European Discovery Award Nominees: 5 First-Time Directors Making Their Mark

Courtesy of Venice International Film Festival
'The Eremites'

The nominees for the European Film Awards' Prix Fipresci share a passion for personal storytelling solidly outside the mainstream.

The European Film Awards — Europe's closest equivalent to the Oscars — turns 30 this year, but if 2017's nominees are anything to go by, the EFAs' best years could be yet to come.

The nominees for the European Discovery Award, or Prix Fipresci, which honors first-time filmmakers, have rarely looked better.

The five nominated films differ in setting, style and language but share a common desire to tell their stories in a different, and uniquely European, way.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke to this year's Discovery nominees ahead of the EFA ceremony in Berlin on Saturday.

Hubert Charuel (Bloody Milk)



Charuel set his debut thriller in French cow country, following a young farmer determined to do anything to save his animals from an epidemic. “I’m the son of a farming couple, and even though I knew I wouldn't take over my parents’ farm, making a film about this milieu was very necessary for me. I needed to get this story out there,” said the filmmaker.

What was the single hardest thing about making your first film?

Struggling with doubts.

Which European director or European film most inspires you?

Even though it’s not really close to my work, I think it’s Ridley Scott. And I love Ressources Humaines from Laurent Cantet.

Which European film this year do you wish you could have directed?

Loveless by Andrei Zvyagintsev.

What’s your dream project if money, etc., were no obstacle?

I’d like to make a social action comedy with dinosaurs.

William Oldroyd (Lady MacBeth)



With Lady Macbeth, an 18th century tale of Katherine (Florence Pugh), a young woman caught in a loveless marriage, Oldroyd set out to deconstruct the British period drama. “Her response is not to suffer in silence, or run away, or commit suicide, as so many women have done in novels of that period, but to fight back," he said. "Ultimately, we did feel like we were more representative of that region and period.”

What was the single hardest thing about making your first film?

Working out where to put the camera and why. As a theater director I am used to long periods of rehearsal where I can establish with the actors, writer and designer how to stage the play. These plays are usually viewed from one angle by the audience who decide when to zoom in to the close-up and which character to follow. In film, this responsibility is given to me and the cinematographer, and I found it hard to learn which angle to take when a scene could be viewed from virtually anywhere.

Which European director or European film most inspires you?

I love the work of Michael Haneke. He is a master of composition, precision and tension. I don’t think I slept for two days after first seeing Seventh Continent. He is also a director who strives to make the audience participate in the cinematic experience. This is an important ambition for me, too.

Which European film this year do you wish you could have directed?

The Killing of a Sacred Deer. I haven't seen The Square yet, but I know I will wish I’d directed it when I see it. I loved [Ruben Ostlund's previous film] Force Majeure.

What’s your dream project if money, etc., were no obstacle?

A film adaptation of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

Ralitza Petrova (Godless)

For the Bulgarian director, her tale of a caregiver who looks after the elderly with dementia while trafficking their ID cards on the identity black market was intended to capture “the consequence of communism which keeps claiming its toll ... with the fall of an ordinary person, forced to act against their good conscience.”

What was the single hardest thing about making your first film?

Making sure at the end of each shooting day, I had captured enough honesty and mystery.

Which European director or European film most inspires you?

I don’t have one director, or a film. But the work of Michael Haneke, Yorgos Lanthimos, Ruben Ostlund, Jessica Hausner, Lars Von Trier, and Sergei Loznitsa touches me in a deep way.

Which European film this year do you wish you could have directed?

I do what I do, so any wish would’ve ended up in a very different film. I like the story of The Killing of a Sacred Deer. I would’ve liked to have a go at a story like that.

What’s your dream project if money, etc., were no obstacle?

My next film. It’s a coming-of-age-at-40 psychodrama, with elements of black comedy.

Carla Simon (Summer 1993)

The Spanish filmmaker drew on her own childhood memories for her feature debut about a girl who loses her parents and moves from Barcelona to the Catalan province to live with her aunt and uncle. “I lost my mother when I was six and my father had died earlier,' said Simon. "The summer of 1993 was my first with a new family. Some scenes are exactly as I remember them and many others are based on certain thoughts or impressions. So it’s my story, through and through.”

What was the single hardest thing about making your first film?

The hardest thing for me was the lack of time. We shot the film in six weeks and we had two little girls as main protagonists, so we could only work six hours per day for legal reasons. Therefore, I had not time to think or reflect about all the quick decisions I was taking or to experiment and look for interesting discoveries on set. And there was another quite difficult thing: my personal attachment to the story. I was filming scenes inspired by my own childhood, so it was crucial to get some distance to my own memories and look at what was happening in front of the camera, making sure that it was also expressing the story I wanted to tell with all its nuances.

Which European director or European film most inspires you?

My list of European directors that inspire me is huge! If I had to name one, I would choose Claire Denis. I love her sensitivity, there are always some great scenes in each of her films that make me feel very deep emotions. I admire her way of portraying human relationships; her characters are always complex and tender at the same time. I’m also fascinated by her way of filming; through her lenses she caresses the characters, their bodies, their faces and also the landscape.

Which European film this year do you wish you could have directed?

I’m very sensitive to all HIV-related stories as my parents died of AIDS and it’s a theme I like to explore. So I obviously would have loved to direct BPM: Beats Per Minute. I think Robin Campillo does a delicate and truthful portrait of what it was to experience and live with HIV during the '90s. It’s a film that touched me very deeply; somehow it transported me to my mum’s illness in a way I had never felt again since then. I think the actors are absolutely great, and I love every character in the film.

What’s your dream project if money, etc., were no obstacle?

The stories I write are never too expensive to produce, although they could be done with more money than what we had, so time wouldn’t be a problem. But I do have a dream that could get quite expensive: to adapt some of Raymond Carver’s stories.

Ronny Trocker (The Eremites)

The Italian filmmaker brought his background in documentaries to his feature debut about a young man who, despite his mother's urgings to leave, can't break free of the tiny mountain community where he grew up. “Stuck between a loaded past and an uncertain future, the characters of the film are trying to find their own way to move forward, but in such a hostile environment, every decision can become existential," said Trocker.

What was the single hardest thing about making your first film?

To pretend every day that I know exactly what I’m doing, even if I was obviously full of doubts.

Which European director or European film most inspires you?

There are many directors and films I admire and I feel connected to. My inspiration usually has not only one source and often it even comes from outside cinema.

Which European film this year do you wish you could have directed?

A film is the result of a very intense journey. It’s collective and at the same time very intimate and personal. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to imagine myself in the place of another director.
 
What’s your dream project if money, etc., were no obstacle?

Every new project is a dream project. And if there are no obstacles and enough money, even better!

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