Quality and Diversity in The Competing Films – I

Ten feature films of a variety of topics and origins are in competition for the top IFFAM Award 2017. They will be shown in Macau venues – from December 9 to 13 – as Asian or international premieres. In this first supplement, MDT presents the first six competing movies, by alphabetic order while the second installment will be published on tomorrow, December 5


British director Michael Pearce makes his feature film debut with Beast, which focuses on Moll Huntford, a young woman living on the island of Jersey, just off the coast of England. Moll’s life has been tightly controlled by her family, especially her domineering mother, since her involvement in a violent incident as a teenager. She develops feelings for the enigmatic outsider Pascal, but when the body of a young girl is discovered – the fourth victim of a sexual predator and serial killer – Moll’s life is thrown into chaos.

Born in Jersey, Pearce studied directing at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth and the National Film & Television School (NFTS). His NFTS graduation film Madugada won best short at the Royal Television Society Award, and his next two short films Rite 2011) and Keeping Up With The Joneses (2014)  were both nominated for the British Academy Film Awards and British Independent Film Awards. His debut TV drama, Coming Up: Henry, was broadcast by Channel 4 in 2013. Beast had its world premiere at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

The two lead actresses are Jessie Buckley and Geraldine James. Buckley is an Irish singer and actress who starred in the West End revival of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music as well as three BBC series, including the adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. James is a classically trained English actress and Tony Award nominee, known for her roles in The Merchant of Venice on Broadway (1989) and She’s  Been Away (1989). She has been nominated for the British Academy Television Awards four times.


In the rainy summer of 1980, tennis fans the world over wait with bated breath for Björn Borg – the world’s number one player at the tender age of 24 – to claim his fifth Wimbledon title. Unknown to many, Borg is burned out and struggling with anxiety. Younger rival John McEnroe, 20, wants to usurp Borg’s throne – but both men come to realize that they are the only ones who truly understand each other.

Danish director Janus Metz stepped into the global limelight with Armadillo (2010), which won the critics’ prize, or Semaine de la Critique, at the Cannes Film Festival. He previously worked as a documentary researcher, and made his directorial debut with the short Township Boys (2006) before making Love on Delivery and Ticket to Paradise (both 2008), a two-part series about mail-order brides from Vietnam and Thailand. In 2015, he directed an episode of acclaimed HBO series True Detective.

Sverrir Gudnason, a Swedish actor raised in Iceland, stars as Borg. He previously starred in the TV series How Soon is Now (2007) and has taken roles in Wallander (2010) as well as Gothenburg and Stockholm city theater. Hollywood actor, performance artist and filmmaker Shia LaBeouf (Transformers, Indiana Jones) plays McEnroe, with veteran Swedish actor and blockbuster star Stellan Skarsgard (The Hunt for Red October, Pirates of the Caribbean, Marvel’s The Avengers) cast as Borg’s coach.


In Custody (Jusqu’a La Garde), divorced parents Myriam and Antoine Besson are battling for sole custody of their 12-year-old son, Julien. Myriam is fighting to protect her son from a father she claims is violent and abusive, while Antoine drives home his status as a man scorned. They take the case to court and the judge rules in favor of joint custody. When it transpires that Antoine has been harboring ulterior motives to regain control over his traumatized ex-wife, young Julien is caught between his parents in a rapidly escalating conflict.

French-born writer-director Xavier Legrand studied drama at the National Conservatory Of Paris. He is a prolific theater actor and has starred in films for directors such as Philippe Garrel, Brigitte Sy and Laurent Jaoui. His first short film, Oscar-nominated and Cesar Award-winning Just Before Losing Everything (2013), played at over 100 international festivals. His first feature film, Custody, is an expansion of that short. It had its world premiere in competition at the Venice Film Festival in September, where it won Legrand the Best Director award and the Silver Lion for best debut film.

