International Debut Feature Film Competition

International Debut Feature Film Competition

There are more and more of them!

The two feature film competitions organised each year by the Women’s Film Festival, alternating between Dortmund and Cologne, offer both the established filmmaker and the up-and-coming newcomer a highly regarded platform. In Cologne in 2012, eight talents are again our guests, presenting their first full-length feature films and competing for the prize of 10,000 Euros. The aim is to encourage women directors to continue making films. We would like to support careers such as that of Claudia Llosa. The Peruvian woman won the debut award in Cologne in 2006, in 2009 she won the Golden Bear for her second feature film The Milk of Sorrow and in 2012 she won the Teddy Short Film Award in Berlin.

The good news is that there are more and more of them! The list of the preselection, with more than 150 current debut feature films from over 50 countries, is longer than ever before. Banal, but true: the films are as varied as they are in number. It is impossible to talk about a clear trend. And yet this year, certain topics are apparent. On The Edge, the title of the Moroccan contribution from Leila Kilani, highlights the mood of the many, mostly female protagonists in the competition films. These women are at a crossroads. There is a decisive tension surrounding their – often lonely – struggle for autonomy and their search for themselves. You don’t really want to pick a fight with them: Badia and Imane shell shrimps in the harbour of Tangier. Like thousands of other Moroccan women, they have been lured by the promises of the global market. The young women are soon sick of the humiliating working conditions and they take for themselves what the world refuses them. US soldier Kelli believes that she has defended the achievements of western democracy. Return, the story of her return home after a tour of duty, is the study of depression in a depressing world. But however low they may fall, the directors never leave their protagonists without their dignity. Waitress Nana hasseasonal work on the Black Sea coast. She is all alone here and knows no-one, just like the policeman and the street child, whose paths cross in Salt White, but her attitude is laconic and confident.

The sexualisation of arthouse cinema is also reflected in the competition. An unsparing and taboo-free sexuality, freed from relationship options, like the cathartic chamber play Nuit #1 by Anne Emond. She makes a study of a onenight- stand that is as rugged as it is intimate. Utopian moments are achieved by the directing duo of Delphine and Muriel Coulin in 17 Girls, from the bizarre pact made by a group of schoolgirls, who all get pregnant at the same time. 17 pregnant young women develop a huge power of the imagination, at least for one summer.+

Filmmakers strikingly often associate the yearning of their protagonists with narratives whose second main character is nature, such as the metaphorical coming-of-age drama Zephyr. Rejected by her mother, one-year-old Zephyr lives with her grandparents in the majestic mountain landscape of northern Turkey. Equally remote is the world of the once splendid coffee haciendas in the Vale do Paraíba in Brazil, where a young female photographer turns up. Stories only exist if people remember them. And so, in an amusingly melancholic way, Julia Murat preserves an era and a way of life from being forgotten, in Histórias que só existem quando lembradas. Another place of longing is Spain, in Anja Salomonowitz’s film of the same name. Spain as a metaphor for stability and security, for the happiness that all figures are looking for in three intelligently intertwined narrative threads.

_Stefanie Görtz

2022: Gessica Généus Freda (HT / FR / BJ)
2020: Maya Da-Rin A Febre (BR/DE/FR)
2018: Carla Simón Estiu (ES)
2016: Ana Cristina Barragán Alba (EC)
2014: Neus Ballús La Plaga (ES)
2012: Belma Baş Zefir (TR)
2010: Susanna Nichhiarelli Cosmonauta (IT)
2008: Aurélia Georges L’Homme Qui Marche (FR)
2006: Claudia Llosa Madeinusa (PE)


Xiaolu Guo

Xiaolu Guo was born 1973 in a fishing village in China. At the age of 19, she enrolled to study literature and film at the Beijing Film Academy. While still a student, she was awarded the National Filmwriter Prize for her screenplay Love in the Internet Age (2007). After graduating with an MA, she moved to London in 2002 and began to make a name for herself as film-maker and author. In 2004, she debuted with The Concrete Revolution, a documentary film about the building boom in Beijing. Her novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (2007) was published in more than 25 countries and is set to be filmed by Wayne Wang. In 2009, Ms Guo founded the Metaphysical Cinema Syndicate in London and Beijing. Its aim: to promote film productions that represent a free cinema operating beyond the bounds of conventional narrative style. During this year’s film festival, Ms Guo’s film UFO in Her Eyes will be screened in the Panorama programme. From April 2012 she will work as a scholarship holder in the film section of the DAAD artist programme in Berlin.

Films by Xiaolu Guo (Selection)
Once Upon a Time Proletarian 2009 | She, a Chinese 2009 | We Went to Wonderland 2008 | How Is Your Fish Today? 2006 | The Concrete Revolution 2004

Julia Jentsch

Julia Jentsch grew up in West Berlin, where she studied at the Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her first theatre role was at the Münchener Kammerspiele. She was a member of the ensemble there from 2001 to 2006. Julia Jentsch became known to a larger audience through her role in Hans Weingartner’s film The Edukators, which won the Jury Prize at the 2004 Cannes Festival. For her role as Sophie Scholl in Marc Rothermund’s drama Sophie Scholl – The Final Days she was awarded the Silver Bear as the Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival, the German Film Award as Best Actor and the European Film Award as Best Actress. Julia Jentsch played the title role in 2009 in Hermine Huntgeburth’s adaptation of Effi Briest.

Lucy Virgen

Lucy Virgen is a film programmer, film critic and journalist. She was part of the group which founded the Center for Cinema Studies (CIEC) at Guadalajara University with film historian Emilio García Riera. She has written for several dailies and magazines including Reforma, Público, Luvina and the Brazilian magazine Cinemais. For the last ten years she has had a weekly radio programme. She is the founding editor of the specialist online magazine The Thinking Eye. From 2006 to 2010, she was Artistic Director of the Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara. During this time the festival programme grew considerably, and its artistic quality increased. Currently Lucy Virgen works with Ventana Sur, the Latin American Film Market in Buenos Aires, while continuing as a film critic.

17 Girls

Delphine and Muriel Coulin

Feature Film

»We wouldn’t be like our parents.« »Never.« »16 years age difference, that’s perfect.« »There wouldn’t be any generation conflict.« »They […]

Nuit #1

Anne Emond

Feature Film

Clara is 28, a teacher, and lives in Québec. At a rave she meets the Ukrainian artist Nikolai and lands […]

On the Edge

Leïla Kilani

FR / MA / DE

»Soufia Issami is the jittery and complex core of the film, never sleeping but rushing between work and her night-time […]


Liza Johnson

Feature Film

»In all my work, I’m interested in the ongoing present, in the atmosphere and texture of everyday life. … For […]

Salt White

Keti Machavariani

Feature Film

Post-Soviet Georgia at the beginning of the 21st century. Nana, 35, is single and works as a seasonal worker at […]


Anja Salomonowitz

Feature Film

Why Spain? »People there are still afraid of God. Where people are afraid of God, you can live well.« – […]

Feature Film

Magdalena: »I’m afraid of dying.« Antonio: »Then just don’t die.« Madalena lives in Jotoumba, a run-down and over-aged village in […]


Belma Baş


»The film’s title literally means “soft breeze blowing from the west.” It is the mythological name for the god of […]