Breaking Through The Lens announced on Feb. 25th, 2020 out of the European Film Market the short-list of projects in consideration for selection in the upcoming 3rd edition of their pitching platform at Cannes. The initiative is focused on generating measurable actions to overcome the greatest barrier to emerging filmmakers in the industry – access to finance, and allows female and nonbinary directors the opportunity to pitch upcoming projects to a selectively chosen industry figures.
Spearheaded by filmmakers Daphne Schmon, Emily Carlton and Elpida Stathatou BTTL is designed to be a practical resource for under-served filmmakers, one that is multicultural, intersectional and result-driven. “There’s clearly a disconnect happening in the industry when you look at the numbers of women coming out of film schools and the numbers of features being directed by women,” says co-founder Emily Carlton. “As filmmakers ourselves, we found that the biggest obstacle was getting finance. When you’re in Cannes it can be very difficult to get meetings with some of the bigger financiers. It can be overwhelming.”
The 2019 edition of Breaking Through The Lens featured ten projects with over eleven countries represented, and a sold-out audience of over one-hundred. Three of those projects have since moved into production. “The gender imbalance at the top levels of our industry is evident now more than ever, with not a single woman nominated for Best Director at the BAFTA’s or Oscars” adds co-founder Daphne Schmon. “The talent is definitely out there, along with lots of good will in the industry. But at a certain point, talk is not enough. At BTTL, we invite the industry’s leading decision-makers to let their action speak louder than words.”
Following the success of last year, the 2020 edition promises notable growth with plans to expand the scope of events coordinating through the Breaking Through The Lens network.
The shortlist includes African dance-driven feature, “Rhythm in Blues” (RnB) by Tamika Guishard, whom Spike Lee calls “an exciting…urgent voice” and is lensed by the first black woman cinematographer to complete Tisch Grad Film; Daresha Kyi’s US Documentary “Mama Bears” which follows conservative Christian mothers whose lives are transformed as they accept LGBTQ children; Ahd Kamel’s Saudi Arabian feature “My Driver and I” set in 80s and 90s Jeddah about an unlikely friendship between a privileged Saudi girl and her Nubian driver, and Laura Moss’ feature debut, a female-driven Frankenstein adaptation “Birth/Rebirth”.
Thirteen countries are represented in the shortlist, which will be narrowed down to ten projects to be invited to pitch at Cannes in May. Below you can find the full list of projects, as well as the 2020 jury who will make the final selection.
2020 BTTL Shortlisted Projects:
ALEGRIA | Spain | Drama
Alegria is a journey through social and religious diversity, where three women who, each in their own way, want to break with social impositions in a city as unique as unknown: Melilla.
Director: Violeta Salama
Producer: Clara Nieto
ALASKA | USA | Thriller
Small town Gemma moves to Los Angeles with big dreams. She takes a job at a mysterious clinic with promises to make clients’ dreams come true, and slips into a nightmarish reality in which she must face the scariest thing of all: herself.
Director: Rachel Cain Stephens
Producer: Maria Allred
BIRTH/REBIRTH | USA | Horror
An all-female adaptation of the Frankenstein myth. A grieving mother and a pathologist obsessed with reanimating the dead embark on a dark path of no return as they realize the lengths they will go to protect what they hold most dear.
Director: Laura Moss
Producer: Mali Elfman
CHICKENSHIT | USA | Drama
With the help of a scrappy group of boys, 11-year-old Phoneix sets out on a dangerous mission to save her Detroit neighborhood from arsonists and prove herself to her father.
Director: Jessica dela Merced
Producer: Bob Shaye
DANCING FOR HEAVEN | USA, UK | Documentary
Director: Billie Porter
Producer: Candice Dragonas
FOUR LETTERS OF LOVE | UK, Ireland | Drama
Nicholas Coughlan and Isabel Gore are fated to be together. That is as sure as the sky is blue and the sea is ever changing. The question is whether or not they will ever find out.
Director: Polly Steele
Producer: Chris Curling
GILLYFISH | USA | Drama
During a road trip to confront her new girlfriend’s estranged family, Gillian reconciles her first relationship with a woman. But when she’s abandoned at the hotel, blocks from the family’s home, she chooses to knock on the door anyway, and take on her girlfriend’s identity.
