Germany’s M-Appeal Moves Into Production (EXCLUSIVE)

First up: ‘Benjamin or the Planetarium’

Adding a new and highly international player to the production scene in Latin America and beyond, six-year-old Berlin-based M-Appeal will co-produce Cuban director Carlos Machado Quintela’s second movie, “Benjamin or the Planetarium.”

A movie that sidesteps cliches about Cuba, “Benjamin” will be produced by M-Appeal in association with Hernan Musaluppi and Pablo Chernov at Rizoma Films, one of Argentina’s best-known arthouse producers.

It won a World Cinema Fund grant for Euros 35,000 ($47,320) in the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund’s latest rounds of awards on Tuesday.

70% of financing is now secured, Musaluppi said. Producers aim for a March 2014 shoot.

M-Appeal will also take world sales rights to “Benjamin” outside Argentina and Cuba.

Penned by Quintela, who has completed a full screenplay, “Benjamin” is set within Cuba’s Nuclear City, the site of Latin America’s first nuclear power plant which, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been left unfinished, forcing its inhabitants, mostly scientists, to pursue other forms of gainful employment, such as raising pigs.

Within this context of a reality which hardly delivers on its premise, “Benjamin” focuses on three characters: A young man, distraught at just being dumped; an old man, who just wants to lead an uncomplicated life; a father, who just wants to learn to ride a motorbike.

M-Appeal picked up sales rights to Quintela’s debut, “The Swimming Pool,” about five outsiders meeting for a swimming lesson, which world premiered this February in Berlin’s Panorama.

“Pool” has played over 20 festivals, winning multiple prizes including best first feature at Miami, best first film at Havana, and the French Critics’ Discovery award at the Toulouse Latin American Festival.

Entering production, focusing on co-production, is “organic growth,” to nurture talent alliances, said M-Appeal CEO Maren Kroymann.

She commented: “We want to follow our directors in their career and are always interested in having their next film. Entering into co-production is a good way to strengthen and tighten our collaboration.”

“We chose Carlos’ project because we strongly believe in his unique screenwriting, manifesting a new Cuban arthouse cinema far removed from cliche and folklore,” she added.

For Kroymann, production will also allow M-Appeal larger creative in-put on projects at an early stage, drawing on M-Appeal’s international expertise, and to aid projects that M-Appeal wants to sell to get made.

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