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Rotterdam: ‘Monos’ Caps Year over Success because Fest’s Ambitious Hubert Bals Fund

Alejandro Landes’ festival hit is one of several films to have been through the well-established funding program and gone on to international acclaim.

Having been in operation for more than 30 years, the Hubert Bals Fund — the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s multifaceted initiative to help feature films from areas of the world where filmmakers receive little or no support — has a somewhat healthy slate of projects bearing its stamp, not to mention a long string of beneficiaries (including the likes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Haifaa Al Mansour)

But over the past 12 months it was undoubtedly Monos, Alejandro Landes’ critically acclaimed Colombian war drama, which first bowed in Sundance 2019 and was later distributed by Neon, that was the fund’s highest-profile title.

The film — which won awards in every single festival where it screened — received support in two stages from the fund, says manager Fay Breeman. The first came from the script and project development support scheme, the fund’s original grant that each year awards around 20-22 projects (from more than 700 applicants) up to $11,000 to get started.

According to Breeman, this was how the initiative initially began, when the late founder and director of the Rotterdam fest, Hubert ‘Huub’ Bals, met with noted Chinese filmmaker Chen Kaige in Cannes 1988 and was appalled to discover that he couldn’t afford to start writing his next film because he needed to pay the bills. thehollywoodunlocked.com/putlockers-hd-watch-gretel-hansel-2020-online-full-for-free

“It turned out that he was teaching New York upper class women how to eat with chopsticks,” she says.

Legend has it that Bals and Kaige used the back of a beer coaster to draw up what sort of financial help would be needed, eventually settling on $10,000.

Bals would tragically pass away later that year at the age of 51, and the Hubert Bals Fund was launched in 1989 in his honor, looking at giving a financial leg-up to filmmakers from Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Alongside a lack of funding opportunities in those regions, Breeman says the fund also looks for projects that might struggle to find local support due to “issues of freedom of speech.”

The Hubert Bals script grant would be Monos’ first brick in its development, but it later received another thanks to the fund’s co-production scheme HBF+Europe, funded by the Creative Europe Media Program and awarding some $55,000.

The fund has since expanded to include a post-production grant, launched in 2018 and offering $60,000 to two projects.

One of the first winners, Chinese writer-director Lu Shu’s Lost Lotus, has already premiered at the Black Nights festival in Tallinn, while the other, Days of Cannibalism from South African director Teboho Edkins, is due to premiere “very soon” according to Breeman.

Breeman claims that Monos — which was Oscar tipped and made it the foreign language shortlist — represents one of the “most successful examples” of films that have been through the Hubert Bals program. 

“But we also have nine films presenting here in Rotterdam, three of them world premieres,” she says, pointing to The Fever, the fiction feature debut of Brazilian director Maya Da-Rin.

Set in the port city of Manaus and following an indigenous worker, the film first bowed in Locarno last year, where it won both the FIPRESCI prize and best actor award (for it’s non professional lead).