#Giffoni54: First titles in competition announced

Ethnic discrimination, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sports as an opportunity for redemption and growth, the hardships of being a parent, a son or a daughter, the discovery of one’s sexuality and the beauty that lies in not identifying oneself in any label: these are just some of the subjects that are explored by the first titles selected for #Giffoni54, scheduled from July 19 to 28, 2024. The theme of the 54th edition of the festival will be The Illusion of Distance: a choice meant to highlight a paradox and reveal the dangers of the sense of isolation, which are identified with the fear of the other, of what is perceived as different and distant, as well as with the deception of feeling disconnected. This year’s theme is an invitation to re-embark on common paths together, to discover the invisible bonds that do exist and that, despite apparent divisions, reveal how incredibly close and inextricably united we are.

To date, films in competition come from ArgentinaBelgiumBoliviaChileCroatiaDenmarkFranceGermanyHungary, IndiaItalyJapanLuxembourgMexicoNorway, the NetherlandsPolandSloveniaSpainSweden, the UK and the USA.

Feature films, short films and documentaries will be viewed and judged by more than 5 thousand Italian and international jurors, with delegations from over 30 countries. The jurors themselves will be responsible for deciding the winners of the Gryphon Award. Here are the first selected titles:

ELEMENTS +6 (6 to 9 years old)
Friendship and animal defense are at the heart of THE CHAOS SISTERS FEAT. PENGUIN PAUL by Mike Marzuk (Germany/Belgium/Italy – distributed by The Playmaker Munich). The director is well-known at Giffoni for his films The Famous Five (winner of the Elements +6 section in 2012) and The Famous Five 2 (winner of the same section the following year). Chaos has four names: Livi, Tessa, Malea and Kenny. The sisters have nothing in common except their last name, but things are going to change soon. The reason is Paul, a penguin who is kidnapped from the zoo, but manages to escape and take shelter at the girls’ home. The sisters will soon find out that behind the kidnapping is the Magician Duo, who want to make the penguin part of their show. The second film in the section is HÅKAN BRÅKAN 2 by Ted Kjellsson (Sweden – festival contact Swedish Film Institute), who already presented at the festival Alone in Space (Elements + 10, 2019). On this new adventure, Håkan Bråkan longs for a pet, but he will have to prove he is responsible. The first test will be to spend a week at a scout camp without causing havoc. However, thieves are around, and he finds a treasure map. Last but not least, TOTTO-CHAN: THE LITTLE GIRL AT THE WINDOW, by Shinnosuke Yakuwa (Japan – distributed by Toho Global), who is especially renowned for directing several films in the beloved Doraemon saga and more than 70 episodes of the series. TOTTO-CHAN is set in Tokyo during World War II, in an ideal school that combines learning, fun, freedom and love. The facility has old train cars as classrooms and is run by an extraordinary man: Sosaku Kobayashi, a fervent advocate of freedom of expression.

ELEMENTS +10 (10 to 12 years old)
Integration, sport, courage, self-discovery: here are the main topics addressed by the feature films competing in the Elements +10 section. In WINNERS by Soleen Yusef (Germany – produced by DCM Pictures and Boje Buck Produktion), the protagonist is 11-year-old Mona who, together with her family, has fled Syria and arrived in Berlin. She starts going to a primary school that is known for being attended by “foreigners” and where chaos reigns supreme. The girl can barely speak German, but she can play football. A teacher spots Mona’s talent and recruits her for the girls’ team. This does not make things any easier, though: teaming up with the other girls turns out to be more challenging than expected. Each of them is fighting their own battles, but one thing soon becomes clear: they can only win if they play together. Ineke Houtman, who has already participated in the festival with Polleke (Free to Fly, 2004), The Indian (Elements +6, 2010) and My Grandpa the Bankrobber (Elements +10, 2011), is now going to present at Giffoni THE BOOK OF EVERYTHING (Netherlands – produced by Kaap Holland Film and FATT Productions). Actress featured in the film Aiko Beemsterboer is also the lead in the Netflix production My Best Friend Anne Frank. Thomas has a very strict and extremely religious father, who rules his family by punishing his wife and children when they cross the line. The boy has an imaginative approach to faith: he has long talks with Jesus and tries to appease his father with the same plagues that Moses unleashed on Pharaoh of Egypt. Unfortunately, these have no effect; in fact, they make things worse. That is until, thanks to the help of a kind “witch” who happens to be his neighbor, Thomas becomes fascinated with music and books. Based on the novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo, KENSUKE’S KINGDOM is the debut feature by Kirk Henry and Neil Boyle (United Kingdom/Luxembourg/France – distributed in Italy by Movies Inspired, international distribution Cinema Management Group). Young Michael embarks on a sailing trip around the world with his family. During a storm, he and his dog Stella are thrown overboard and end up on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. But he soon realizes there is someone watching them and helping them survive. The selection wraps up for the moment with LARS IS LOL, the debut feature by Eirik Sæter Stordahl (Norway – distributed by TrustNordisk, festival contact Norwegian Film Institute). Eleven-year-old Amanda is unwillingly given the task of taking care of her new classmate, Lars, who has Down syndrome. The two develop a unique friendship, but in her struggle to fit in, Amanda ends up betraying Lars, losing everyone’s trust anyway. As she tries to be forgiven, she must find the courage to stand out and be true to herself.

