European Film Promotion (EFP) is delighted to announce the up-and-coming acting talent who have been selected for the next edition of EUROPEAN SHOOTING STARS. They will be introduced to the international press, film industry and the audience during the 73rd Berlinale. The four-day tailormade promotion and networking programme (running 17 – 20 February 2023) is capped off with a celebration of the talent at an Awards Ceremony at the Berlinale Palast.
The European Shooting Stars 2023 — including eight women and two men — were selected from a pool of 27 nominees by an international jury, comprised of Polish director Jan Komasa, Dutch casting director Rebecca van Unen, Norwegian producer Maria Ekerhovd, Variety’s international features editor Leo Barraclough from the UK and former Spanish Shooting Star Veronica Echegui. These five experts recognised the talents' remarkable potential for an international career based on several factors, including their stellar work in the feature films and drama series which were submitted for their nomination (and which are noted in bold in their bios below).
“We are very grateful to the national promotion and film institutes who gave us the opportunity to discover their countries' emerging talent and to the jury who faced a true challenge in selecting the 10 best from such a strong group of nominees. We are very pleased to present their selection of European Shooting Stars 2023 which is characterised by diversity in age, experience and cultural backgrounds but united in its representation of exceptional acting talent. They are all truly ready for international discovery”, says Tina Hajon, programme director of EUROPEAN SHOOTING STARS.
The European Shooting Stars 2023: Joely Mbundu (Belgium), Alina Tomnikov (Finland), Leonie Benesch (Germany), Thorvaldur Kristjansson (Iceland), Benedetta Porcaroli (Italy), Yannick Jozefzoon (The Netherlands), Kristine Kujath Thorp (Norway), Judith State (Romania), Gizem Erdogan (Sweden) and Kayije Kagame (Switzerland). The quotes below are from the jury.
Newcomer Joely Mbundu from Belgium excelled as Lokita in the 2022 Cannes entry Tori and Lokita by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne. It is the first leading role for the 18-year-old actress, who is the youngest in this year's Shooting Stars line-up. The jury was impressed by “her emotional intensity” which serves the film so well…she mixes a strength of personality with an openness and vulnerability that moves the audience.”
Finnish actress Alina Tomnikov is known for her leading role in the critically acclaimed and multi-award winning short film, Rabobesto, directed by Mari Mantela based on Alina’s original idea. She starred in the Sky Original drama series Funeral For a Dog alongside former German Shooting Star Albrecht Schuch and played the lead in Pamela Tola’s feature film, The Worst Idea Ever, which is due for its release in early 2023. The jury lauds her ”playfulness and fragility” and how ”her character grabs the audience by the lapels, and compels them to fall in love with her.”
German actress Leonie Benesch played Eva in Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon when she was 18 and was hailed as a discovery. In 2018 she received the German Actor’s Award for her role as Greta in the German series Babylon Berlin. Leonie’s most recent role is the lead in Ilker Çatak’s The Teachers’ Lounge, to be released in 2023. The jury was delighted by her performance as an idealistic teacher who is battling to solve a dilemma, while resisting institutional pressure to compromise: “She shows a nobility and sincerity of character that transcends the everyday setting of the school, while keeping the audience guessing as to what will happen next.”
From the first moment Iceland’s Thorvaldur Kristjansson appears on screen in Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir’s A Letter From Helga, “he emanates charisma and completely inhabits the role of a love-sick farmer”. This is the jury’s verdict on Iceland’s Shooting Star, who is a celebrated and award-winning film and theatre actor in his home country. Trained at The Juilliard School's Drama Division in New York, Thorvaldur’s credits include Black’s Game, The Minister and I Remember You.
Benedetta Porcaroli from Italy ”carries Carolina Cavalli’s quirky comedic Amanda with great assurance, as well as transmitting a high temperature that keeps the film at fever pitch”. Although Benedetta is an emerging actress, ”she emanates a strong personality and a particular way of looking at the world”. Her debut on the big screen was in 2015 in Perfect Strangers, which was quickly followed with roles in critically acclaimed films such as The Catholic School, 7 Women and a Murder and the Netflix series, Baby.
Yannick Jozefzoon from The Netherlands was nominated for his second Golden Calf in 2022 for his leading role as an expectant father in Femi directed by Dwight Fagbamila. Yannick began acting in 2002 with the theatre group DNA and appeared in several film and television productions such as Amsterdam Vice, Hollands Hoop and Geldwolven. The jury was enthusiastic about Yannick’s “display of a raw yet controlled energy combined with a sensitivity in Femi…He brings an intense conviction to the role, perfectly expressing the inner turmoil of the young man.”
