As we continue to navigate a world still in the grip of a formidable pandemic, many have hypothesized on the fate of theatrical releases and premieres when a sense of normalcy through communal gathering may again be possible. Whatever one’s thoughts about how cinema will or will not be consumed, there are an influx of projects from artists around the globe which promise a feverish onslaught for cinephiles to anticipate over the next few years. While many of the titles from our 2021 list (check out our 300 reasons to be excited for world cinema) may indeed face delays based on restrictions and changing regulations (and thus end up in bowing in 2022), here is a list of titles which are a little farther out on the horizon but definitely bearing a hopeful, urgent torch for the medium’s continual vibrancy.
#20. Untitled Jia Zhang-ke Project
Chinese auteur Jia Zhang-ke had been prepping a new feature narrative prior to the pandemic, which had already been placed on indefinite hiatus by the time he arrived at the 2020 Berlin IFF for the premiere of his documentary Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue. Divulging few details other than production was originally aiming for an April 2020 shoot, Zhang-ke mentioned the project would likely be revamped and potentially rewritten to reflect current restrictions, etc. Zhang-ke described his latest project concerned young people in China in the “here and now,” which suggests a return to something like 2002’s Unknown Pleasures.
#19. Horizonte – Cesar Augusto Acevedo
Colombia’s Cesar Augusto Acevedo was a major discovery in 2015, winning the Camera d’Or and several other awards for his debut Land and Shade after it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in Critics’ Week. Cine Sud Promotion returns to collaborate with Acevedo on his sophomore film Horizonte, a tale about the ghosts of a mother and son who seek the family patriarch in a war-ravaged landscape. Mateo Guzman returns to work with Acevedo as cinematographer on the project, with principal photography slated for 2021.
#18. Close – Lukas Dhont
Belgian director Lukas Dhont won the Camera d’Or for his polarizing 2018 debut Girl, which premiered in Un Certain Regard at Cannes where it won the Queer Palm, the FIPRESCI Prize and a Best Actor award for Vincent Polster. The Match Factory reunites with Dhont on his sophomore project Close, which also sees the director collaborating once again with co-writer Angelo Tijssens and producers Dirk Impens of Belgian production company Menuet, and Michiel Dhont. His latest examines the close friendship of two 13-year-old boys who drift apart when others question their relationship. A tragedy forces one of them to examine the real reasons behind the estrangement. Dhont has eyed Summer of 2021 for his shoot.
#17. The Long Night – Ali Abbasi
Ali Abbasi’s sophomore film Border was a significant breakthrough in 2018 after its premiere in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, which was Sweden’s official submission for the Academy Awards that year (his previous feature, 2016’s Shelley, was also an odd, moody genre piece which premiered at the Berlin IFF). It’s no surprise to see the Iranian born director generating significant buzz for his next title, The Long Night, a Farsi language serial killer thriller scheduled to go into production in January 2021. Abbasi also recently announced plans to adapt Hamlet as a gender reversal starring Noomi Rapace, which would also go into production sometime in 2021.
#16. Untitled Dardenne Bros. Project – Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
After receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award in October 2020, two-time Palme d’Or winning duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne revealed they would commence filming their next feature over the Summer of 2021 in the Liege suburbs. Following their most controversial film to date, 2019’s Young Ahmed, the Dardenne Bros. have kept busy producing a number of high-profile items (such as La Civil from newcomer Teodora Mihai, which also received support from Michel Franco and Cristian Mungiu). More details will likely be unveiled closer to production.
#15. Don Juan – Serge Bozon
Bozon tackles Lord Byron with his fourth feature, Don Juan, a musical version of the infamous lothario which received backing from the CNC and is adapted by his usual co-scribe, Axelle Ropert. Benjamin Esdraffo, Mehdi Zannad and Laurent Talon will be supplying the music with David Thion returning to produce (who financed Bozon’s last two Isabelle Huppert headlined features, 2013’s Tip Top and 2017’s Mrs. Hyde, the latter which won her Best Actress at Locarno).
#14. Our Apprenticeship – Ryūsuke Hamaguchi
Japanese director unveiled one of the best films of 2015 with breakthrough Happy Hour (the five-hour saga won a Best Actress prize for its four leads in Locarno) and competed in Cannes 2018 with the equally intricate Asako I & II. He began collecting funding in 2019 for his next project, Our Apprenticeship, about a famous female idol who flees Japan after her relationship with a notable actor is revealed, leading her to new perspectives thanks to the variety of people she meets abroad.
#13. Kalak – Isabella Eklöf
Swedish born but Denmark based Isabella Eklöf was a breakout talent of 2018 with her Sundance premiered debut Holiday. Her next project Kalak was pitched at the 15th edition of the Nordic Co-Production and Finance Market and concerns a troubled narcissistic father and his stoic daughter set in Greenland. Early narrative snippets from Eklof’s pitch differ a bit from the synopsis for the source material, the 2007 autobiographical novel from Kim Leine.
#12. Riders – Martín Rejtman
Martín Rejtman, one of the founding fathers of the New Argentine Cinema wave, is preparing his first project since 2014’s Two Shots Fired with Riders, a film conceived of during the pandemic. Germany’s Pandora films boarded the project at the script stage in September 2020. The narrative concerns the burgeoning influx of Venezuelan food delivery app drivers who arrived in Buenos Aires during the pandemic.
#11. Reflection – Valentyn Vasyanovych
Ukraine’s Valentyn Vasyanovych scored a critical breakout with 2019 debut Atlantis (winning Best Film in the Horizons sidebar at Venice) and has moved on to his next project, Reflection, produced by Limelight and Arsenal Films. Details on the project have yet to be revealed, but it was part of the 2020 Berlinale Coproduction Market as well as Les Arcs’ Works in Progress.