Banderas, Thompson star in Hampton-helmed 'Argentina'

Arenas Entertainment, the Latino label of Universal Pictures, has begun shooting its first major co-production, “Imagining Argentina,” a magic-realist romantic thriller set during the country’s “dirty war.”

Myriad Pictures will co-finance and co-produce the pic, which stars Emma Thompson and Antonio Banderas.

Christopher Hampton (“Dangerous Liaisons”) is directing the pic, which features Banderas as an Argentinean theater director whose wife, a journalist played by Thompson, is kidnapped by the military.

Soon after her abduction, he begins to experience visions of other people’s loved ones who have “disappeared” under the regime. When he decides to use his clairvoyant powers to find his wife, he becomes a target of the authorities.

“This story resonates with all Latinos who share a legacy of political oppression and military dictatorships,” Arenas CEO Santiago Pozo said. “It also appeals to people everywhere for its uplifting ideas that show how love and imagination can triumph over evil.”

Arenas will distribute the film in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Spain, Mexico and Latin America. Myriad has pre-sold a number of international territories, including CDI for Italy, Egmont for Scandinavia, Nu-Metro for South Africa and Prooptiki for Greece. Myriad will continue to handle sales in the rest of the world.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with Arenas Entertainment, who, in addition to the financing and producing aspects of this deal, bring their expertise in the areas of marketing and distribution to the film,” Myriad prexy Kirk D’Amico said.

Also in the cast are Maria Canals, Kuno Becker and Ruben Blades.

Geoffrey Lands, Michael Peyser, Diane Sillan Isaacs and Pozo are producing the pic, with D’Amico and Lucas Foster on board as exec producers. Phillip von Alvensleben and Lourdes Diaz are co-exec producing.

Principal photography has begun on location in Argentina and will later move to Spain.

Pozo, who created Arenas in 1998, transformed it into Hollywood’s first major Latino banner in fall 2001 by forging a partnership between Spanish venture capital firm Marco Polo Investments and Universal.

Acquired ‘Empire’

The production of “Argentina” comes two months after Arenas secured rights to its first acquisition, “Empire.” That pic, written and directed by Franc Reyes and starring John Leguizamo, preemed at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.

Arenas has marketed more than 150 films to U.S. Latinos, including “The Scorpion King,” “Gladiator,” “The Fast and the Furious” and “Shrek.”

Myriad, an L.A.- and London-based shingle, is amassing a broad financing, production and distribution slate. Forthcoming Myriad pics include Fox Searchlight feature “The Good Girl,” set for release next month, and the sequel to UA’s breakout horror pic “Jeepers Creepers.”

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