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HBF autumn 2023 filmmaker portraits


Rotterdam, 9 November 2022

The Hubert Bals Fund backs ten new feature projects

The fund underscores its commitment to fostering new and diverse voices, supporting a majority of projects by emerging talent.

The Hubert Bals Fund (HBF) of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) has chosen ten feature film projects to each be awarded a grant of €10,000 under its Script and Project Development Support scheme. The fund underscores its commitment to fostering new and diverse voices from across the globe, backing a majority in the selection who are embarking on debut or second fiction feature projects, as well as supporting seven female voices. A committee of international industry experts selected the projects from more than 760 applications. 

Tamara Tatishvili, incoming Head of the Hubert Bals Fund: 
“In these complex times, when uncertainty seems to reign, the significance of impactful storytelling becomes even more pronounced. In the midst of a fiercely competitive round and guided by the diligent efforts of the HBF selection committees, I am delighted to extend a hand of companionship to the creative teams that’s about more than just financial backing. This stage of filmmaking is where stories are conceived, ideas take flight, and the very essence of a film is defined.” 

Vanja Kaludjercic, IFFR Festival Director:
"The Hubert Bals Fund remains a steadfast ally for emerging talent and a vital tool in championing storytelling worldwide. It's truly encouraging to find both new faces and familiar filmmakers who've previously showcased their work at the festival among our selections. We take immense pride in supporting their creative journeys."

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Concept stills from the selected projects

About the selection

On the true but forgotten events of the Zambian space programme is Afronauts, the first feature by Ghanaian filmmaker Nuotama Frances Bodomo, whose short of the same name screened at IFFR 2017. Senegalese-French filmmaker Katy Léna Ndiaye turns from the past to the shockingly present, with a story that touches on the climate crisis. In her debut fiction feature Lënd, rising waters threaten the lives of the residents of the fishing neighbourhood as a family battles to preserve their way of life. 

Self-taught Vietnamese filmmaker Le Bao continues a trend of projects in the selection that deal with water, flows and displacement. The Sea Is Calm Tonight is his follow-up to the Berlinale Encounters jury prize-winning Taste (2021), about a meeting at sea between the spirits of Vietnamese boat people and Rohingya refugees. Mimicking the flows between the more than seven thousand islands that make up the Philippines, Martika Ramirez Escobar follows her Sundance-winning Leonor Will Never Die (2022) with three distinct stories featuring a fisherman’s daughter, a dying mermaid and a documentary filmmaker in Daughters of the Sea

Ana Elena Tejera’s Corte Culebra addresses the ancestral trauma of the communities displaced on Gatun Lake, the artificial heart of the Panama Canal. Her first feature, the film poem Panquiaco, had its world premiere at IFFR 2020. Another of the filmmakers in the selection to have screened their work at IFFR is Shengze Zhu, whose Present.Perfect. competed in the Tiger Competition at IFFR 2019. Her fiction debut A Distant House Smokes on the Horizon will explore the violence of the everyday with the recent phenomenon of juvenile murder cases in China. Night and Fear by Lipika Singh Darai, who is from the Ho indigenous community in eastern India, was in competition at IFFR 2023. She follows it with her feature debut, the lucid dream-infused Birdwoman. The film will be made in the Odia language.

Egyptian filmmaker Nada Riyadh’s feature fiction debut Moonblind will be rooted in an arena of traditional Egyptian healing rituals, as the non-binary Badr reckons with their escape from a sexually abusive father. With I Recognized Him by His Hands, Omer Capoglu presents a humorous but heartfelt take on the Turkish culture around martyrdom. Nadir Öperli is the producer of the project, as he also was for the celebrated IFFR 2023 Limelight title Burning Days

Brazilian filmmaker Leonardo Martinelli takes on the gig economy in musical style, protesting against the anonymising and casualisation of labour by making the delivery drivers in his film the loudest they can be, singing and dancing in the streets. Fantasma neon is the follow-up to the short of the same name, which had its premiere at Locarno in 2021 where it won the short film Pardo d'oro. 

Script and Project Development Support 2023 complete selection:

  • Afronauts, dir. Nuotama Frances Bodomo, Zambia, United States
  • Birdwoman, dir. Lipika Singh Darai, India
  • Corte Culebra, dir. Ana Elena Tejera, Panama
  • Daughters of the Sea, dir. Martika Ramirez Escobar, Philippines, Spain, Brazil
  • A Distant House Smokes on the Horizon, dir. Shengze Zhu, China, United States
  • Fantasma neon, dir. Leonardo Martinelli, Brazil
  • I Recognized Him by His Hands, dir. Omer Capoglu, Turkey
  • Lënd, dir. Katy Léna Ndiaye, Senegal, France, Belgium
  • Moonblind, dir. Nada Riyadh, Egypt
  • The Sea Is Calm Tonight, dir. Le Bao, Singapore, Vietnam 

For loglines and further details, click here.
For project stills and portraits, click here.

The Hubert Bals Fund supports groundbreaking film projects in every stage of the production process, working especially with filmmakers from countries where local film funding and infrastructure is lacking or restrictive. The fund closely collaborates with IFFR’s other industry activities, which include talent development and the co-production market CineMart.

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