Director: Sarah Sellman
Producer: Jon Shestack
JENNIFER, 42 | USA | Animated Documentary
An animated True Crime documentary, JENNIFER, 42, is an innovative why and howdunnit, a painstaking re-investigation into the shocking course of events that led to Jennifer’s eventual murder – a ‘murder in slow motion’ that lasted fifteen years.
Director: Elle Kamihira
Producer: Katie Hyde
KODOKUSHI | Phillippines, Japan, Malaysia | Drama
A middle-aged Japanese salaryman risks everything and moves to the Phillippines to escape the fate of kodokushi – the lonely death.
Director: Janus Victoria
Producer: Loma Tee
LET’S DO THIS | Canada, USA | Comedy
A Queer ensemble buddy comedy where four best friends with student loan debt looming over their heads attempt the heist of a breakfast television show giveaway despite their complete lack of know how or skill.
Director: Lora Campbell
Producer: Emily Andrews
LILLY | USA | Drama
A political drama based on the life of Lilly Ledbetter, the Fair Pay Activist who fought all the way to the Supreme Court and then Congress to make laws better for women and workers.
Director: Rachel Feldman
Producer: J. Todd Harris
MAMA BEARS | USA | Documentary
A documentary look at how the lives of conservative, Christian mothers are utterly transformed when they decide to accept their LGBTQ children – no matter what it costs them.
Director: Daresha Kyi
Producer: Yvonne Welbon
MOUTH | USA | Drama
When a broke Fem-Studies major assumes an alias and delves into a transactional relationship with an affluent divorcé, she must masquerade as a suburban trophy wife while finishing her degree – before her dual identity is unveiled.
Director: Kimi Lee
Producer: Isabel Marden
MURDER FANS | UK | Horror
Seven true crime fans throw a Divorce Party for their friend in the home of a recent serial killer. But it is far too soon to be there, for their heartbroken friend and for the evil still lurking in the home.
Director: Nat Luurtsema
Producer: April Kelley
MY DRIVER AND I | UK, Saudi Arabia, France | Drama
In 80s and 90s Jeddah, a privileged Saudi girl and her Nubian driver form an unlikely friendship which is tested when she starts to take the wheel.
Director: Ahd Kamel
Producer: Georgina Paget
RHYTHM IN BLUES | USA | Drama
East New York’s house of cards is shaken by powerful African rhythms when three foster siblings – a Jack and two Kings – scarred by senseless loss of life without health insurance, age out of the system and must heal their wounds without coverage.
Director: Tamika Guishard
Producer: Birgit Gernböck
SKIN OF THE YOUTH | USA, Vietnam | Drama
1988 Vietnam, San and Nam find their love tested when they court the criminal underworld in order to find enough money for San’s sex-change operation.
Director: Ash Mayfair
Producer: Ngoc Tran
THE OTHER WIDOW | Israel | Drama
Ella, 32, a theatre dresser and mistress, experiences the sudden death of her lover. She attends his Shiva while keeping her identity under wraps and dives into a world once forbidden to her. Through intimate encounters with his brother, parents, and wife, she eventually demands her legitimate right to mourn.
Director: Ma’ayan Rypp
Producer: Amir Harel
THE WILD ONES | Scotland | Documentary
Seven stories of trauma, loss and healing which explore the transformative power of wild swimming.
Director: Eva Weber
Producer: Jessica Levick
YOU AND ME BOTH | USA | Drama
After the death of their adoptive mother, two sisters, one a struggling heroin addict fresh from rehab, take a road trip through America’s Heartland to meet their Korean birth mother. Along the way, they must navigate feelings of grief, regret, doubt, and fear in order to find their way back to one another.
Director: Jennifer Suhr
Producer: Carolyn Mao
2020 BTTLE Official Jury:
EMMA BERKOFSKY | Head of Development at Lionsgate UK
URSULA DEVINE | Development Executive at Northern Ireland Screen
AKUA GYAMF | Founder of The British Blacklist
DAISY HAMILTON | Acquisitions & Business Development at TriCoast Worldwide
KATE KINNINMONT | Managing Director of The F Word Media company
NINA RITTER | Acquisition & Development Executive at Studiocanal in Berlin
CADDY VANASIRIKUL | VP of Acquisitions & Productions at The Exchange
TIFFANY BOYLE | President, Packaging & Sales at Ramo Law
TINA GHARAVI | BAFTA-nominated TV and film Director, participant BTTL 2019
The final list of projects is to be announced in early April. For more information visit www.breakingthroughthelens.com.