As part of the sixth edition of the MIPDoc Co-Production Challenge, presented by Reed MIDEM and realscreen, six producers from around the world convened in Cannes during MIPDoc to pitch to a panel of judges. This year’s panel included CBC’s executive director, factual entertainment, Julie Bristow; RAI commissioning editor Lorenzo Hendel; A&E Television Networks’ VP international programming Michael Katz; ITVS’s VP of programming Claire Aguilar and jury chair and BBC Storyville commissioning editor, Nick Fraser.
The first project presented was Notion Pictures Ltd.’s Burning Needs (UK), a doc which follows a British scientist as he tries to persuade Honduran farmers to implement a sustainable technique to replace ‘slash and burn’ farming in the rainforest. Director Adam Wakeling called his film one of the few environmental films that has some good news to deliver.
Next up was French prodco de films en aiguille and American director Shola Lynch with Free Angela, a feature-length doc on the trial of activist/educator Angela Davis. Lynch enthusiastically described the circumstances surrounding the death penalty trial of Davis, a known communist in Los Angeles in the ’70s, for her alleged involvement in a prison escape which resulted in the deaths of police officers. The project features interviews with Davis and others involved in the trial.
Partner Pictures out of the U.S. presented From Texas to Tehran, a doc following an amateur basketball player from the U.S. who gets an opportunity to play professionally in Iran. While there, he befriends women who are struggling for social change in their country and learns that many of the beliefs he initially held about the region were wrong.
Listopad by U.F.O. Pictures from the Czech Republic had the most complex premise of the docs presented. Looking back at the Velvet Revolution in Prague – an overturn of the communist government fueled by repression as exemplified in a violent attack by riot police on a student demonstration in 1989 – the doc, to be directed by Barbara Kopple, tells the story of three participants between then and now, and watches them as they react to a modern reenactment of the demonstration, being filmed for a feature.
Sudan in Fragments by Lobodocs/Aegis Trust (UK), will be a two-hour television doc following a Sudanese man who has been living in the UK as he returns to his war torn homeland to see how his family and friends are living today.
The winning pitch was for Filament Pictures’ The Rat Race (Mumbai), the story of a troop of government workers in Mumbai that has one of the most sought-after jobs in the city: rat killer. Apparently there is an equal ratio of people to rats in Mumbai, so 50 men hold the position, walking the streets and whacking rats with sticks. The most compelling aspect of this film, aside from the curious nature of this highly desired job, is the main character, Behran Harda, who is the head of the team and has been performing this job for 34 years. The jury was enthralled with Harda and the story. Thus, the project, and director Miriam Chandy Menacherry, claimed first place.