GENERATOR +13 (13 to 15 years old)
Self-discovery that is accomplished amid emotions and attraction: this is just one of the main threads running through the storylines of the first feature films included in the Generator +13 section. In WHEN WE LOST TO THE GERMANS by Guido Van Driel (Netherlands/Belgium – produced by Family Affair Films), we are brought back to the summer of 1974, on the day following the World Cup final between Germany and the Netherlands. The streets are empty and the city is hungover. In this scenario, Jonas meets Daan. Despite not being friends, the two decide to spend some time together; after all, they are both looking for their classmate Karsten, though for different reasons. Meanwhile, Catootje’s disappearance looms over the boys like a bolt out of the blue. Ingrid Pokropek’s debut feature THE MAJOR TONES (Argentina/Spain – distributed by Bendita Film Sales) is a fantasy tale steeped in music, secret messages and winter atmospheres. Ana is a fourteen-year-old girl who lives with her father Javier, a painter and art teacher. While on vacation, the girl finds out that the metal plate on her arm, which was caused by an accident, is sending her a strange message in Morse code. Falling in love for the first time is the main theme explored in YOUNG HEARTS, the debut feature by director Anthony Schatteman, written together with Academy Award® nominee Lukas Dhont (Belgium/Netherlands – distributed in Italy by I Wonder Pictures, international distribution Films Boutique). Elias, 14, feels attracted to his new neighbor Alexander. He soon realizes that he is falling in love for the first time. Talking to friends and family brings more questions than answers. Confused by his own feelings, the boy tries to bring order to his inner chaos. WE GROWN NOW by Minhal Baig (USA – distributed by Sony Pictures Classic) is set in Chicago in 1992. As Michael Jordan establishes himself as a champion, the story of two young legends begins. Best friends Malik and Eric, dreamy-eyed and hopeful, travel across the city trying to escape the banality of school and the hardships that come with growing up in public housing, but their unbreakable bond is tested when their community is shaken by a tragedy.

GENERATOR +16 (16 to 17 years old)
How difficult is it to be a parent? And how complicated is it to be a child? These are some of the questions underlying the films competing in the Generator +16 section. The first title is NOT A WORD by Hanna Antonina and Wojcik Slak (Germany/Slovenia/France – distributed by Beta Cinema). When Nina finds out that her son Lars has been injured in an accident at school, she is faced with a dilemma: should she leave her orchestra and completely devote herself to him? She makes a compromise decision: she will leave Munich for five days to be with the boy. Mother and son are thus forced to face each other, while Nina is tormented by the fear that she is sabotaging her career. Misunderstandings increase, assumptions turn into suspicions: did Lars witness a horrible crime at school? Was he involved in it? The search for one’s parents is the main subject of THE DOG THIEF (IL LADRO DI CANI) by Vinko Tomicic (Chile/Mexico/Bolivia/France/Italy – distributed in Italy by Movimento Film, international distribution Luxbox Films). Thirteen-year-old Martin, an orphan and shoeshine boy, comes to believe that one of his customers, lonely tailor Mr. Novoa, is his biological father. In LANGUE ÉTRANGÈRE by Claire Burger (France/Germany/Belgium – distributed by Goodfellas), we set off for Germany on a language exchange with Fanny. In Leipzig, she meets her pen pal Lena, who is the same age as her and is eager to get involved in political activism. To impress Lena, Fanny fakes a different life, but soon gets caught in her own deceit.

