Lidia Nikonova press
Locarno Selection ‘Family Portrait,’ with Cinematography by Lidia Nikonova, Boarded by Lights On
July 6, 2023

Written by John Hopewell, Variety         

Photo: ‘Family Portrait’ Courtesy of Locarno Film Festival

Lights On, the Turin-based world sales company, has made a double swoop on Locarno titles, taking international sales rights to Lucy Kerr’s “Family Portrait” and “Dreaming & Dying” (“Hao Jiu Bu Jian”), written and directed by Singapore’s Nelson Yeo. 

Both play in Locarno’s Cineasti del Presenti Sierra, focused on new talent. Locarno’s 2023 lineup was announced July 5.

‘Family Portrait’

The first feature from Kerr, a Texas-born filmmaker and video and installation artist, “Family Portrait” turns on a sprawling Texas family that gets together on a morning to take a group picture. 

The mother disappears; the rest of the family seem reluctant to take the photos; one of the daughters, Katy, sets off to find her. Doing so, the synopsis says, she loses herself and her family.

Written by Kerr, “Family Portrait’s” key cast includes Deragh Campbell (“Anne at 13,000 Feet”), Chris Galust “Give Me Liberty”), Rachel Alig (“Girl Next”) and Katie Folger (“Day 5”). Insufficient Funds, NSF and Conjuring Productions produce. 

“I have long been fascinated by my mother’s obsession with family Christmas Cards, which represent a lack of conflict. Growing up in the American South, my experience involved navigating pain privately and focusing on cultivating a successful and prosperous image,” Kerr told Variety.

“In ‘Family Portrait,’ the family disavows collective mourning, and thus, melancholia begins to undermine the film’s supposed ‘reality,’ ultimately leading to a divergence into an alternative psychic realm,” she added.

‘Dreaming & Dying’

In “Dreaming & Dying,” three middle-aged friends, who used to be really close at high-school, reunite for the first time in years. A long buried love triangle slowly resurfaces. But because of circumstances and societal restrictions then and now, they have never really confronted their repressed inner desires.

“With ‘Dreaming & Dying,’ I am primarily interested in exploring how we choose to remember things in our own ways, and as time passes, those fantasies sometimes become realities; the idea that certain things, however meaningless, can take on their own meaning over time,” said Yeo.

So in the film’s later going, two friends, the couple, set out on a day trip to fulfil an old Buddhist tradition in which believers release fish into the wild to neutralise the karma they committed knowingly or unknowingly. 

“The wife believes that this superstitious act will cure the husband of his illness. Lost in the jungle, they are haunted by their own memories and desires, which they believe is a result of their past karma rippling through time,” the synopsis runs.

“Dreaming & Dying,” is produced by Singapore’s Momo Film Co and co-produced by Indonesia’s KawanKawan Media, in a two-pic deal announced at Busan’s Asian Contents & Film Market last October. 

“We’re excited to share this new film and story by Nelson Yeo. Recognition from established international film festivals such as Locarno reaffirms what Singapore has to offer. It is great to collaborate with Lights On once again after working with them for Nelson’s previous shorts,” said Si En Tan who produces for Momo Film Co.

Lights On

“‘Dreaming & Dying’ and ‘Family Portrait’ are two true gems, two powerful stories with a surprising view on life. We believe these films will be a pleasant discovery for cinema lovers that will put Lucy Kerr and Nelson Yeo on the map. It’s not that common to see such unique and personal styles in first feature films,” said Flavio Armone, Lights On co-founder and managing director.

Lights On’s current sales slate features “A Strange Path,” from Guto Parente, which won the top prize for international narrative feature at this year’s Tribeca Festival; Berlin Forum player Mammalia,” a gender role satire from Romania’s Sebastian Mihăilescu; and Tommaso Santambrogio’s “Taxibol,” hailed as a standout at Visions du Réel.  

"Family Portrait" Director of Photography: Lidia Nikonova

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