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Les Arcs Talent Village: Filmmakers and Composers

by Aurelia Aasa

As the short film industry is thriving, film festivals are putting more and more emphasis on how to accompany short film makers on their journey towards first features. Les Arcs' Talent Village, which just wrapped its tenth edition, is one of such initiatives. Curated by the Industry Village team, eight participants showcased their upcoming projects, exploring themes ranging from post-apocalyptic scenarios to coming-of-age narratives. The participating directors were: Rinaldas Tomaševičius (Lithuania), Emma Branderhorst (Netherlands), Marlene Emilie Lyngstad (Norway), Alma Buddecke (Germany), Lisa Sallustio (Belgium), Joséphine Darcy Hopkins (France), Anna Wowra (Poland), and Isabella Margara (Greece).

For this writer, the most intriguing part of the three-day event was the workshop focusing on the collaboration between filmmakers and composers. In the film industry, directors (or producers) usually choose composers for their projects. In the Talent Village, the tables are turned, with composers selecting the directors. So, in addition to the presented feature film projects, four composers (each of whom worked on two projects), performed their scores. Composers selected for this year edition were Niki Demiller (France), Jac van Exter (Netherlands), Juliette Sedes (France) and Ovidiu Zimcea (Romania). 

One of the most memorable projects comes from Lithuania. Rinaldas Tomaševičius graduated from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre in 2022. A little over a decade ago, he faced homelessness. The director is open about his 20-year struggle with heroin addiction and often draws inspiration from his past. His short Last Time (Clermont-Ferrand 2022) follows a pregnant couple trying to find money for the addiction treatment. 

In his feature Dead Among the Living – Alive Among the Dead (produced by Lineta Lasiauskaite of Vilnius-based Plopsas), Tomaševičius centres the narrative around Alanas who falls into heroin addiction after joining a street gang in order to escape his destructive family. On-set photos showcased at the festival depicted industrial landscapes and gigantic Soviet bloc houses, hinting at a similar setting as we have seen in his shorts. Accompanied by a captivating soundtrack by Juliette Sedes which blends Lithuanian folk songs with techno, the presentation marked a promising beginning for a bold autobiographical exploration of substance abuse.

“As a musician you always want to make a banger, but you have to tune yourself to the level of the film,” explains Zimcea. A melancholic tune accompanies the project by Emma Branderhorst, the director of several festival darlings (Spotless, Ma mère et moi), whose feature debut This Will Not End Well tracks the ending of a friendship. “I wanted to capture the feeling of a relationship that’s slowly drifting apart,” said the director. 

Zimcea also worked with Marlene Emilie Lyngstad on Cute, a feature that follows the life cycle of a mass-produced stuffed animal, and which ended up winning the Talent Village Award. Lyngstad, whose graduation short Norwegian Offspring was awarded this year at Cannes’ La Cinef (formerly Cinéfondation), points out the contrast between ‘tenderness and grotesqueness’ that her team wants to explore further in the film. Cute is being produced by Carl Adelkilde of the Danish branch of Nordisk Film.

Paris-based Alma Buddecke recently wrote and directed for the Disney+ series ’Pauline’ that is premiering next year. Inspired by Somen Banerjee, the founder of Chippendales, Buddecke’s feature with the working title Hunger, revolves around the life of Howie, a struggling carwash employee. Composer Jac van Exter chose synth sounds and 70s tunes to enhance the story.

Lisa Sallustio’s debut Cantiques follows a glaciologist who starts a mysterious course of events after being sent to analyse a melting frozen lake, while dreams and nightmares collide in Joséphine Darcy Hopkins’ fantasy-horror Docile (producer Vincent Brançon, TBC Productions) which tells the story of two sisters who discover an underground hairless rat colony. In collaboration with the composer Niki Demiller, classical music with a hint of grotesque was chosen to accompany the narrative of the project which received a special mention. 

Another sister story comes from Anna Wowra, whose debut In Good Faith (produced by Tomáš Pertold of the Czech company Perfilm) speaks about unwanted pregnancy in a small, conservative Polish town, the same setting as in her short film Stuck Together.

Isabella Margara, a medical doctor turned filmmaker, presented the environmental post-apocalyptic western Black Water. The director intends to explore the question of how to live a life when life has become unbearable. Demiller crafted a soundtrack with traditional Balkan music, enhancing the film's melancholic atmosphere. While the exact direction of the work in progress is still unclear, Margara's previous work, the gloomy fairy-tale-like short Nothing Holier than a Dolphin, winner of the international Audience Award at this year's Clermont-Ferrand, suggests a surreal addition to the post-apocalyptic genre.

Several of the selected eight projects addressed similar topics, whether the ideas were based on personal stories or fantasy scenarios. And while the stage and potential of the projects varied, several of presented projects have promising distribution prospects. There is certainly room to improve diversity, particularly by including animation and documentary directors in the line-up. Nevertheless, Les Arcs' Talent Village has had another fruitful year, affirming the talent and unique perspectives that thrive in the short film industry.

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