Announced last fall, the Locarno Film Festival's Open Doors co-production mart focused on French-speaking Sub-Saharan Africa this year. The prominent Swiss fest recruited African cinema pros to consult in selecting a dozen participating projects that were to be announced in May. 

Skip ahead 2 months later, the event ended today, after 3 days of filmmakers from Francophone sub-Saharan Africa meeting one-on-one with potential production partners, with a number of them walking away with Open Doors prizes worth as much as 50.000 Swiss Francs ($58,000), and other smaller cash nods.

Like this one… Senegalese actress/director Mati Diop’s debut feature Fire Next Time, which won the CHF15,000 award (or about $15,500).

What's Fire Next Time about?

Fire Next Time tells the story of Adel, a young 16-year old woman from Dakar, whose fast-paced existence – a job as a beautician, going out with friends, drinking, drugs and consuming whatever’s going on the free market – is totally upset by the sudden disappearance of her lover, Souleimane.Soon her boyfriend is counted as missing, believed dead, especially when the bodies of some of his friends are washed up on a Dakar beach. The youngsters must have gone to sea in one of the many boats that leave the Senegal shores in search of a better life elsewhere.Souleimane’s body, however, is not found.

There's a much longer synopsis on the market's website, but it gives too much away.

I read this synopsis and immediately think of Moussa Touré’ La Pirogue, another film we've covered that focuses its lens on the dangerous trips men take on small boats to foreign lands, seeking better lives for themselves; some don't make it all the way through to their destination (the Red Cross estimates that as many as 1000+ people die attempting to make the 900-mile crossing each year). 

Although that may not be Fire Next Time's core narrative. From the director's statement:

This is the legend of the bird that rises from the ashes. Here, the phoenix is a young woman. After devoting a short film to the men who leave by sea, my current interest is in the women who stay behind, the ones who wait for a brother, a lover, a son to come back. Fire Next Time is a gothic tale of contemporary Africa, telling the story of a latter day Penelope in Dakar. This one cannot while away her time in luxuriant bowers, however, as she awaits his return. She has to escape from a grim destiny and save her life. She has to save her skin, escape from a dark destiny not chosen of her own free will. At the end of this journey of initiation, the adolescent woman finds her lost treasure. Freedom.

I'm in.

As he notes, Fire Next Time is a feature-length follow-up to a previous film, titled Atlantiques, which focused on the men who chance death at sea.

The film's budget is listed at $1.6 million, with a 2013 production start date planned – assuming it gets all the financing it needs.

I found a few clips of Atlantiques online. One is embedded below. Fire Next Time is now on my watch-list: