Still from Costa Brava, Lebanon, directed by Mounia Akl '17, co-written by Clara Roquet '16, edited by Cyril Aris '17
Image courtesy of Mounia Akl

Columbia Films Screen at TIFF, Alumni Win for ‘Costa Brava, Lebanon’

BY Angeline Dimambro, September 22, 2021

The Toronto International Film Festival has announced its complete list of 2021 award winners, and among them is Costa Brava, Lebanon, a film by alumni Mounia Akl '17 (director, co-writer), Clara Roquet '16 (co-writer), and Cyril Aris ’17 (editor).

 

Costa Brava, Lebanon was awarded the NETPAC Award, which recognizes films specifically from the Asian and Pacific regions, in recognition of the best Asian film by a first- or second-time feature director. Presented by the Network for the Promotion of Asian Pacific Cinema, the 2021 NETPAC Award jury included Gemma Cubero del Barrio, Isabelle Glachant, and Elhum Shakerifar.

 

Costa Brava, Lebanon—an exquisite intergenerational family story—is an ode to sustainable futures by visionary new talent, Mounia Akl from her precious and troubled country,” reads the NETPAC jury’s statement.

 

Mounia Akl is an award-winning Lebanese filmmaker living between Beirut and New York. Her short film, Submarine (2016), was in the official selection of the 69th Cannes Film Festival (Cinefondation), SXSW, TIFF, and Dubai International Film Festival, where it won the Muhr Jury Prize. In 2017, Akl took part in the Lebanon Factory and co-directed a short film El Gran Libano, which opened Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and screened at Sarajevo Film Festival and BFI London, among others. Akl recently completed the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinéfondation Residency in Paris with her first feature, Costa Brava, Lebanon. The project was also selected to participate in Torino Film Lab Feature Lab and in the Sundance Institute Screenwriters and Directors Lab.

 

Clara Roquet (1988) started her career co-writing the multi-awarded 10,000 Km (2014), alongside director Carlos Marques-Marcet. Soon thereafter she started her first writing-directing venture, the short film El Adiós (2015), which premiered at Toronto IFF and was an EFA nominee and a BAFTA Students Award winner. Since then, Roquet has collaborated with directors such as Jaime Rosales, Paula Ortiz, Isabel Coixet, Mounia Akl, and Antonio Méndez Esparza, among others.

 

Cyril Aris is a Lebanese director and screenwriter based in New York and Beirut, and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His debut feature documentary, The Swing (2018), premiered at the Karlovy Vary IFF, and won awards in El-Gouna, Rome, London, Budapest, and Tunisia. He has taught film at Columbia University, NHSI at Northwestern University, and Barnard College. 

 

Original article: August 6, 2021 by Nicole Saldarriaga

 

The Toronto International Film Festival has announced its selection of films for this year's event, the 46th edition of the festival. TIFF, which holds the distinction of being the world's largest public film festival, will feature 10 days of international and Canadian cinema, starting September 9, 2021 and running until September 18, and will combine both in-person and digital screenings. Poised to screen at the festival are several films by School of the Arts alumni, students, and faculty.  

 

According to TIFF Executive Director and Co-Head Joana Vicente, "We are so proud of the calibre of the films and the diversity of the stories we will be presenting this year. It is so powerful to be able to share these films with Festival-goers in theatres. And while the world is definitely moving towards a degree of normalcy, many of our industry and press colleagues may not be able to travel across international borders. In response, we have brought back the TIFF Digital Cinema Pro platform that will host Press & Industry screenings, the Industry Conference, press conferences, as well as the TIFF Industry Selects market. We believe that digital access is an important part of providing accessibility to audiences and will be vital to the future of film festivals. This inclusivity across all our offerings helps to ensure that, no matter where you are located, you can participate in the Festival."  