Norwegian actress Kristine Kujath Thorp is known for movies and drama series such as Fanny, The Burning Sea and Ninjababy, for which she won the Amanda Award as best actress in 2021. In Sick of Myself by Kristoffer Borgli, which premiered in Un Certain Regard in Cannes 2022, Kristine plays a young woman, Signe, who wants to attract people’s attention by any means necessary. The jury is deeply impressed by her performance: “There are many nuances to this multi-layered film, which is satirical and dramatic, and she navigates it with verve. Her character undergoes a radical change in appearance, which made the role even harder to pull off.”
Judith State is a professional dancer and discovered acting later in life, working with prominent Romanian directors. She won the Gopo Award for her leading role in Marius Olteanu's debut, Monsters. Judith has also been in films such as Sieranevada, Malmkrog, The Father Who Moves Mountains and Refuge as well as R.M.N. by Cristian Mungiu, for which she was nominated as a Shooting Star. The jury extoled her performance in the film: “She exhibits a natural ability and a strong presence…bringing an authenticity and charm to the role…She is very much in the moment, and is able to reach through the screen to move the audience.”
The jury believes Swedish actress Gizem Erdogan “has the charisma and ability to make an impact in the international films arena.” Gizem is already well known for her roles in hit drama series and films such as Caliphate, Dream On, and Love and Anarchy and stars in the Netflix’s series The Playlist as an architect of the Swedish music app Spotify.
With the role of Rama in the Venice award-winning film Saint Omer by Alice Diop, Swiss artist Kayije Kagame makes her highly acclaimed feature film debut as an actress. The jury was persuaded by her portrayal of a novelist whose convictions are shaken by a traumatic court case. In the role, she relies heavily on body language and facial expression “creating a special aura that is mesmerising and holds the gaze of the viewer in every scene”.
With a four-day intensive customised programme, EUROPEAN SHOOTING STARS provides an international networking platform for the selected talent to meet journalists, casting directors, producers and filmmakers in Berlin. It offers a unique opportunity to create the professional network needed for the talent to embark on an international career. The programme culminates in a glamourous awards ceremony at the Berlinale Palast on Monday 20 February, where each actress and actor will be honoured with the European Shooting Stars Award.
Throughout its 25 plus years, EUROPEAN SHOOTING STARS has been an important stepping-stone for the selected talent’s international careers – notable Shooting Stars of recent years include: Matilda de Angelis (Atlas, The Undoing), Bill Skarsgård (It, It Chapter 2), Carey Mulligan (She Said, The Dig, Promising Young Woman, The Great Gatsby), Alba Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro), Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander (Beckett, Tomb Raider), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Riz Ahmed (Encounter, Sound of Metal, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Mogul Mowgli), George MacKay (Munich – The Edge of War, 1917), Daniel Brühl (All Quiet on the Western Front) and Louis Hofmann (The Forger).
EUROPEAN SHOOTING STARS is made possible thanks to the support of Creative Europe – the MEDIA Programme of the European Union, the German Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media, Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and Spotlight, as well as the participating national film promotion institutes and film centres from the Shooting Stars’ countries (EFP’s member organisations): With special thanks to German Films, Cinecittà (Italy), Finnish Film Foundation, Icelandic Film Centre, Norwegian Film Institute, Romanian Film Development, SEE NL (The Netherlands), Swedish Film Institute, SWISS FILMS and Wallonie Bruxelles Images (Belgium).
EUROPEAN SHOOTING STARS’ main media partner is Variety, with additional media partners: Screen International, Cineuropa, Blickpunkt:Film, HeyUGuys and Festival Scope.
German actress Leonie Benesch saw a stand-out year in 2021 leading BBC/PBS’s AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS in the role of Abigail Fix alongside David Tennant. She will next be seen starring in several highly anticipated projects: the film THE TEACHERS' LOUNGE by Ilker Çatak and Frank Schätzing’s Sci-Fi thriller series THE SWARM, a TV adaptation of the bestselling novel. Benesch formally trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She received widespread critical acclaim for her portrayal of Greta in the hit German show BABYLON BERLIN by Tom Tykwer, Henk Handloegten and Achim von Borries, for which she won the German Acting Award. Her breakout role in Michael Haneke's Golden Globe and Palme d'Or winner The White Ribbon was praised by critics as "a discovery” and her performance earned her the American Young Artist Award and the Bunte New Faces Award. Her television credits include Princess Cecile in Netflix’s THE CROWN directed by Stephen Daldry, the series SPY CITY opposite Dominic Cooper and the mini-series TURNCOAT by Florian Gallenberger. Her film credits include PERSIAN LESSONS by Vadim Perelman, which premiered at the Berlinale in 2020, 8 SECONDS by Ömer Faruk Sorak and Philip Koch's PICCO.