GENERATOR +18 (18 to ∞ years old)
The works that make up the Generator +18 selection feature a great variety of themes: in Jawad Rhalib’s AMAL (Belgium – distributed by Bendita Film Sales), an idealistic and passionate literature teacher in a suburban Brussels school becomes the target of intense hostility from fellow colleagues, students and their parents with ties to Islamic radicalism when she chooses to help a teenage Muslim girl accused of not following religious dictates after she comes out on social media. Lead actress Lubna Azabal was also featured in the 2016 film My Revolution, which competed in the Generator +13 section. Joren Molter’s debut feature SUMMER BROTHER (Netherlands/Belgium – produced by Family Affair Films and Polar Bear) presents Brian and his father Maurice, who live in a run-down trailer park. When the nursing home offers financial compensation if they take care of Brian’s severely disabled brother Lucien during summer vacation, Maurice immediately accepts. Brian becomes responsible for the boy, which makes them true brothers. However, as the situation escalates between Maurice and his creditors, the trailer is no longer a safe place for Lucien, and so Brian is forced to make a decision as an adult. In Pau Calpe’s WEREWOLF (Spain – produced by Galápagos Media and Dacsa Produccions), the sensitive topics of marginalization and diversity are dealt with through the use of symbolism that refers back to folk beliefs on werewolves… Director Hisham Zaman, who already presented at the festival Bawke (short film – Confini section, 2007) and Before Snowfall (Generator +16, 2013) will be back in Giffoni this year to present A HAPPY DAY (Norway – distributed by Reinvent Int’l Sales, festival contact Norwegian Film Institute). Three teenage friends are stranded in a cold and hopeless place, but they devise a plan to escape across the mountains to a world where their dreams can be fulfilled. However, when one of them falls in love, their plan begins to fall apart. A film that cleverly blends magical realism, dark comedy and surrealism.

GEX DOC (teachers, parents and filmgoers)
Ethnic discrimination, war and alliances, choices and courage are the main themes addressed by the films selected for the GEX DOC section. KIX by Bálint Révész and Dávid Mikulán (Hungary/France/Croatia – distributed by East Silver Caravan) is a 12-year odyssey that follows the journey of Sanyi, who grows from a lively child on the streets of Budapest into a confused teenager. The documentary chronicles the evolution of the boy’s life, marked by family struggles, school problems and a future with uncertain contours. Sylvain Cruiziat’s debut feature BOYZ (Germany – distributed by Rise and Shine World Sales) follows Maxime, Julian and Vilas through their lives as students in Munich. With an honest and straightforward look, the film makes the viewer dive into an intimate male friendship and the protagonists’ world made of love and sex. UNTIL I FLY by Kanishka Sonthalia and Siddesh Shetty (India/France – distributed by Taskovski Films) is also a debut feature. A child born to an Indian mother and a Nepalese father lives in a Himalayan-Indian village. The documentary follows Veeru’s story as he struggles with the deep effects of ethnic discrimination. Coming from a village where he is teased because of his mixed heritage identity, the boy faces relentless bullying and disparaging insults. Rather than fight back, he retreats into his own world and sees nature as his refuge. However, sometimes it takes very little to change a life. The GEX DOC selection is completed for now with SILENT TREES by Agnieszka Zwiefka (Poland/Germany/Denmark – festival contact KFF Sales & Promotion). When her mother tragically dies in the woods on the Polish-Belarusian border, Runa, a 16-year-old Kurdish girl, must grow up quickly to look after her 4 younger siblings and her powerless and depressed father. The family deals with trauma in the refugee camp and slowly tries to build a new life in Poland. Runa’s greatest fear is being forced to return to Iraq, where Kurds are faced with the threat of ISIS. She longs to live like her new European friends and become a lawyer. But just as she manages to make her dream of going back to school come true, another threat appears – the threat of deportation.

GEXDOC - KIX

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