France’s Cité Films Backs New Films by Chile’s Niles Atallah, Turkey’s Yesim Ustaoglu (EXCLUSIVE)

Adding to its slate of auteurs from all over the world, Raphael Berdugo’s Cité Films has boarded “The Fire Doll,” from Chilean director-to-track Niles Atallah (“Rey”) and “Left Over,” from San Sebastian Gold Shell winning Turkish director Yesim Ustaoglu (“Pandora’s Box”).

Produced by Catalina Vergara at Chile’s Globo Rojo Films, “The Fire Doll” (“La muñeca de fuego”) is one of the 14 projects to be pitched at this month’s San Sebastian Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum, one of the Spanish festival’s centerpiece industry events.

Atallah, whose second film, “Rey,” won a Rotterdam Special Jury Prize in 2017, turns in “The Fire Doll” to the transformation process experienced by a 9-year-old girl, Aurora, who loses part of her memory and goes to her the countryside to spend Easter wither father, an alcoholic in remission.

He lives in a mysterious house partially destroyed by fire decades ago. Aurora discovers a terrible secret about her father’s past and battles to help him free himself from its ghosts. 

“Families have trans-generational trauma. This universal story is emotional, magical and different, and I was really impressed by Niles’ visuals, sound and VFX in ‘Rey,’” Berdugo told Variety.

With “The Fire Doll,” Vergara returns to San Sebastian’s Forum after selection in 2018 with “Querida Vera,” by Globo Rojo regular director José Luis Torres Leiva.

Set up at her own company, Ustaoglu Film Production, “Left Over,” Ustaoglu’s seventh feature,  is a road movie about a poetess who leaves her Istanbul home to go back to her family roots. Her trip and encounters allow her a new balance and reconnection with her husband and son. 

Ustaoglu broke out with 1999’s “Journey To The Sun,” a Berlin competition player which won the Blue Angel Award for best European film. “Pandora’s Box” also scooped best actress for Stilla Chelton at San Sebastian.

Cité Films will co-produce and sell international rights on both projects. They join a Cité Films’ director-driven sales/production slate which mixes established talents – Ustaoglu. Fiks – with on-the-rise talent now onto its second or third feature, such as Atallah, Mitra Tabrizian and Elfar Aðalsteins. A lineup breakdown:

“The Far Mountains,” (Mitra Tabrizian, U.K.)

Starring Shahab Hosseini, a 2016 Cannes best actor winner for Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-winning “The Salesman,” a nuanced coming-of-age tale with an allegorical undertow set in an Iranian village. “The Far Mountains” proved a standout among projects at Locarno’s Meet Me! The project marks Tabrizian’s follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut feature “Gholam,” also starring Hosseini and selected by The Guardian/Observer’s Mark Kermode as Film of the Week on its release.   

“Summerlight,” (Elfar Aðalsteins, Iceland)

A comedy-drama adaptation of celebrated novelist Jón Kalman Stefánsson’s multi-story take on life in an Icelandic village, its beauty and mystery and the contrast between dreams and seeming destiny. The second feature as a director of Iceland’s Elfar Aðalsteins, producer of Fredrik Thor Fredriksson’s “Mama Gogo,” whose debut “End of Sentence,” bowed to upbeat reactions at Edinburgh, “the film has strong stories, is very moving and has the deadpan humor typical of Scandinavia,” Berdugo said.  Skedded for delivery in June 2022. Bersek Films, Silver Screen and Iceland’s Pegasus Picture produce, in  co-production with Belgian’s Polar Bear and Seden’s Vilda Bomben Film. 

“Azuro,” (Mathieu Rozé, France)

Adapting a lesser-known Marguerite Dumas novel, the feature debut as a director of French actor Rozé, headlined by Valerie Donzelli, the helmer-actor of “Declaration of War.” A sunny, sensual chronicle of friends summering in a southern France Summer heatwave whose torpor is shaken up by the arrival of a an attractive stranger. Selected at Goteborg and Beijing, the film  garnered positive crits, Berdugo observed. Tabo Tabo Films, Comic Strip Production, Lamar Films and Cité Films produce.“I was surprised how different the book is from many Duras novels. It’s a very modern story in how it deals with the relations between men and women,” Berdugo noted.

“The Jew,” (Dmitry Fiks, Russia)

A drama thriller marking the seventh feature from prolific commercials, TV and movie director Fiks, set in the Soviet Union in 1946 as a man travels to different cities committing a series of murders in cold blood. “With the Holocaust as a backdrop,  the film has an important and contemporary message about Crimes against Humanity,” Berdugo explained.  

Now in post, delivery is slated for late 2022.

“Krishnamurti, The Revolution of Silence,” (Françoise Ferraton, France)

A doc feature on the life and impact of the anti-establishment free thinker, produced by France’s Maya Films. The director spent 10 years making this film about Krishnamurti, one of the most prominent masters of spirituality of the 20th century, said Berdugo. Completion is scheduled late this year.

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