Mariko Minoguchi, Mo Harawe, Mo Scarpelli Bring New Projects to Locarno’s Alliance 4 Development

Alliance 4 Development, a co-development initiative for film projects from Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland hosted by Locarno Pro, has revealed 11 titles selected for its 7th edition.

The majority of the projects will be directed by women, from Giorgia Wurth’s “Allegra” about a late-life sexual awakening to Malina Mackiewicz’s “Bottom of the Ocean Electric Fish” and Mariko Minoguchi’s upcoming “Element.” The latter will address some environmental fears as a team of scientists tries to ensure that Earth’s water supply won’t suddenly disappear.

Minoguchi, who previously co-wrote the script to Tim Fehlbaum’s “The Colony,” is hoping to develop a German science fiction film that “doesn’t shy away from big emotions or images,” she stated, “that makes you think and reflect and, above all, is a moving and impressive cinematic experience.”

Big emotions will also fuel Manon Coubia’s “Songs of the Fallen Mountains,” with old lovers reunited on a mythical mountain, and Stéphane Riethauser’s “Orpheus” about a relationship between a young dancer and his choreographer.

“‘There is no love; there are only proofs of love.’ These words by Jean Cocteau will guide me to direct my first fiction feature,” he promised, calling it “a film beyond labels, barriers and genres. A film that reminds us that freedom to love is the most precious thing we have. A film as a proof of love.”

Thomas Woschitz will take a look at shifting social hierarchies in “The Beginning of Gravity or the Fateful Journey of a Noble Family and Their Servants Across the Mountains,” described as a “baroque road movie,” while questions of “social belonging, identity and individual otherness” will be explored in Willy Hans’ “Der Fleck.”

Loosely inspired by “Faust and Vampires,” Vero Cratzborn will play with genre in “Molecules,” a thriller about two twin sisters and their complex bond. Anchored in reality yet sliding towards strangeness, she will deliver “a close-to-us body horror, brutal and frontal.”

Alliance 4 Development will also showcase the first film by “The Vincents,” aka Vincent Veillon and Vincent Kucholl, who will direct and star in “A Vampire in Ropraz,” starting all the way back in 1903 with a terrifying discovery that shocks one community to its core.

“This is a powerful project, carried by a team which we know aims to reach a large audience with a demanding auteur film,” observed producer Jean-Marc Fröhle, praising its international potential.

Mo Harawe will cross borders as well, returning to his Somali roots in “The Village Next to Paradise,” while Mo Scarpelli will travel to western Kenya for “A Song That Slays,” in which she will explore an old myth.

“Whatever the subject or context, the potential to forge partnerships across regional borders will be artistically and developmentally fruitful for all of those just now stepping into the feature director’s chair for the first or second time,” teased the program’s organizers.

Finally, for the very first time, the selected projects will compete for the Alphapanda Market Breakout Award. Alphapanda, a film marketing agency founded in 2011, will offer the winner a marketing consultancy and the creation of a pitch deck valued at €3,000 ($3.060).

“Applying a real marketing strategy to a film in development is essential and gets often overlooked by producers,” Mathias Noschis, founder of Alphapanda, told Variety. The company is also behind the Audience Engagement Award at Les Arcs Industry Village and the Alphapanda Award at Marché du Film’s Cannes Docs.

“We hope this award will help the awarded project find production and sales partners. We know the quality of the films presented at Alliance 4 Development and can’t wait to discover the projects this year.”

The program of Alliance 4 Development will take place over three days (Aug. 5-7) at the Locarno Film Festival.

Brief profiles of the projects:



Dir. Giorgia Wurth

A widow in her 60s, who never had an orgasm, suddenly discovers her late friend’s secret: she used to work as a prostitute. Now, Allegra has a chance to follow in her footsteps, despite everything she used to believe in. “It’s long been my dream to tell a story about old age, the most precious stage of life precisely because it’s the last one. I was specifically looking for a story which allowed me to tackle a taboo: bodies which deteriorate and weaken but which, despite everything, pulsate with life and desire,” said Wurth. Rough Cat’s Nicola Bernasconi produces.

“A Song That Slays”

Italy, U.S.

Dir. Mo Scarpelli

Based on a myth about a girl who ate a poisonous flower to escape marriage with an old man, “A Song That Slays” marks Scarpelli’s fiction debut, after her standout doc feature “El Father Plays Himself.” Described as a fable, it will be set among the Pokot community of western Kenya. “[It’s] an ode to girls who choose to face their own destinies confronting taboos and ready-made narratives about women as perpetual victims, while exploring the violence and bravery inside of us too,” said the Italian-American director. Produced by Luigi Chimienti and Alessandro Amato (Dispàrte), the project is co-produced by Rake Films.

