The Next Step programme organised by Cannes’ Critics’ Week wraps its 8th year – Industry / Market – France

– December saw seven young filmmakers participating in the programme steered by Cannes’ Critics’ Week and aimed at helping directors make the leap to feature films

For the eighth year running, the team behind Critics’ Week, now led by Ava Cahen, has held its Next Step programme (directed by Thomas Rosso), which is aimed at helping young filmmakers (who have competed in Cannes’ parallel section) make the leap from short films to full-length movies. The programme notably included a workshop (which unspooled 4 – 10 December), as well as a competition for which the winning project is set to be celebrated on the Croisette in May.

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Those selected in previous editions (which have lent support to 65 filmmakers, 43% of whom are women, hailing from 31 countries) include recent names Charline Bourgeois Tacquet with Anais in Love [+see also:
film review
interview: Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet
film profile] (screened in Cannes’ Critics’ Week 2021) and Carlo Francisco Manatad with Whether the Weather is Fine [+see also:
film profile] (gracing Locarno’s Cineasti del Presente line-up back in the summer), alongside Convenience Store by Michael Borodin and Rio Doce by Fellipe Fernandes, whose world premières are now in the starting-blocks, and, in post-production, Dogborn by Isabella Carbonell, Bruxa by Cristèle Alves Meira, The Woodcutter Story by Mikko Myllylahti (news) and The Maiden by Graham Foy, without forgetting soon-to-be-shot works J'ai des rêves électriques by Valentina Maurel, Birchanger Green by Moin Hussain, Los Colonos by Felipe Galvez, Michelle Remembers by Pia Borg, Some Rain Must Fall by Qiu Yang and Arcadia by Yorgos Zois.

Standing tall among the seven filmmakers selected for Next Step this year are four young European directors: France’s Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis, Romania’s Andrei Epure, Denmark’s Nicolai G.H. Johansen and Lithuania’s Vytautas Katkus. Israel’s Elinor Nechemya, Japan’s Aya Kawazoe and America’s Ian Barling also join the list of the lucky few. These many promising and talented individuals benefitted from screenplay, production and sales advice during the Next Step workshop, courtesy of Carole Baraton (Charades), Agathe Valentin (Totem Films), Grégory Gajos (Ad Vitam), Gabrielle Dumon (Le Bureau), Marie Amachoukeli, Antonio Piazza, Britta Krause, Philippe Barrière and Matthieu Darras.

The Next Step projects for 2021 and their mini-synopses are as follows:

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Deep FakeIsmaël Joffroy Chandoutis (France)
Production: Films Grand Huit (France)
Amy is a YouTube gaming celebrity who’s been famous since her teenage years. Now an adult, she starts making ASMR videos with more mature content, engaging both the senses and the body. She’s forced to contend with the hostility of the online community and soon discovers a doppelganger, a “deep fake” who takes over her virtual life, publishing controversial content in an attempt to harm her.

Don’t Let Me DieAndrei Epure (Romania)
Production: Saga Film (Romania)
A film examining the consequences of a neighbour’s death on Maria, one of the women living in the building. Soon after her interrogation by the police, Maria finds herself in charge of the funeral. Entangled in this Kafkaesque situation, everything seems to go wrong in Maria’s life as a pervasive, nerve-racking feeling that she’s haunted by the late neighbour continually eats away at her.

SanctuaryNicolai G.H. Johansen (Denmark)
Production: Snowglobe (Denmark)
Paralysed by repeated panic attacks and psychosomatic pain, Kent believes he will find peace via an alternative health clinic known as the Sanctuary. Its charismatic leader, Anders, reigns supreme and seems to alleviate Kent’s pain, who goes on to become one of Anders’ most loyal patients. However, it isn’t long before gruesome events begin to unfold, raising questions over the therapy offered up by the guru.

The VisitorVytautas Katkus (Lithuania)
Production: M-Films (Lithuania)
Young Danielus builds a new life for himself in a foreign land where he doesn’t know anyone or speak the language. This unworldly wanderer attempts to connect with the locals and the places around him, but he’s unable to escape his lonely condition. One day, he meets his ex-girlfriend’s father, a man who has accepted his own loneliness, and decides to befriend him.

IslandElinor Nechemya (Israel)
Production: Plan B (Israel)
A couple – Nora and Adam – and their young children move into a condo in a nameless suburban town. Nora withers away in this cold, sterile environment, feeling equally suffocated in her relationship. But, one day, she meets a female neighbour who reveals a hidden world of sexual encounters to her, which quite a few people from the building seem to be involved in.

HowlingAya Kawazoe (Japan)
Production: Trixta co. (Japan) and Hippocampe Productions (France)
An adaptation of Hyakken Uchida’s eponymous short story which sees characters wondering whether they’re dead or alive as the reality of their existence is swept from under their feet.

FrancisIan Barling (USA)
Production: Riparius Pictures (USA) and Maneki Films (France)
An Atlantic City croupier’s world is turned upside down when his estranged son, Danny, shows up to ask for his help. Guilt-ridden and eager to heal past wounds, he takes Danny in and finds him a job at the casino. However, his son’s erratic and unpredictable behaviour jeopardizes the fragile foundations of the new life he’s built for himself.

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(Translated from French)

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