Three Columbia Alumni Projects Selected for Torino FilmLab’s 2021 Scriptlab

Cody Beltis
April 05, 2021

Three Columbia alumni have had their projects selected for Torino FilmLab’s 2021 Scriptlab. They are: The Wolf Will Tear Your Immaculate Hands, written and directed by Nathalie Álvarez Mesén ’19Custo de Vida, a feature project written and directed by Moara Passoni ’20 and Monument directed by Christoph Rainer ’15. After moving completely online in 2020, this year ScriptLab returns with a hybrid version, taking learning from last year’s experience and combining it with the knowledge of a residential workshop that has been running successfully since 2009.

The Wolf Will Tear Your Immaculate Hands is set in Europe in the 1790s. The story centers around Isabel, a conservative European governess, who travels to Colonial Latin America to educate the two daughters of a British widower. Slowly, she discovers that a wilderness runs within the women in the house.

Nathalie Álvarez Mesén is a Costa Rican-Swedish film writer/director. She started her career in physical theater in Costa Rica before pursuing her BFA in Mime Acting at the Stockholm University of the Arts in Sweden. Álvarez Mesén graduated from Columbia University's Graduate Film Program in NYC with an MFA in Film Directing/Screenwriting, and is currently in post-production on her first feature film, Clara Sola.

An alumna of the Berlinale Talents, TIFF Filmmaker Lab, NYFF Artist Academy, Cine Qua Non Lab and Talents Guadalajara, Álvarez Mesén has written and directed films that have screened at prestigious film festivals around the world. Her short film, Filip, was awarded Best Live-Action Film Under 15 Minutes at the 2016 Palm Springs International Short Film Festival, and her short film, Asunder, screened at the 2016 Telluride Film Festival, which was curated by Barry Jenkins as part of their "Calling Cards" program. Both Asunder, and her short film, Letting Go, have been selected as Vimeo Staff Picks.

Fluent in Spanish, Swedish, and English, Álvarez Mesén has written and directed films in all three languages and has a cultural background in Latin America and Europe. Most recently, Álvarez Mesén co-wrote the Colombian short film, Entre Tu Y Milagros, winner of the Orizzonti Award for Best Short in the Venice Film Festival 2020.

The Wolf Will Tear Your Immaculate Hands recently won the Women in Film & Television (WIFT) Award, Sweden's ANNA Prize and scholarship. Clara Sola, another feature co-written & directed by Álvarez Mesén, was acquired for worldwide distribution by LuxBox. It recently won the TitraFilm Award at the Les Arcs Film Festival, in the Work in Progress competition.

Custo de Vida, or Cost of Living, is based on the true story of the homonymous movement, the first voice of grassroots revolt against the authoritarian regime in Brazil in the 1970s. The film is told from the perspective of its protagonists: a group of housewives from São Paulo’s southern and impoverished outskirts.

Passoni is a New York City based filmmaker. She co-wrote and associate produced The Edge of Democracy (2019). In addition to the Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary this year, the film was nominated for best narration and writing by The Critics' Choice Awards and the International Documentary Association.

For much of her adolescence, Passoni was anorexic, an experience she bracingly evokes in her hypnotic and unsettling debut feature, Ecstasy (Êxtase), which premiered this year at CPH:DOX. The film is inspired by the director’s own diaries and interviews with other anorexics to capture the lived experience of anorexia, its social underpinnings and its use as an object of theory. Ecstasy (Êxtase) will screen virtually at the Museum of Modern Art's Doc Fortnight Festival from March 28 to April 2, 2021.

Passoni’s work in development includes Cost of Living, a 1960s-set hybrid neorealist film telling a true story of political revolt and the fight for worker’s rights; Corinthians Democracy, a limited series set around a rivalry in the world of Brazilian soccer; and her first full dramatic feature, based on the true story of a New England woman whose life encompassed theater, mental illness and, finally, death by COVID-19. 

Monument follows the highly gifted Alice who desires nothing more than to secure her latest invention with a patent. But the male-dominated patent office keeps rejecting her application. Therefore Alice ventures out on an obsessive tour-de-force to fight for her mysterious masterpiece.

Rainer graduated from the Filmacademy in Vienna, where he was taught by Michael Haneke. With a Fulbright Scholarship, he was able to complete his MFA at Columbia University. His short films have been invited to over 400 film festivals and have won dozens of awards. At Columbia he sprayed a cardboard box silver and used two old camera lenses as eyes to shoot a robot short film. It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival where it won the TIFF Emerging Filmmaker Award. He’s now adapting the robot into a feature film.

Since 2009 Christoph runs the Shortynale Film Festival and divides his time between the United States and Austria.