“The Beginning of Gravity or the Fateful Journey of a Noble Family and Their Servants Across the Mountains” 

Austria, Switzerland

Dir. Thomas Woschitz

This “baroque road movie” produced by Gabriele Kranzelbinder and Barbara Pichler (KGP Filmproduktion), Woschitz and co-produced with Katrin Renz (Tellfilm), will be set in the 17th century. A noble family sets out to cross the Alps with their servants, but a thunderstorm and problems that follow disrupt the existing hierarchy. It will explore “power and powerlessness, faith and knowledge, selfishness and selflessness,” all the while featuring a score by Laibach: “Georg Friedrich Händel translated into a contemporary key,” added its helmer.

“Bottom of the Ocean Electric Fish”


Dir. Malina Mackiewicz

On an island in the Pacific Ocean, families are kept imprisoned in a refugee camp. Only those in need of urgent medical treatment, or pregnant women, are transferred to the mainland – which is what two teenage girls are hoping for. “Despite the real-world circumstances that served as initial inspiration, this political context is to remain in the background of an intimate film about girlhood,” noted Mackiewicz, pointing out that “the heart of the story is hidden in the private moments of adolescence.” Andrea Paris (Ascent Film) and Valeria Beraldo produce.

“Der Fleck” 

Germany, Switzerland

Dir. Willy Hans

The project, in an early financing stage, will see a boy who – after escaping from boarding school – finds himself on a riverbank with a group of strangers. Luckily, he soon meets a girl and the two embark on their own adventure. Setting out to investigate the boundaries between individuality and community, Hans intends to “playfully and humorously explore the limits and possibilities of social interaction.” Produced by Julia Cöllen, Karsten Krause, Frank Scheuffele (Fünferfilm, also behind Locarno’s “Human Flowers of Flesh”) and co-produced with Michela Pini (8horses).



Dir. Mariko Minoguchi

From Minoguchi, who impressed with her time-looping debut, “Relativity.” When Earth’s water threatens to disappear without a trace, a team of scientists is tasked with traveling to the mysterious source of the natural disaster. In Minoguchi’s science fiction project, set to be shot in English and produced by Jorgo Narjes (X Filme Creative Pool), the aim is to “tell a story that can do justice to the visual standard of the genre and be realized with a relatively low budget.” “Our advantage is that we don’t have to develop a new CGI alien but are using something we already know,” she said. “Water, an element that has great cinematic potential.”

“Songs of the Fallen Mountains” 

France, Belgium

Dir. Manon Coubia

In her feature debut Manon Coubia will continue her exploration of the mountain, “of those who inhabit and haunt it,” focusing on a glaciologist and alpinists eyeing a route on a newly collapsed mountain – including her former lover. Produced by Emmanuelle Latourrette (El Film) and co-produced with Coubia, Nicolas Rincon Gille and Jeremy Van der Haegen (The Blue Raincot), it will see “passionate characters who gravitate around this mythical place at the moment when the edifice threatens to disappear,” said the director. Yoann Zimmer is tapped to star.

 “A Vampire in Ropraz” 


Dir. Vincent Veillon and Vincent Kucholl

Adapted from the work of Jacques Chessex, this “pulp rural” kicks off in 1903, when a body of a recently buried woman has been mutilated. As the investigation goes on, it’s hard to identify suspects. “It is the book that called for the project, not the other way around. But then, how to tell the story of fear? Perhaps by looking at it from the side, by scrutinizing characters whose lifestyles could be even more gory than a desecrated grave,” noted the directors. Jean-Marc Fröhle (Point Productions) added: “‘The Vincents’ will propel this classic into their cinema galaxy!”



Dir. Vero Cratzborn

To save her sister from a degenerative disease, Diane takes part in the first clinical trials of an experimental molecule. But it could be dangerous to cut the cord with her twin. “I wish to resonate with our current fears,” explained the director. “In our society, addicted to the powerful pharmaceutical industry, bodies are exploited, borrowed, risked, healed. In ‘Molecules,’ bodies will speak, more than words.” Billed as a thriller, according to producer Thomas Lambert (Tomsa Films) it will also be “a love story about fusion and loss, where saving becomes a trap.”


Switzerland, France

Dir. Stéphane Riethauser

Produced by Véronique Vergari (Luna Films) with Thomas Lambert co-producing, this tale of forbidden desire shows a bond between teenage Leo and much older Matthias, a choreographer who hires him at the opera. They fall in love but a controversy breaks out – Matthias is accused of exposing young dancers to pornography. “Music and dance are like love: they travel beyond words, revealing the unconscious and our animality,” said Riethauser. “A contemporary, intimate drama with epic accents, ‘Orpheus’ offers a critical look at the norms and values that shape us.”

“The Village Next to Paradise”


Dir. Mo Harawe

A highly-regarded short film director, Somalia-born Mo Harawe – who plans to work with local non-professional actors – will follow a Somali family and their daily struggles over the course of one summer in this feature. “I want to be a part of the growing but still very small film infrastructure in Somalia,” he noted, with his producer Oliver Neumann (FreibeuterFilm) adding: “The story gives us an insight into everyday life in Somalia from an inside view, a life that we – if at all – only know from a western, superficial perspective. We see a great opportunity to place [Mo Harawe] as a new African voice in the international arthouse field.”