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Varela makes way for ‘Martin’

Thesp to star in boxing biopic

Leonor Varela, Chile’s biggest young femme star (“Blade,” “Innocent Voices,” “Goal 2: Living the Dream”), is set to topline romantic boxing biopic “Pega, Martin, Pega,” (Hit ’em, Martin, Hit ’em), the true-life story of the rise, fall and recovery of Martin Vargas, who fought four times over 1975 to 1985 for the flyweight boxing championship of the world. Pic spans 26 years of his life.

Varela will play Vargas’ wife Mireya, the love of his life. Mauricio Diocares limns the boxer.

“Hit ’em” is the sophomore effort of Chilean helmer Leon Errazuriz who debuted to strong local B.O. with Chilean youth drug drama “Mala leche” (Bad Blood) in 2004.

Its strong Latin American cast also features Dario Grandinetti (“Talk to Her”) as the boxer’s trainer, plus Manuela Martelli and Ariel Mateluna, two of the young stars of Chilean international hit “Machuca.” Damian Alcazar (“El crimen de Padre Amaro”) plays a Mexican journalist.

“Hit ’em” is produced by Rodrigo Orellana’s Chile-based Dospasos production house and Errazuriz’s label CineFX. They have struck a co-production with Buenos Aires production and services company Cinema Gotika Estudios AVE.

Pic’s budget — $1.55 million — marks it out as one of the higher-end projects now emerging from Chile.

Its Latin American co-production deal is symptomatic of the burgeoning production links between different parts of Latin America.

“Chile is on the rise politically, economically and in terms of its film industry. Directors are telling more universal stories and producers now know other producers in different parts of the region,” Orellana said at Cannes.

Recognizing the rise of Chilean cinema, Cannes Tous Les Cinema du Monde showcases Chilean films today. The spread includes an earlier Dospasos production, Gregory Cohen’s “El bano” (The Bathroom), a history of 20 years in Chilean history as seen through scenes in a bathroom.

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