passenger side window. It stared expectantly at him, so he offered it some beef jerky. She declined by pawing his hand away, and introduced herself as Lillian Wagner. She pissed on the floor, then leaped from the window as the light turned green. Michael never saw her again, but that moment changed his life forever. It was providential. A message from God. Compelling him to make a film called Puppy Love about his cousin Morgan.
SHEYTAN VOJUD NADARAD (There Is No Evil), by Mohammad Rasoulof (Germany / Czech Republic / Iran)
Every society that enforces the death penalty needs people to kill other people. Four men are put in front of an unthinkable but simple choice. Whatever they decide, it will directly or indirectly corrode themselves, their relationships, and their entire lives. In four thematically connected episodes, Mohammad Rasoulof tells their stories, which inevitably are also the stories of the people who surround them.
Mohammad Rasoulof. Born in Shiraz, Iran in 1972, he began directing documentaries and short films while studying sociology. After his second film, Iron Island, opportunities for him to make and screen his work grew increasingly restricted. All seven of his feature films have fallen victim to the censor in Iran. In 2010, he was arrested on set while working alongside Jafar Panahi and sentenced to a year in prison. He has won numerous international awards for his work including several prizes in Un Certain Regard at Cannes for films as ‘The White Meadows’ (2009), ‘Manuscripts Don’t Burn’ (2013) and ‘Man of Integrity’ (2017). Since 2017, he has been officially barred from leaving Iran. In 2018 the Valladolid Festival made him the subject of a retrospective that also included the publication of a book, and in 2020 he won Berlin’s Golden Bear for ‘There Is No Evil’.
SLUŽOBNÍCI (Servants), by Ivan Ostrochovský (Slovakia / Rumania / Czech Republic / Ireland)
The year is 1980. Michal and Juraj are students at a theological seminary in totalitarian Czechoslovakia. Fearing the dissolution of their school, the tutors are moulding the seminarians into a shape satisfactory to the ruling Communist Party. Each of the young students must decide if he will give into the temptation and choose the easier way of collaborating with the regime, or if he will subject himself to draconian surveillance by the secret police.
Ivan Ostrochovský. Born 1972 in Žilina, Slovak Republic. Graduated in documentary filmmaking at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava and the Academy of Arts in Banská Bystrica. He directed a few short films and several short and feature-length documentaries, including the award-winning documentary ‘Velvet Terrorists’, premiered at Berlinale 2014. His feature debut, ‘Koza’ (2015), celebrated its world premiere at Berlinale 2015 and was the Slovak Oscar Entry for 2016. His second feature, ‘Servants’ (2020) was presented at the brand-new Berlinale competition section Encounters. He is a co-owner and producer at Sentimentalfilm and Punkchart Films.
SWEET THING, by Alexandre Rockwell (United States)
For Billie and Nico, life with their father in New Bedford Massachusetts, is a roller-coaster ride of playfulness and unease. When he is in the grip of alcohol, tears flow and their apparently idyllic family life collapses. Their mostly absent and irresponsible mother is not much help either. But their friendship with Malik, a boy of Billie’s age, frees them from their shackles. Together they embark on a journey into the fantastic and poetic world of childhood, unseen by the adults around them.
Alexandre Rockwell. Born in Boston in 1956. While still a teenager, the filmmaker learnt his craft from his grandfather in Paris: the Russian animator Alexandre Alexeieff and his wife, the American Claire Parker, originated pinscreen animation. He attended the Cinémathèque Française and began directing short films in the 1980s. His debut feature, ‘Lenz’, screened at the 1982 Berlinale. He made his international breakthrough with ‘In the Soup’ in 1992 and went on to further success with ‘Four Rooms’ (1995), ‘Somebody to Love’ (1994) and ‘Little Feet’ (2013, special mention for the work of its two child lead actors at 59 Seminci). In 2017, he was appointed head of directing at the graduate film department of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
TA FANG JIAN LI DE YUN (La nube en su cuarto / The Cloud in Her Room), by Zheng Lu Xinyuan (Hong Kong / China)
It’s a wet winter in Hangzhou. Muzi, 22, comes home for Chinese New Year, where she plays her roles as a daughter, a half-sister, and a girlfriend. One day, Muzi accompanies her little sister to school and meets a local bar owner, the father of another student. The strange man reminds Muzi of an old friend, waking up memories of her relationship with him, who suddenly disappeared into thin air. At the same time, Muzi’s boyfriend arrives for a visit. Roaming in this city that feels so familiar yet distant, Muzi searches for a place where she belongs.
Zheng Lu Xinyuan. Filmmaker based in Hangzhou. She earned a master’s degree in Film Production from USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles in 2017. Her short films were selected to screen at festivals such as Tribeca Film Festival, FIRST International Film Festival, Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture and China Independent Film Festival. She tries to cultivate a personal visual practice that explores the boundaries of various media, and has also held photography exhibitions and co-written two books. ‘The Cloud in Her Room’ (2020), her feature debut, harvested the Tiger Award this year at the Rotterdam Film Festival.
UN TRIOMPHE (The Big Hit), by Emmanuel Courcol (France) – Closing Gala / Out of Competition
Etienne, an often out of work but endearing actor, runs a theater workshop in a prison, where he brings together an unlikely troupe of prisoners to stage Samuel Beckett’s famous play Waiting for Godot. When he is allowed to take the colorful band of convicts on a tour outside of prison, Etienne finally has the chance to thrive. Each date is a new success and a unique relationship grows between this ad hoc group of actors and their director. But soon comes the final performance in Paris. Will their last night together be the biggest hit of them all?
Emmanuel Courcol. Born in 1957, he graduated from the National School of Theater Arts and Techniques (ENSATT – Rue Blanche) in 1957, and since then he has acted in some thirty plays and twenty films. He began his career on stage under the direction, among others, of Roger Planchon and Jean-Louis Thamin. He wrote several screenplays, in collaboration with Philippe Lioret, for ‘Mademoiselle’ (2001), ‘The Light’ (2004), ‘Welcome’ (2009, which garnered a César nomination for Best Screenplay), and ‘All Our Desires’ (2011). In 2012 he directed the short lm ‘Géraldine je t’aime’, and ‘Cessez-le-feu’ (2015) was his first feature lm as director.