Denis Ménochet was born in Val-d’Oise, France. After doing several short films and TV episodes in the early 2000s, he went on to take a small role in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009), followed by Grand Central (2013), The Program (2015) and Assassin’s Creed (2016). His co-star, accomplished actress and director Léa Drucker, hails from Calvados, France. Arguably best known for Just Before Losing Everything (2013) and The Blue Room (2014), she made her big screen debut in 1991 and remains active in movies, TV and theater.


The controversial war movie Foxtrot depicts a Tel Aviv couple’s devastation when Israeli military officials announce the death of their son Jonathan after a disaster at a desolate military post. Caught up in a whirlwind of overzealous grieving relatives and army bureaucrats, Jonathan’s father later begins to doubt that his son is truly dead. Foxtrot follows Jonathan’s parents in the hours after receiving the news before plunging into a gritty portrait of Jonathan’s experiences as a military conscript in northern Israel.

Director Samuel Maoz, himself from Tel Aviv, received an 8mm camera and a roll of film as a gift at the age of 13. However, as a young man, his promising film career was put on hold when he went to war in Lebanon as a gunner in a tank crew. Twenty years later, Maoz finished his first feature film, Lebanon (2009), inspired by his experiences. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival. Foxtrot, his second feature film, won the Grand Jury Prize at the same festival eight years later, and was nominated for 13 Ophir Awards.

Screen and stage actor Lior Ashkenazi was born in Israel to Sephardi Jewish immigrants from Turkey. He was previously seen in Big Bad Wolves (2013), Walk on Water (2004) and Late Marriage (2001). He studied acting at Beit Zvi School for the Performing Arts and did voice work for dubbed Disney movies before making his movie debut in the early 2000s. The leading lady is Parisian actress Sarah Adler, who also appears in The Cakemaker (2017).

Hunting Season

Hunting Season (Temporada de Caza) follows Ernesto, a well-respected hunting guide in Patagonia, where he lives with his new family after parting ways with his first wife. When she dies, Ernesto is forced to take in his estranged teenaged son Nahuel. Ernesto struggles to contain the violent outbursts of his son, who grows increasingly alienated from his new family and periodically lashes out against his father. When the duo go hunting in the wilds together, it tests both of their capacities to kill and forgive.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, director Natalia Garagiola graduated from the Universidad del Cine and later earned an MA in screenwriting from FIA-UIMP in Spain. She wrote and directed three short films: Rincon de Lopez (2011), Yeguas y Cotorras (2012) and Sundays (2014), with the last two screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Hunting Season had its world premiere in Critics Week at this year’s Venice Film Festival, where it won the audience prize. It is Garagiola’s first feature film and she is currently working on her second.

Lead actor Germán Palacios plays the father of newcomer Lautaro Bettoni. Palacios, who is married with two children, was born on May 30, 1963 in Villa Ortúzar, Capital Federal, Argentina. He is best known for his work on films such as Celeste (1991), XXY (2007) and Amor prohibido (1986). He started studying acting at age 15 and is a former national handball player.

My Pure Land

The UK’s official contender for the Best Foreign Language Oscar was shot in Pakistan with dialogue in Urdu, and is strongly reminiscent of a spaghetti western. This lean and harrowing 98-minute film tells the true story of three women living peacefully in a farmhouse in rural Pakistan, who are forced to take up arms and defend their home when a bitter family feud leads to the family patriarch’s incarceration. Despite a scheming uncle calling in a vicious local militia of 200 bandits armed to the teeth, the heroine, Nazo, refuses to surrender even when she is down to her last bullets.

Based in London, director Sarmad Masud achieved early success with his debut short film Two Dosas (2014) which was funded by Film London and awarded the best film in its London Calling Plus category by Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts director David Yates. Masud also wrote and directed Adha Cup, the first Urdu-language drama commissioned by British broadcaster Channel 4, which was later developed into a six-part series at the BBC. My Pure Land is his first feature film and had its world premiere at the 2017 Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Leading the My Pure Land cast – mostly comprised of relative newcomers to the international film festival circuit – is Suhaee Abro, perhaps best known for her work on Peacock Palace (2016) and The Kalasha and the Crescent (2013).

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