From her first feature film back in 2014, to her major breakthrough in the massive hit series CALIPHATE in 2020, Gizem Erdogan has become one of Sweden’s foremost actresses. She has no less than three separate wins for Best Actress, and is fluent in Swedish, English, Spanish and Turkish. After graduating from The Swedish Academic School of Drama, she starred in the feature, DREAM ON for which she received a nomination as Best Supporting Actress at the Guldbaggen, the Swedish Academy Awards. The acclaimed TV series CALIPHATE was released worldwide on Netflix in 2020, and Erdogan won another award for her stunning performance as Pervin - the lead character in the series who moved with her husband to Raqqa to join ISIS. She has since broadened her slate, for example with roles in Netflix's romantic dramedy LOVE AND ANARCHY; as a police officer in THIN BLUE LINE; and as a star lawyer in THE PLAYLIST about the making of Spotify.
Yannick Jozefzoon grew up in the Netherlands with his Dutch mother and Sierra Leonean father. He began acting in 2002 with the theatre group DNA and appeared in several youth film and television productions. In 2015, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Maastricht where he trained as an actor. In theatre, he played at Het Nationale Theater, Fabuleus, Theater Oostpool and Likeminds and starred in three solo performances in the Netherlands and Belgium. In 2018, he was nominated for his first Golden Calf Award (Dutch Academy for Film) for the film TOM ADELAAR directed by Gonzalo Fernandez. He was then cast in featured roles in the series AMSTERDAM VICE, HOLLANDS HOOP, DÉJÀ VU AND BONNIE & CLYDE. In 2022, he had the lead in three feature films: SPUTUM by Dan Geesin, PIECE OF MY HEART by Dana Nechushtan and FEMI by Dwight Fagbamila, for which Jozefzoon received his 2nd Dutch Academy Award nomination as Best Leading Actor. He also was cast as the lead in the Dutch Videoland film BLACK GIRL MAGIC and the Belgian TV series FIFTY/FIFTY for Streamz. Next up, in 2023, he plays the lead role in the major primetime NPO1 series DE LIFE.
Kayije Kagame was born in Geneva and studied at ENSATT (École Nationale Supérieure des Arts et Techniques du Théâtre) in Lyon. She took part in Robert Wilson’s Watermill International Summer Residency Program in the Hamptons in New York and was also artist in residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. The creator of numerous performances, sound pieces, films, and installation, Kagame is currently touring with Intérieur Vie / Intérieur Nuit (Inner Life / Inner Night) which she co-directed together with Hugo Radi. The role of Rama in SAINT OMER by Alice Diop marks her feature film debut. SAINT OMER premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it won multiple awards, including the prestigious Silver Lion. The film was also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and has been invited to numerous festivals worldwide. Among other prestigious awards, SAINT OMER also won le Prix Louis-Delluc and le Prix Jean Vigo as well as being the French entry for the International Feature Film Competition at the 95th Academy Awards and part of the film selection for the European Film Awards 2022. Kagame was selected as "Revelation" by the French Film Academy (Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma) for Les César 2023.
Alma Artists Ltd.
Thorvaldur Kristjansson has a BFA degree in drama from The Juilliard School in New York, which was funded by scholarships and through the personal assistance of Academy Award winner and former Juilliard alumnus, Robin Williams. Since graduating, he has been very active in his work life and was nominated as Best Leading Actor at The Icelandic Film and TV Academy Awards (Eddan) for his first feature film, BLACK'S GAME, and then won the prize in 2020 as Best Supporting Actor in a TV series for THE MINISTER. Films such as I REMEMBER YOU and LIFE IN A FISHBOWL were blockbuster hits in Iceland and a number of his films have screened in major international festivals. Kristjansson has also done voice-over work for animated films, including one of the leading roles in the short YES-PEOPLE, which was nominated for an Academy Award at the 2021 Oscars. Kristjansson has a notable on-stage career, having performed in Iceland's most renowned theatres, including The Icelandic National Theatre and Reykjavik City Theatre. He was nominated as Best Actor in a Leading Role at the Icelandic National Theatre Awards (Gríman) for his work in the play CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME. His latest film, the critically acclaimed A LETTER FROM HELGA, was released in 2022 and went straight to the top of the Icelandic box office list during its first weekend.
Pullman Management AS
Kristine Kujath Thorp is a Norwegian-born actress who currently lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is best known for her work in films and TV series such as FANNY, UNDER BØLGERNE, OVER SKYER, BETRAYED, MY DIFFERENT WAYS and THE BURNING SEA. For her work in THE BURNING SEA, she received a Best Actress nomination at the 2022 Amanda Awards. In 2021, Thorp starred in the award-winning Norwegian dramedy, NINJABABY for which she won an Amanda Award as Best Actress. NINJABABY won the SXSW Film Festival Audience Award Global and the award for Best Comedy at the European Film Festival, 2021. Its success both in Norway and internationally brought Thorp to the attention of audiences worldwide for her portrayal of the lead character, Rakel. In 2022, Thorp was cast in leading roles in Kristoffer Borgli’s Norwegian feature, SICK OF MYSELF, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and in the Danish film, THE GREAT SILENCE, directed by Katrine Brocks, which premiered at San Sebastián International Film Festival and will hit the cinemas in early 2023. Thorp recently finished shooting Nikolaj Arcel’s new epic historical drama THE BASTARD.
