The world’s premier market and services for creative documentary cinema, Docs for Sale, opens its 2022 catalogue with 15 exciting films from around the world. They deal with current topics, follow inspiring or controversial characters, show us the lives of vulnerable protagonists, and explore subjects from pop culture and history. About half of the titles in the selection have already had their successful festival premieres, and one or more broadcasters are involved in six of them.
Our overview starts with two films that shed a light on the ongoing Russian aggression on Ukraine. Denmark's Simon Lereng Wilmonts follows up on his IDFA 2017 First Appearance-winning film The Distant Barking of Dogs with A House Made of Splinters (pictured on top), which brought him the best director award at Sundance. A production by Final Cut for Real, with Cinephil as the sales agent on board, the film follows a small group of social workers working tirelessly in a special kind of orphanage in Eastern Ukraine to create a magical safe space for kids while the state decides on their future.
In Moscow, Marusya Syroechkovskaya spent 12 years filming with her friend and one-time husband as he struggles with addiction in How to Save a Dead Friend. A raw, painfully honest, self-reflective look at the life of a lost generation growing up under Putin, the documentary co-produced by Sweden's Sisyfos Film, Norway's Folk Film and France's Les Films du Tambour de Soie, and handled internationally by Lightdox, won a special mention in Visions du Réel's International Feature Film Competition.
In Naples, in Hide and Seek, Victoria Fiore follows another problem child, a boy named Entoni as he fights for freedom during a state crackdown on children at risk of entering organized crime that his grandmother Dora used to belong to. A truly cinematic exploration of life on the streets of a city in which nothing is as it seems, the production by the UK company My Accomplice is handled internationally by Syndicado and has had its world premiere at CPH:DOX.
Troubled youth are also the protagonists of Clare Weiskopf and Nicolas van Hemelryck’s Berlinale Generation entry Alis. The formally simple but deeply sensitive and touching film is set in the Arcadia Public Boarding School where girls who used to live on the streets of Bogota give life to a fictional classmate, revealing their past experiences, dreams and sufferings. Latido has the international rights for the co-production between Colombia’s Casatarantula, Romania’s Defilm and Chile’s Pantalla Cines.
Another school, this time an elementary one in Belfast, is the setting for Neasa Ní Chianáin and Declan McGrath’s lively and inspiring documentary Young Plato which follows headmaster Kevin McArevey who is determined to turn the fortunes of a community plagued by urban decay, sectarian aggression, poverty and drugs. The production of Ireland’s Soilsiu Films is handled internationally by Autlook Films.
Children are also the topic of Fan Jian’s After the Rain which tackles one less-known aspect of China’s population control policies following the disastrous 2008 earthquake in Sichuan. To help families grieve, the government encouraged parents to have a second child in a twisted act designed to replace the dead. The extraordinary documentary produced by FAN Film Studio and sold by CAT&Docs catches up on this social experiment a decade later, following two children in search of their own identities.
The personal intertwines with the political even more directly in Akuol de Mabior’s No Simple Way Home. The director’s mother, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior, is also known as the mother of South Sudan and she follows her through an intergenerational conversation that charts their struggle to reconcile family and country. The Berlinale title was co-produced by South Africa’s Steps, which also handles the sales, and Kenya’s LBx Africa.
In Moosa Lane, director Anita Hopland, a Danish-based child of a Norwegian mother and Pakistani father, follows her Pakistani family of 25 people through more than 100 hours of footage shot over the course of 15 years. Immersing herself in this parallel reality, the director re-evaluates her own life in this CPH:DOX entry, a co-production between Denmark’s Sonntag Pictures, which also holds the international rights, and Norway’s Spaett Film AS.
Two engaging and eye-opening films in the catalogue tackle the topic of unbridled capitalism. John Webster’s dynamic and piercing documentary, co-produced by Finland’s Yellow Film & TV and Norway’s Aldeles AS and handled by CAT&Docs, The Happy Worker – Or How Work Was Sabotaged reveals the systemic problems that plague the workplace: from a culture of silence, fake change and incompetent managers, to how we educate our children.
In Robin Bank, Spanish director Anna Giralt Gris combines a passionate personal investigation with archive footage and animation in the story of the Catalan activist Enric Duran who is in hiding after he took out almost €500,000 on loan from 39 banks and instead of returning them invested them in social projects to expose unethical banking practices. Java Films has the rights to the co-production between Spain’s GusanoFilms and Germany’s Indi Film.
Two documentaries in the selection follow their protagonists as they question their lives while on the road. In the quirkier one, Crows Are White, after decades of living a secret life, Pakistani-born Ahsen Nadeem tries solving his dilemmas about faith and love by visiting a strict Japanese monastery in search of guidance - but only gets help from a monk with a penchant for heavy metal and ice cream. Produced by the US company Memory, the film is handled internationally by Autlook Films.
In the more atmospheric, hypnotic film A Parked Life, Belgian director Peter Triest follows a wry-humoured Bulgarian truck driver as he tries to balance his work that keeps him on the road for months at a time with the fact that he has just become a father and must fight for the bond with his son. CAT&Docs has the international rights for this Savage Film production.
Three films in the catalogue deal with products of popular culture and their place in our world. In the wildly explosive Once Upon a Time in Uganda, Cathryne Czubek introduces us to Nollywood's younger brother, Kampala's Wakaliwood, through the story of how an American film nerd and a DIY filmmaker bond over their love for action movies and catapult the local industry to international stardom. The co-production between US companies Salted Media, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Fork Films, and Gigantic Studios is sold internationally by Blue Finch Film Releasing.
In the Gwendoline Christie-narrated Loving Highsmith, director Eva Vitija sheds new light on Patricia Highsmith's quest for identity and troubled love life. Based on the unpublished diaries of the author whose novels were adapted for hit films such as Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr Ripley and Carol, the documentary is a co-production between the Swiss and German branches of Ensemble Film and is handled internationally by Autlook.
Finally, in The Garden That Doesn't Exist, Rä di Martino revisits the famous Giorgio Bassani novel and Vittorio de Sica's Oscar-winning film The Garden of the Finzi-Continis and their effect on and place in Italian culture and society. Mediawan has the rights for this co-production between Italy’s Alto Piano and France’s Les Films du Poisson.
Detailed information on all the films can be found on their respective pages.
This showcase kicks off Docs for Sale 2022, and the call for new entries will open mid-June 13 with a deadline on September 8.