 

Films by School of the Arts alumni, students, and faculty include: 

Still from Are You Lonesome Tonight?, directed by Film student Shipei Wen, written by Shipei, Noé Dodson '19, and Yinuo Wang '16, produced by Wang Lu Ka '20

Are You Lonesome Tonight? 

Directed by Film student Shipei Wen

Co-written by Shipei, Noé Dodson '19, and Yinuo Wang '16

Produced by Jing Wang '15

 

This film—which was nominated for the Caméra d'Or at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival—follows Xue Ming (Eddie Peng) after he hits a pedestrian with his car and flees the scene. Riddled with guilt, he befriends the pedestrian's wife. The situation becomes even more complicated when the body is found covered in bullet wounds. The detective assigned to the case, Chen (Yanhui Wang), becomes more and more obsessed with the mystery as the years pass and the lies only further entangle the characters. 

 

Shipei Wen is a writer-director based in Shenzhen. He received his professional training in film production (directing) at Columbia University. His short film The Carpenter premiered at the Palm Spring International Shortfest. His credits as cinematographer include Iron Hands and Ping Pong Coach, both premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, where Ping Pong Coach won the Best Short Film Award. 

 

Born and raised in China, Yinuo Wang is a bilingual screenwriter with an MFA degree in Film from Columbia University. Since moving to New York in 2011, she’s been traveling between China and the US, striving to tell stories that resonate across different cultures. Her shorts have screened and won awards in numerous film festivals including Venice, Taipei Golden Horse, Palm Springs, Cleveland, Newport Beach, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Her feature scripts have won development awards in Berlinale Talents, Busan's Asian Project Market, and Shanghai International Film Festival. Besides writing for films, Wang currently works as a creative writer & strategist at Google.

 

Jing Wang is a Beijing-based film producer. Her credits include Johnny Ma's To Live To Sing (2019) (Cannes 2019); Pei-Ju Hsieh's Heavy Craving (2019) (Busan 2019); Johnny Ma's Old Stone (2016) (Berlinale 2016) and Wen Shipei's debut feature Are You Lonesome Tonight? (2021)(Cannes 2021). She received her MFA in Creative Producing from Columbia University.

 

Noé Dodson is a screenwriter and director who graduated from the Film MFA Program at Columbia University. He also specializes in photography and the fine arts, having previously earned his BA at the Institut National Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle et des techniques de diffusion (INSAS). He also produced and served as an editor for the upcoming film Something Solid.

Still from Costa Brava, Lebanon, directed by Mounia Akl '17; co-written by Clara Roquet '16; edited by Cyril Aris '17

Costa Brava, Lebanon 

Directed by Mounia Akl '17

Co-written by Akl and Clara Roquet '16

Edited by Cyril Aris '17

 

This feature film, which will also screen at the 2021 Venice Film Festival in September, follows the Badri family who flee from the pollution of Beirut by building themselves a "utopic self sustainable mountain home." After they move in, they are shocked to find that a landfill is being built right outside their fence, leading to mounting tensions and threatening their utopian lifestyle. 

 

Mounia Akl is an award-winning Lebanese filmmaker living between Beirut and New York. Her short film, Submarine (2016), was in the official selection of the 69th Cannes Film Festival (Cinefondation), SXSW, TIFF, and Dubai International Film Festival, where it won the Muhr Jury Prize. In 2017, Akl took part in the Lebanon Factory and co-directed a short film El Gran Libano, which opened Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and screened at Sarajevo Film Festival and BFI London, among others. Akl recently completed the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinéfondation Residency in Paris with her first feature, Costa Brava, Lebanon. The project was also selected to participate in Torino Film Lab Feature Lab and in the Sundance Institute Screenwriters and Directors Lab.

 

Clara Roquet (1988) started her career co-writing the multi-awarded 10,000 Km (2014), alongside director Carlos Marques-Marcet. Soon thereafter she started her first writing-directing venture, the short film El Adiós (2015), which premiered at Toronto IFF and was an EFA nominee and a BAFTA Students Award winner. Since then, Roquet has collaborated with directors such as Jaime Rosales, Paula Ortiz, Isabel Coixet, Mounia Akl, and Antonio Méndez Esparza, among others.

