“I cannot tell you how satisfied and happy I am that I could be a part of this program and this family.”
— Nematullah Khoshahmadi, Afghanistan (Director of DON QUIXOTE OF KABUL)
We had a wonderfully busy, intensive, and energizing week last week, with the first workshop of our 2021-2022 year. Though we couldn’t meet in-person, it was a powerful experience to meet one another, see each other’s’ faces, and hear about one another’s films.
We were joined virtually by this year’s 20 filmmakers, hailing originally from Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Palestine, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen.
Our amazing team of mentors includes Bruni Burres, John Appel, Gitte Hansen, and Nino Kirtadze. Along with Close Up Founder and Executive Director Sigal Yehuda, they will work closely with the filmmakers throughout the year.
Along with our group and one-on-one discussions, we were honored to have John Appel give a lecture on storytelling in Documentaries, Talal Derki (director of Return to Homs and Of Fathers and Sons) speak to us on his cinematic vision and the artistic challenges in making his extraordinary films, and special expert Hans Robert Eisenhauer lead a talk on the creation and importance of production and co-production packages including a comprehensive written proposal and trailer.
In the final days of the workshop, the filmmakers presented their work and progress to the entire group and were given feedback and comments, in addition the mentors gave each filmmaker concrete assignments to work on in the months leading up to our next workshop in March 2022.
We cannot stress enough how inspired the Close Up team is by this group of filmmakers. The fact that they continue creating despite war, displacement, and exile is a triumph and testament to their talent and strength. This is presently especially true for our Afghan filmmakers, who have faced an incredibly difficult year.
To our filmmakers, from everyone at Close Up, it is an honor to be on this journey with you. We’re looking forward to the next workshop and, of course, being all together in one physical place.
The Close Up Second Workshop successfully ended early this week! Our filmmakers have spent 7 intense and highly productive and challenging days full of learning and creative work!
The week started with 2 days of editing consultancy sessions with four editors: Phil Jandaly, Nadia Ben Rachid, Giles Gardner and Joelle Alexis. The editors discussed with the filmmakers their project’s developments in regards to storytelling, dramaturgy, character’s development and cinematic vision based on their edited materials & written proposals, which our filmmakers have shared with our mentors & editors in advance.
In parallel to these meetings, the filmmakers had the great opportunity to have one-on-one meetings on Storytelling and Financial Strategies with Alex Szalat.
Alex was also a member of the Close Up Selection Committee last year, hence he has been closely following the development of each project from the very early stages. He gave concrete feedback on each project and discussed with them the opportunities available in the international documentary market. In addition, he advised about strong selling points and who could support their projects.
These meetings were also supported by a lecture given by our very best Gitte Hansen, where we discussed in-depth financial strategies and the international documentary market.
After working intensely all week on their materials, the filmmakers presented their projects in front of the entire group.
They shared their visual materials and received feedback from Alex Szalat, the mentors, Close Up team and participating filmmakers on how to improve their storytelling and projects in general.
As we come to an end of the Second Workshop, we are looking ahead and starting our preparations with full force for our final workshop taking place in June 2022!
The Close Up 2021-2022 Program ended after three intense days of online Pitching Forum sessions that took place on June 10th, June 20th and June 21st. We are very excited to present the 14 powerful documentary projects that Close Up supported in its 2021-2022 annual program. This year’s cohort of 23 directors and producers represents a diverse group of filmmakers coming from different countries, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds that hail from Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Yemen.
Throughout the months of May and June 2022, the filmmakers worked intensely to develop their co-production package to complete it with written proposals, trailers and pitches. They worked with Close Up mentors and had one-on-one meetings with guest editors from the industry: Giles Gardner, Joelle Alexis, Phil Jandaly and Nadia Ben Rachid. Together with the editors and mentors, filmmakers had discussions on how to improve their trailers and pitches, and thanks to the fantastic recommendations they received, their projects progressed so much since they started their Close Up journey in December 2021!
All these sessions were very productive and gave a clearer vision to the filmmakers on how to complete a great co-production package and present their projects in front of numerous key decision makers from the international documentary industry.
The Close Up 2021-2022 Project Catalogue was shared with the panel members attending the Close Up Pitching Forum and during the Pitching Forum, we watched the recorded pitch and trailers that the filmmakers prepared. We had a lively Q&A session with each filmmaker and we truly appreciate the valuable comments and feedback our guests from the industry shared with the filmmakers about their projects!
The Close Up Pitching Forum was attended by numerous prominent international decision makers representing prestigious film institutions and foundations, documentary festivals and markets, broadcasters, and production companies. The participating decision makers included:
Robin Smith from Blue Ice Docs (Canada) – Karen Sloe Goodman from The Silver Sun Foundation (USA) – Sean Weiner & Arno Mokros from The Jacob Burns Film Center (USA) – Jane Ray from The Whickers (UK) – Alex Szalat from Docs Up Fund (France) – Sergi Dolade from MEDIMED: The Euro-Mediterranean Documentary Market & Pitching Forum (Spain) – Dominic Davis from Sundance Institute (USA) – Margje de Koning from Movies That Matter Film Festival (The Netherlands) – Lucila Moctezuma from Chicken & Egg Pictures (USA) – Melanie de Vocht from IDFA Bertha Fund (The Netherlands) – Reda Benjelloun from 2M TV (Morocco) – Alexandre Marionneau from ARTE (France) – Rebecca Lichtenfeld from Inmaat Foundation (USA) – Per Eirik Gilsvik from Sørfond: The Norwegean South Film Fund (Norway) – Ulla Simonen from AVEK: The Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture (Finland) – Christine Camdessus from FIPADOC (France) – Jess Gormley from The Guardian (UK) – Alex Tondowski from Tondowski Films (Germany) – Babette Dieu from European Film Market (Germany) & Cannes Docs (France) – Lilian Tietjen from Jyoti Film (Germany) – Sophie Chegaray from France 5 TV (France) – Tereza Simikova from CPH:DOX (Denmark)
In addition, many grants and awards had been made available to Close Up 2021-2022 filmmakers which were announced after they successfully pitched their projects.
