Celina Murga

Film up for Golden Bear in Berlin

In yet another career-defining moment for young Argentinean film-maker Celina Murga, her latest feature film, The Third Side of the River (La tercera orilla), has been selected for the Competition section of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival – the prestigious Berlinale – one of the world’s leading film festivals. The contenders were announced on 15 January.

As part of the Competition section, which comprises feature-length films yet to be released outside their country of origin, Murga’s film is eligible for several prizes, including the top Golden Bear award for the best film and a series of Silver Bear awards for acting, writing and production. This year’s programme includes 18 world premieres.

“All of us involved in The Third Side of the River are very thrilled and proud to be part of the Berlinale official competition. This is a great opportunity for the film to be shown as part of a really amazing festival with a very big reputation for featuring high quality films that are also innovative and daring,” declares Murga, whose documentary, Normal School (Escuela normal), was awarded a special mention at the Forum section of the Berlinale in 2012.

Murga’s outstanding talents were recognized early on by film giant Martin Scorsese, her mentor in the 2008-2009 Rolex Arts Initiative and a continued presence in her life as an advisor. “In the weeks before the official Berlinale Competition announcement of the films that would be put forward, Marty and I were in close contact,” she says. “He was one of the first people I informed when I knew that my film had been shortlisted.”

“It remains extremely meaningful to be selected for competition by a festival as venerable as Berlin, says Kent Jones, Rolex film nominator and director of programming for the New York Film Festival. “And it is just as meaningful for a film-maker like Celina, whose work is not big and instantly attention-getting but small-scaled and precise, to have the support of someone of Marty Scorsese’s stature.”

During their mentoring sessions in New York, impressed with her two earlier feature films, Ana and the Others (Ana y los otros) and A Week Alone (Una semana solos), Scorsese gently guided her through the early stages of The Third Side of the River, including the treatment and the script, “encouraging” her but never imposing his own methods or point of view, explains Murga. As the ultimate accolade, the iconic director agreed to become executive producer of the film, an unsurpassed imprimatur in the film industry and one that helped drive the necessary funding from co-production partners abroad.

In 2013, Murga again travelled to New York where the mentor and protégée viewed the rough cut of the film together and discussed structure and various scenes. She calls her ongoing interaction with the iconic film director “a life-changing experience”, one that has led to her film being chosen for the Competition section at this seminal event.

“For me personally as a film-maker, I feel that it´s a very good and important step forward. I think it provides the opportunity of letting more people see my work. I have been in other big festivals, such as the Venice Film Festival, with my previous films, but it´s my first time in a major competition like this. So, I´m really excited.”

The Third Side of the River concerns a young man at the crossroads of his life, choosing between parental guidance and the freedom he seeks. For the main character, Nicolas, Murga travelled to several Argentinean cities to find the ideal person to play the role. “We are very happy because we´ll be attending the festival with the main actor, she says. He´s a very young musician from Entre Ríos province. It´s his first time acting... we even had to convince him to attend the casting! He is absolutely astonishing in the film.”

Murga is the second Rolex film protégée to have her films shown at the Berlinale. Palestinian film-maker Annemarie Jacir, the 2010-2011 protégée who worked with mentor Zhang Yimou, won the Best Asian Film in the Forum section of the festival in 2013. Jacir’s second feature was the first Jordanian film to win an award from a major festival.