’50 or Two Whales Meet on the Beach’ Tops Toulouse’s Films in Progress

John Hopewell

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MADRID — Having placed Hari Sama’s “This is Not Berlin” at 2019’s Sundance Festival, Mexico’s Catatonia Cine has scored at France’s Toulouse Latin America Film Festival, taking two of the biggest prizes in this year’s online Films in Progress section.

An industry fixture, Toulouse’s Film in Progress grants post-production and distribution awards to up to six pix-in-post from Latin America. A notable number segue from Toulouse to selection at Cannes.

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The latest production from Catatonia Cine, ruToulousen by Sama, Veronica Valadez and Laura Berrón, “50,” the feature film debut of former commercials director Jorge Cuchi, turns, like “This is Not Berlin,” on the world of adolescence, here two 16-year-olds, Félix and Elisa. They meet playing the Blue Whale Game, fall in love and decide to take on together the game’s final challenge: Suicide.

Written and directed by Cuchi, “50” won the most probably biggest prize on offer on Friday: the  Cine Plus Films in Progress Special Award, consisting of a pick-up for broadcast by France’s Canal Plus film service, plus €15,000 ($16,200) towards a French distributor’s costs for a theatrical release in France.

“50” shared a second plaudit, the Films in Progress Toulouse Award, with Argentine Juan Pablo Félix’s “Karnawal,” another tale of adolescence, produced by Félix’s Bikini Films partner Edson Sidonie. Lifting the lid on the malambo dance culture on the Argentine-Peru border, building to an extraordinary climax, and grounding a coming-of-age thriller in a strong sense of place, “Karnawal” proved a standout at Ventana Sur’s pix-in-post showcase Primer Corte last December where it won the European Vision Award and Le Film Francais Awards. After Ventana Sur, Beta Cinema beat off rivals to acquire “Karnawal’s ” world sales rights in a competitive bidding situation.

The Films in Progress’ third prize, the European Distributors and Exhibitors Award, was split between “Memory House,” from Brazil’s João Paulo Miranda Maria, and “El Otro Tom,” directed by Mexico’s Rodrigo Pla.

Produced by Brazil’s  BossaNovaFilms (“Violeta Went to Heaven”) and France’s Mineki Films (“Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story”)), the countryside-set fantasy identity parable marks the debut of Miranda Maria whose shorts have been selected for Cannes Critics’ Week, Cannes Official Competition and the Venice Festival.

Written by Laura Santullo and Plá, driving forces of Mexico’s modernday film renaissance, “El Otro Tom” centers on a single mother who battles for custody of her child after refusing to continue giving him psychiatric medication.

A traditional springboard for the Cannes Festival, with producers also parlaying Toulouse FIP awards into sales agents’ pick-ups, Toulouse cancelled its 2020 32nd edition on March 13, hours after French prime minister Edouard Philippe restricted public gatherings to a maximum 100 people. Toulouse’s industry centerpiece, the six-title Films in Progress, has gone ahead, however, with titles screened and judged online.

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