Few pics surface from El Salvador, Central America’s smallest country. And it takes a head of state to swing the spotlight away from the country’s unfavorable image.
On April 5, El Salvador President Elias Antonio Saca threw a reception at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for the cast and crew of the upcoming “Flights of Fancy,” (El lujo de Sonar), based on the memoirs of his older brother, Ricardo Saca.
Thesps Maria Conchita Alonso, Eddy Martin, Elizabeth Valdez, Ruben Rabasa and the pic’s helmer Daniel Eduvjes Carrera, making his feature debut with “Flights,” were on hand for the event.
“I hope that this film will transmit a different image of El Salvador, not one besieged by drug cartels and guerilla warfare but one of hardworking, honest individuals,” President Saca said.
His brother’s life story is a familiar one. Faced by grinding poverty at home, Saca sneaked across the border into the U.S., where he held an array of odd jobs to send money home. He went on to graduate from medical school and has been an MD for the past 18 years in Southern California.
During his presidential campaign, Saca spoke often of his debt of gratitude to his older brother, who sustained the family and inspired him to succeed in business and politics. A former sportscaster and prominent businessman, president Sata, 43, is the youngest president El Salvador has ever had.
Producer-scribe Diana Lesmez hopes “Flights of Fancy” will hit the same chord as Patricia Riggen’s Mexican immigrant tale “Under the Same Moon,” which has become the most successful Latino film in the U.S. this year. “That film struck the right balance: It appealed to the diversity of Latinos in the U.S. as well as to the arthouse audience,” Lesmez says.
Lesmez plans to shoot the $3 million budget pic in El Salvador and Southern California this summer.
“Hopefully this film will encourage filmmaking in El Salvador,” says President Saca, who admits the country does not have an official film policy. Asked whether he would consider proposing legislation to stimulate filmmaking at home, he replies, “We’re still recovering from 20 years of war.”
The last notable pic to focus on El Salvador was Mexican helmer Luis Mandoki’s “Innocent Voices,” based on El Salvadorean thesp-scribe Oscar Torres’ biographical tale about the forced conscription of children in the nation’s civil war.
Produced by Lawrence Bender, the pic grossed $230,000 at the Salvadoran box office, drawing 88,500 spectators, enough to beat “Troy” as well as “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”