Kristine Kujath Thorp
Adéquat - Agence Artistique
Joely Mbundu hails from Villeneuve-St-Georges, France and attended school in Flanders, Belgium. She has been involved in various forms of dance - including classic, hip hop and jazz - for many years. Mbundu began her acting career with a bang, in the critically acclaimed role of Lokita in the most recent film by the Dardenne brothers, TORI AND LOKITA. The film premiered in Competition at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival and went on to win a special prize in honour of Cannes’ 75th Anniversary. From there, it has garnered awards at the Jerusalem Film Festival, San Sebastián Film Festival and the Seville European Film Festival, where it was honoured with the Grand Audience Award.
To Play Agency
In 2015, Benedetta Porcaroli made her acting debut in TUTTO PUÒ SUCCEDERE - an Italian remake of PARENTHOOD, which ran for 3 seasons on Rai1. Immediately after, she graduated to the big screen as the rebellious daughter in PERFECT STRANGERS by Paolo Genovese. Next up was a leading role in the Netflix series BABY, as well as in the feature ALL MY NIGHTS, presented at the Rome Film Festival. For this role, she won the Guglielmo Biraghi Young Revelation of the Year Award at the Nastri D'Argento 2019. She was also chosen to co-present the Best Screenplay Award at the European Film Awards. Porcaroli then took on the leading roles in several films: the critically acclaimed international hit, 18 PRESENTS; THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL, presented at the Venice Film Festival; and 7 WOMEN AND A MURDER. In 2022, she was cast in the lead role in THE SHADOW OF THE DAY as well as in AMANDA, the debut film by Carolina Cavalli, the only Italian film presented both at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals that year. She was then cast in THE HUMMINGBIRD by Francesca Archibugi, which premiered in Toronto and went on to open the Rome Film Festival. She has recently finished shooting both Paolo Zucca’s VANGELO SECONDO MARIA.
Romanian Film Development ADFR
Judith State is a professional dancer with classical ballet training and a degree in foreign languages in both English and Spanish. She won a scholarship to train at Broadway Dance Centre in New York as well as a WEBdance scholarship for ImpulsTanz Vienna. In 2016, State was cast in a leading role in SIERANEVADA by acclaimed director Cristi Puiu, marking her debut in cinema and beginning a new stage in her life. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won her a Gopo Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. In 2018 she again collaborated with Cristi Puiu for MALMKROG and was also cast in the leading role in Marius Olteanu's debut film, MONSTERS, which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival, and for which she was awarded a Gopo Award as Best Actress in a Leading Role. In 2020, she played the lead in Daniel Sandu’s THE FATHER WHO MOVES MOUNTAINS and in Liviu Marghidan’s REFUGE, quickly followed in 2021 by Hungarian director Gyuri Kristoff’s dance feature, ZENITH. Next came the lead in renowned director Cristian Mungiu’s R.M.N., which premiered at Cannes in 2022. State is currently working as both performer/choreographer and actress, combining these fields with her passion for music and singing.
Lisa Richards Nordic Agency
One of Finland’s most impressive rising stars, Alina Tomnikov graduated with a Master of Arts from the Theatre Academy of Helsinki in 2013 and soon began working on-screen as well as on stage. Her early on-screen work includes Dome Karukoski’s feature THE GRUMP, Hannu Salonen’s ARCTIC CIRCLE and Teemu Nikki’s feature EUTHANIZER. Tomnikov played the lead in Heikki Kujanpää’s television series BLIND DONNA, which won the Diversity & Inclusion Award at MipCom in Cannes. Her on-stage work includes Mika Myllyaho’s HANGMEN and Minna Leino’s IN THE REPUBLIC OF HAPPINESS at the Finnish National Theatre. Tomnikov’s most recent on-screen work includes the lead in Mari Mantela’s short film RABOBESTO which won the highly acclaimed Risto Jarva Award as well as the Main Prize at Helsinki International Film Festival. The film is based on Tomnikov’s original idea. She can also be seen playing the lead role of ‘Tuuli Kovero’ in the Sky Original television series FUNERAL FOR A DOG, an eight-part series based on Thomas Pletzinger’s acclaimed novel of the same name. Earlier this year, she finished shooting a key role in the second season of Marja Pyykkö’s THE PARADISE as well as the lead in Pamela Tola’s dramedy, THE WORST IDEA EVER, which is due for its release in early 2023.