The Future is Female at Locarno Pro as ‘Mother Vera,’ ‘No Ifs or Buts,’ ‘Pas Ta Maman’ Scoop Awards

It was a good day for female filmmakers – and documentaries – at Locarno Pro, with “Mother Vera” by Cécile Embleton and Alys Tomlinson winning the Creativity Media First Look Award on Sunday at Locarno’s pix-in-post competition, dedicated this year to the U.K.

Dedicated to a young Orthodox nun, “Mother Vera” shows her turbulent past and fragile future as she faces inner conflict after 20 years as a monastic.

“From the opening moments of this film, we were immediately drawn to the strikingly photographed stark portrait of a fascinating nun in Belarus who makes a journey to France,” said jurors Ava Cahen, Gaia Furrer and Eugene Hernandez. 

The award covers post production services up to the value of €50,000 ($55,000). Laura Shacham produces “Mother Vera” for She Makes Productions.

While six UK works-in-progress were selected for the 12th edition of the First Look initiative, another doc, Sarah Lewis’ “No Ifs or Buts” – about London’s barbershop-turned-cultural hub “Cuts” – ended up picking up Jannuzzi Smith Award (€8,500: $9,370) and Le Film Français Award (€5,600: $6,200).

“‘Cuts’ has never been just about the haircut, but a place where people would go to connect and create,” she told Variety. Lewis, who produces for Felt Culture, began filming back in 1996. DoBeDo co-produces.

“The 25-year timespan, although frustrating at times, has been an opportunity to witness profound personal shifts in the hairdressers’ lives within the wider changing context of the UK’s cultural landscape.” 

Alliance 4 Development, a co-development initiative for film projects from Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, also revealed its winners, starting with “Pas Ta Maman” by Michèle Flury, which received the Alphapanda Market Breakout Award, consisting in consultancy services valued at €3,500 ($3,860). 

Sommerhaus Filmproduktion’s Felix Schreiber produces. 

“Mandy’s journey will be that of a woman who experiences sexual violence and comes to realize that she is a victim, even if she denies it at first. Gradually, she finds a way to break free from the role assigned to her by her perpetrators and fights back. Moreover, she allies with two other women fighting the same battle,” noted Flury.

The jurors called the film “a brutal yet playful tale that uses contrasting genres to explore a current and important topic, abuse against women and what it means to be sexualized, victimized and to fight back.”

Despina Athanassiadis and producer Quentin Daniel celebrated the win of “The Young One,” granted a script consultancy residency at DreamAgo (5,000 CHF: $5,730), while Lorenz Merz’s “Who/Man” won the Midpoint Consulting Award.

“Objet a” by Ann Oren walked away with the Ticino Film Commission Residence Award, consisting of a two-day location scout (4,000 CHF: $4,580) and letter of intent for financial support for the production company if all or part of the film will be shot in Swiss region Ticino (worth up to 12,000 CHF: $13,750).

“We are extremely pleased that our jurors and partners assigned their prizes to emerging talents and mostly first or second-time directors, which is very much in line with our mission of discovering new talents. And yes, many female filmmakers!,” stated Markus Duffner, head of Locarno Pro.

Alberto Cavalcanti’s “Mulher de verdade” won the first ever Heritage Online Restoration Contest. The film will now enter a restoration process offered by Zurich and Berlin-based Cinegrell.

“With this award we want to underline Alberto Cavalcanti’s importance and creative vision that shaped Brazilian filmmaking, leaving a lasting impact on the country’s cinematic heritage,” stated the jury consisting of Paula Astorga, Frédéric Maire and K.J. Relth-Miller.

“It’s an incredibly good choice and much needed endorsement of the Brazilian Cinematheque’s work. Especially now, when they are coming out of a rather dark era,” added Duffner.

Full list of winners:

First Look 

Creativity Media First Look Award

“Mother Vera”

Dir: Cécile Embleton and Alys Tomlinson

Producer: Laura Shacham (She Makes Productions)

Jannuzzi Smith Award

“No Ifs or Buts”

Director and producer: Sarah Lewis (Felt Culture)

Le Film Français Award

“No Ifs or Buts”

Alliance 4 Development

Alphapanda Market Breakout Award

“Pas Ta Maman”

Dir: Michèle Flury

Producer: Felix Schreiber (Sommerhaus Filmproduktion)

Script Consultancy Residency at DreamAgo, offered by the Valais Film Commission

“The Young One” (“La P’tite”)

Dir: Despina Athanassiadis

Producer: Quentin Daniel (Wombat Films)

Midpoint Consulting Award


Dir: Lorenz Merz

Producer: Michela Pini (8horses) 

Ticino Film Commission Residence Award

“Objet a”

Dir: Ann Oren

Producer: Kristof Gerega, Sophie Ahrens and Fabian Altenried (Schuldenberg Films)

Heritage Online Restoration Contest

“Mulher de verdade” (1954) by Alberto Cavalcanti

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