 

Cyril Aris is a Lebanese director and screenwriter based in New York and Beirut, and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His debut feature documentary, The Swing (2018), premiered at the Karlovy Vary IFF, and won awards in El-Gouna, Rome, London, Budapest, and Tunisia. He has taught film at Columbia University, NHSI at Northwestern University, and Barnard College. 

Still from The Game, written, directed, and produced by Ana Lazarevic '12

The Game 

Written, directed, and produced by Ana Lazarevic '12 

 

Based on Lazarevic's Columbia University short film, The Runner, The Game follows Strahinja (Branislav Trifunovic), a smuggler who unexpectedly becomes stranded with two teenage refugees from Yemen whose gusto for life teach Strahinja an important lesson about his own life and values.  

 

Ana Lazarevic is a Writer and Director with an MFA from Columbia University. Her feature film, The Game, was an IFP and Film Society of Lincoln Center Emerging Visions Project, developed through EAVE, Cine Qua Non Lab, and New York Stage and Film and supported by Film Center Serbia. Her short film, The Runner, premiered at the New York Film Festival, won Best Screenplay at Columbia University and the Grand Jury Prize at Martha's Vineyard Film Festival. Lazarevic was born in Belgrade, Serbia, Yugoslavia.

Still from Murina, directed by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović '17, co-written by Kusijanović and Frank Graziano '19

Murina

Directed by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović '17

Co-written by Kusijanović and Frank Graziano '19 

 

This feature film was the winner of the prestigious Caméra d'Or at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and follows a small family made up of young mother Nela, teenaged Julija, and strict father Ante. The family's world on a Croatian island is rocked by the visit of an old family friend. While Ante is absorbed in a land deal, Nela and Julija must deal with their complex relationships to the foreigner's presence in their home. 

 

Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic is a writer-director born in Dubrovnik, based in New York. Her short, Into the Blue, was nominated for a Student Academy Award, and won awards at the Berlin International Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, Oberhausen Film Festival, and the Festival de Premier Plans, Angers, among many others. Murina is Antoneta’s first feature film, developed with support from the Résidence du Festival Cannes, Cinéfondation, First Films First by the Goethe-Institut, and Jerusalem Film Lab. She holds an MA from Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb and an MFA in screenwriting and directing from Columbia University in New York. Antoneta is an alumna of the Berlinale Talent Lab, Sarajevo Talent Lab, La Femis Producing Atelier, and the Marcie Bloom Fellowship.

 

Frank Graziano is a New York-based screenwriter and director whose films explore stories of the contemporary American city. He is the creator of the documentary series Feel My Pain, which follows four of New York's most notorious gangsters of the 1990s as they prepare for a stage play about their lives. Graziano is also a founding partner of Unwashed Films and holds an MFA in directing from Columbia University.

Still from 7 Prisoners, produced by Associate Professor and alumnus Ramin Bahrani (CC '96)

7 Prisoners 

Produced by Associate Professor and alumnus Ramin Bahrani (CC '96) 

 

This Brazilian Netflix film will also screen at the 2021 Venice Film Festival in September. 18-year-old Mateus (Christian Malheiros) accepts a job at a junkyard in São Paulo run by Luca (Rodrigo Santoro). Unbeknownst to him, Mateus's new job is a trap which sucks him into a work system that amounts to slavery and human trafficking. 

 

Ramin Bahrani is an award-winning Iranian American writer, director and producer. His films have premiered in Venice, Cannes, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals. In 2010 legendary film critic Roger Ebert proclaimed Bahrani as “the director of the decade.” Bahrani has won numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a “Someone to Watch” Independent Spirit Award. He has been the subject of retrospectives around the world and all his cinematic work is housed in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His feature films have won numerous awards.