Mercenary wins 2017 HP Bridging The Borders Award at Palm Springs International Film Festival


Palm Springs – January 14, 2017— Today, at Palm Springs International Film Festival, Cinema Without Borders named Sacha Wolff’s  Mercenary as the winner of 2017 HP Bridging the Borders Award offered by Cinema Without Borders.

The prize for HP Bridging The Borders Award is an HP ZBook 15, a $4000 value. The prize was provided by HP, who sponsors the award.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (USA),A Billion Colour Story (India), Death in Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina/France) , Goldstone (Australia), Keep Quiet(UK/Hungary), Layla M. (Netherlands/Belgium/Germany/Jordan) and Mercenary (France).

The award luncheon for the 2017 Palm Springs International Film Festival was held at Hilton Hotel in Palm Springs, where Susan Morgan Cooper and Bijan Tehrani, representing Cinema Without Borders juries Rannounced the Bridging The Borders Award winner.


Susan Morgan Cooper read Cinema Without Borders Jury Statement: “The winner of HP Bridging The Border Award is the story of a tattooed, colossal 19 year old recruited from his island shack in Wallis , New Caledonia , to the brutal world of a rugby team in France. Writer-director Sacha Wolff paints the contrasting societies with authenticity and elicits from his non-professional actor, Toki Pilioki a performance of quiet dignity that scorches your memory. The winning film is Mercenary”

Sacha Wolff that was not able to attend the award ceremony had sent an award acceptance starment: “I sincerely thank the jury, the Palm Springs Film Festival, and Cinema Without Borders for this award. It goes directly to my heart and warms all my crew, and fellows in work. Mercenary was the first movie ever shot in Wallisian language, only the third one in all movie industry to be shot in New Caledonia. For almost all the cast, it was the first ever experience they had in acting. French Writer Le Clezio once said that Oceania was an invisible continent, because when you look at a map of the world, you don’t even see it. That was the main idea of this movie, to explore a part of the world that still remain unseen, under-rated, and still facing a lot of post-colonial prejudices. When I first met Paki, one of the main actor of the movie, he explained me that when he arrived in France, everybody looked at him as a monster, and when he flew back to New Caledonia, he was considered as a white guy. For him, his identity kept stuck somewhere in the sky during his first flight. That’s where we tried to go, making this movie. And it was a beautiful adventure, build on clouds. Thanks again and have a great award ceremony!”

“HP congratulates Sasha Wolff, winner of the 2017 Bridging Borders Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, said Josh Peterson, Head of Product Management, HP Z Workstations and Immersive Computing. “As a leading workstation provider for the media & entertainment industry, we understand the important role that technology plays in artists bringing their visions to life and HP is committed to help bridge the world’s cultural gaps through art, entertainment, and technology.”

Cinema Without Borders Jury Members:
Susan Morgan Cooper
Susan Morgan Cooper is a Director/Producer/ Writer and her credits include:
To the Moon and Back, Documentary, Director/Producer/Writer 2016 (A cinematic act of love and courage’ … Broadway World) – Hopper [In his own words] Documentary, Producer/Writer 2013 (“I was moved to tears” Mike Medavoy) – Mulberry Child, Documentary, Director/Producer/Writer 2012 (‘A powerful and touching film’… 31/2 stars. Roger Ebert) – An Unlikely Weapon [The Eddie Adams Story]..Documentary, Director/Producer/Writer 2008 ( ‘A terrific documentary’ The Hollywood Reporter) – Making Of Shadows in The Sun, Documentary, Director/Producer/Writer 2005 – Heroes And Sheroes. Television Series, Director/Producer/Writer 2000
Mirjana: One Girl’s Journey, Documentary, Director/Producer/Writer 1997 – Stringers, Narrative Short Director/Producer/Writer 1990 – Hadley’s Rebellion, Narrative Feature Associate Producer 1989

Vladek Juszkiewicz
Born in Poland. He graduated from the Szczecin Technical University. While attending the University he became a member of The Szczecin Technical University Choir, serving as a President and manager of the group. His travels with the choir took him to 18 countries. 
When he moved to Warsaw he became the manager of the Polish international star singer Maryla Rodowicz.
In Warsaw was responsible for the students’ international cultural exchange at the Headquarter of the Polish Student Association.

After immigrating to the United States he was introduced to producer, writer and director Paul Leder. He worked on 11 films with the late Mr. Leder.  

In 1999 he founded the Polish Film Festival Los Angeles and is serving as the Festival’s Director.

Served on the juries of the Los Angeles Hungarian Film Festival, the Los Angeles South East European Film Festival, New York Polish Film Festival and Palm Springs International Film Festival.

In 2007 the President of Poland awarded him with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for promoting Polish culture abroad.

Vera Mijojlic 
Vera Mijojlic is the founder and director of SEEfest, the South East European Film Festival in Los Angeles. Over the past dozen years she has positioned the festival as the premier cinematic showcase of eighteen Southeast European countries. Vera also works as a creative adviser to independent filmmakers, and has a distinguished record in humanitarian work. She began as a cultural reporter and film critic in Sarajevo, and holds a degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade.

Daniel Wyatt Phillips 
Daniel Wyatt Phillips is a director, illustrator, and reviewer born and raised in Chicago, IL, currently transplanted to Los Angeles and working as a Virtual Reality director and Assistant Editor to Cinema Without Borders.


Bijan Tehrani 
Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as Editor in Chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language & History of film workshops and organizes film screening events and festivals. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children’s books.




Abused by his alcoholic father, the massive, heavily tattooed Polynesian rugby player Soane is desperate to leave his New Caledonian home. So he accepts an offer from a shady recruiter to play in France… only to arrive at the French airport broke and alone, with nothing but his Bible and the clothes on his back. This giant is told he’s too small for the team.

With the help of a relative, he lands a position on a second-rate squad in a dreary provincial town, where he’s pumped full of steroids, falls for a girl who’s been passed around by his teammates, and hides from the violent creditors demanding the money they loaned him to fly to France. Sacha Wolff’s powerful, compassionate debut film shows us a world we haven’t seen before, through the eyes of this wounded, unforgettable Polynesian warrior.

Original Language Title:    Mercenaire
Country:    France
Year:    2016
Running Time:    103 minutes
Premier Status:    North American Premiere
Language:    French
Subtitles:    Yes
Director:    Sacha Wolff
Producers:    Claire Bodechon, Jean Bréhat
Principal Cast:    Toki Pilioko, Iliana Zabeth, Laurent Pakihivatau, Petelo Sealeu, Maoni Talalua
Cinematographers:    Samuel Lahu
Editor:    Laurence Manheimer
Music:    Luc Meilland
Screenwriter:    Sacha Wolff
International Sales Company:    Be For Films


About Author

Luz Aguado

Luz Aguado was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and grew up in East Los Angeles. She is the oldest of four siblings. Prior to attending The Art Institute, Luz was a student at the University of California Riverside where she studied biology and aspired to become a medical doctor. Now she studies Media Arts and Animation at The Art Institute of Los Angeles and hopes of one day having the opportunity to work for Disney Animation Studios. Three dimensional animation and the innovative techniques that have given animation a more realistic appearance is something that she wishes to focus on while at The Art Institute.

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