September 22, 2021


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Locarno: Passion on Young Athlete in Eli Grap’s ‘Olga’ Focus

3 min read

Leon-born filmmaker Eli Grappi should anxiously await the world premiere of his first feature, “Olga,” but like many other filmmakers around the world, COVID-19 was forced to stick to everything after production stopped. Instead, Locarno will be partnering with a host of other similar suspended projects after The Films of Films for films stuck in his unfinished film Starsis this year, awaiting completion when post-covid production is possible again.

Co-written with Raphael Deplechin, “Olga” participated in Emergency 2018 and Atelier Grand Nord 2019. It is produced by Point Prod, which has been instrumental in the development and production of Swiss film and TV projects since its launch in 2006. The biggest local box office hits in the country, including “MissyCorde” in 2016 and last year’s “Tambur”. In addition to additional funding Canel Plus and RTS, the Office for Writing and Development supports Federal de la Culture, Synforum, Media, Cyclic and CNC.

Set in 2013, the feature turned 15-year-old Ukrainian gymnast Olga into exile in Switzerland, working to secure a place at the country’s national sports center. When the Euromaiden revolt returns home, concerns grow as her family becomes involved. At the same time, Olga must work to adapt to a new country and prepare for the European Championships ahead.

During the development of the project, Grape spent several weeks interviewing top-level athletes at Kiev and later at the Swiss Olympic Center.

“I wanted to create something about a teenager’s emotions, closer to what I felt as a student, an experiment in continuity with my shorts,” he explained. Different. “But this time I wanted to deal with my character’s unique aspirations at a much higher risk.”

He also expressed a desire to use his tools as a filmmaker to critique our relationship with the border in a hyper-modern context. The film will use true archival footage of the Euromaidan Rebellion where the young Olga was able to communicate with her family only via Skype to emphasize the head space she left while in exile in Switzerland.

Newcomer Anastasia Budyashkina, herself a Ukrainian gymnast from Logan, who will meet Grapi while researching the script, will play the role of Olga’s claimant.

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Eli Grepp on the set of ‘Olga’
Ghisaline Hager

“Nastya is incredibly true to his passion, and in this long adventure he has been extremely brave,” he said, praising the young man for his strength in less situations than in the ideal situation of a few months of isolated shooting. Several Swiss national team gymnasts will appear in the film.

A music student at the Leon National Conservatory, Grap’s educational influences are always present in his work, thus focusing too much on the performing arts. He spent his secondary education in theater to study cinema before enrolling in the University of Art and Design. While still enrolling, his student films were screened at dozens of international festivals, and in 2015 he graduated with honors.

“Rehearsals” shot by Leon’s Grape’s Alma Matter premiered at IDFA and featured a number of features that came back later in his career. A musical documentary short, it spans entirely into a narrow chorus rehearsal space and sometimes uses a close-up of one of the school’s music directors to jokingly show dramatic lengths that can evoke the best sound from the group.

A year later, Grape’s graduation short “Suspendu” again used close-ups to bring the audience into intimate spaces with film themes with young performing artists exhibiting images. This time, of course, the highlights of the elite level competition were highlighted, highlighting the physical and mental toll that a promising career in dance could have for teenagers.

“Suspendu” is dialogue free and more amazing, comparative music free. Dancers ’hands, arms, legs, feet, and mouths often have a little more than the thumbing of stiff toe shoes that are often damaged on the floor. Internationally it was selected in more than 60 festivals.

In 2016, Grip was inspired by “Olga” in another musical called “Horse Scan”, co-directed by Timothy Zurbuchen. The film, shot shortly after “Suspendu”, follows Yarina, a promising young Ukrainian violinist, and other young musicians in her talented student orchestra.

“Olga” had 19 days of a 33-day shooting when COVID-19 bans forced production to stop production, with two weeks of filming still left. Expectations are high that filming could resume this fall under safe conditions.

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