We are very happy to announce that one Close Up project was selected for the WHICKERS BURSARY in the amount 3,000 GPB as part of the new partnership Close Up established with the Whickers this year! The first Close Up project that received the Whickers Bursary is HOLLYWOOD GATE. For safety reasons, we are unable to publicly share details about the winning project. The project is a confidential project and is directed by a first-time director working under the pseudonym Mohammad Mohammad and produced by Oscar-nominated Syrian filmmaker Talal Derki (Return to Homs, Of Fathers and Sons).
Alex Szalat, the Head of DOCS UP FUND, provided a development grant for 1,500 EUR for one Close Up project LET’S PLAY SOLDIERS directed by Mariam Al-Duhubhani and produced by Mohammed Al-Jaberi.
This year, two additional 2021-2022 Close Up projects will receive further support from Docs Up Fund. LIFE IN THE SHADOWS, directed by Khadim Dai and produced by Ilyas Yourish, will have the financing support of Docs Up Fund. THE GOVERNOR by Danel Elpeleg will receive consulting support for the editing phase by Docs Up Fund.
In addition, a number of Close Up filmmakers received badge accreditations and submission fee waivers to participate at prestigious film festivals and markets.
As part of our ongoing collaboration, Sergi Dolade, the Director of MEDIMED: THE EURO-MEDITERRANEAN DOCUMENTARY MARKET & PITCHING FORUM granted one Close Up project ENTANGLED HOPEFUL BIRD, directed by Dawood Hilmandi and Ezatullah Alidost, the opportunity to participate at MEDIMED held in Sitges, Spain in October 2022. The filmmakers will be invited to pitch their project at MEDIMED, October 2022. The award contains not only the selection of the project to be pitched, but the opportunity to have private meetings with international commissioning editors and distributors having expressed an interest in the project. This is a fantastic opportunity for the filmmakers to continue to network with international decision makers, producers, and distributors. We would like to deeply thank Sergi for providing this precious opportunity to our filmmakers.
Tereza Simikova, the Head of CPH:FORUM, granted Close Up filmmakers submission fee waivers and free of charge badge accreditation to the CPH:DOX Forum and Festival! One Close Up Project THE GOVERNOR by Danel Elpeleg received two all-access CPH:FORUM accreditations and the project team will receive a submission consultation from the CPH:DOX team for their application to the CPH:FORUM. Another Close Up Project RADIO BERLIN by Sepehr Atefi and Kaveh Azarhoosh got a Special Mention and received one all-access CPH:FORUM accreditation. Finally, one Close Up project BRIDGE by Deniz Tortum and produced by Firat Sezgin are granted submission fee waivers.
Lastly, two Close Up projects will be granted Residency Awards by THE JACOB BURNS FILM CENTER and THE SILVER SUN FOUNDATION. The selected projects will be announced in July 2022 and the filmmakers will participate in the residencies in Fall 2022. Residency Awards are generously offered to our filmmakers by our wonderful partners Karen Sloe Goodman from The Silver Sun Foundation in Woodstock, NY (USA) and Sean Weiner from The Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville, NY (USA). Karen Sloe Goodman and Sean Weiner are long-time friends of Close Up and we are thankful for the precious support & wonderful opportunity they are providing to our filmmakers.
We are incredibly proud of our filmmakers who accomplished such fantastic progress with their projects since the beginning of December 2021. You are an inspiration to all of us – we deeply appreciate your resilience, strength, and courage to continue sharing such powerful, creative, and urgent documentaries. We can assure you that all of us at the Close Up family will do everything we can to assist and support you in completing your films!
We’d like to use this opportunity to thank our donors, supporters, and friends as without their support we wouldn’t be able to do the work that we love doing! As an international non-profit NGO, we rely on our committed supporters who share our values and believe in our vision with great passion and enthusiasm.
First, we would like to deeply thank our significant long-time supporter, a family foundation based in New York, who has supported us for many years and prefers to be anonymous. We truly appreciate their commitment and uncompromising support, we wouldn’t be able to do it without you!
We would like to thank our funding partners Lisa Chanoff, Neil Tabatznik and Robin Smith at Blue Ice Docs, Karen Sloe Goodman & Rusty Goodman at The Silver Sun Foundation, Barbara & Eric Dobkin, The Nordic Culture Fund, and The German Federal Foreign Office for their valuable support.
In addition, we would like to thank Craig Russel and Pamela Jones, Impact Partners, Kimelman Foundation, John Kimelman & Nancy Rose, Larry Boltansky, Richard and Jennifer Berman, Paula and Jay Goldberg, Beth Swirnow, Joe Cutchin and Sherri Wolf, for the support they have provided to Close Up.
We deeply thank our Founding Partners Sigal Yehuda, Ahmet Boyacıoğlu, Bruni Burres, John Appel and Vincent Melilli, who have been working together for more than a decade with enthusiasm to continue supporting filmmakers from Southwest Asia and North Africa.
We also would like to deeply thank our mentors – Bruni Burres, John Appel, Gitte Hansen and Nino Kirtadze for their immense generosity and commitment to Close Up filmmakers.
Lastly, we would like to thank our community of Advisory Board Members for your continued support – your involvement is vital to the success of Close Up.