‘Darkness,’ ‘X Quinientos,’ ‘Father’s Shadow’ Feature

Projects underscore burgeoning production trends in Latin America

GUADALAJARA – Daniel Castro Zimbron’s “The Darkness,” Juan Andres Arango’s “X Quinientos” and Gabriela Amaral’s “The Father’s Shadow” figure among 24 projects to be pitched at the Guadalajara Fest’s 10th Ibero-American Co-Production Meeting, one of Latin’s America’s biggest showcases for movies in advanced development.

To-be-pitched projects range widely as, increasingly, Latin American production at large. The co-pro spread features, for example, a period piece, Venezuelan Sergio Marcano’s romantic drama “Mean Waters,” set in a plague-infested village in 1800, dark Freudian psychodrama “With the Lips Closed,” from Carlos Osuna (“Fat, Bald, Short Man”), about a ventriloquist who creates a dummy who looks just like his mommy, and “Lunik III,” a Cold War space race black comedy from Mexico’s Antonio Zavala Kugler (“Deseo,” “Las paredes hablan”).

Running March 23-25, the meet also highlights burgeoning trends in Latin American movie production: A building genre pic scene; the emergence of distinctively-voiced femme filmmakers; Latin’s America’s robust documentary tradition, driven by ita still often tumultuous-

At last too, more – if still not enough – attention is being paid to projects’ screenplays and their writers’ track records as scribes, Latin America’s customarily bulging Achilles Heel.

First presented at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, and backed by a clutch of high-caliber Mexican companies,

psychological thriller “The Darkness” has just been selected for Cannes Festival’s Atelier workshop this May. It turns on a family living in an isolated cabin whorled by perpetual fog and terrorized by a stalking wild beast. Based out of Mexico’s Varios Lobos, Pablo Zimbron produces; Castro Zimbron (“TAU”) directs; “Darkness” is co-produced, among others, by Jorge Michel Grau and Mayra Castro’s Velarium Arts, one of Mexico’s premier genre pic production hubs.

A pan-American feature from Colombian scribe-helmer Juan Andres Arango, whose debut, “La Playa,” played at Cannes’ 2012 Un Certain Regard, “X Quinientos” is produced by Montreal’s Peripheria and Bogota’s Septima Films. Set in Canada, Mexico and Colombia and ripe for co-production out of Mexico, its three intertwining stories all turn on individuals who, after the death of a loved-one, go through physical transformation.

One of 12 projects selected for January’s Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab, “The Father’s Shadow” is a neo-genre film that weighs in both an intimate family horror tale  – a young girl conjuring up the spirit of her dead mother – and as a story of social horror, focusing on Brazil’s galloping modernization which favors a wadded financial class at the expense of Brazil’s working classes.

“Shadow” marks the fiction feature debut of scribe-helmer Brazilian Gabriela Amaral, a 33-year-old livewire, director of short “The Comforting Hand,” a multi-prized study in loneliness, and co-writer of Marco Dutra’s “When I Was Alive” and Cao Hamburger’s “Suddenly In the Depths of the Forest,” two key upcoming films from Brazil.

Of other distaff helmers at the Meeting, both making their first features, docu-pic “The Belly of the Whale,” from Horizoe Garcia, pinpoints one recent change in Cuba via its real-life narrative of a man’s setting up his own business, a no-go on the island until recently.

Another potential docu standout, Brit Jayisha Patel’s “The Things You Left Behind” is set in a hamlet in the mountains of Cuba, and explores the effects of the village’s all-too-common child suicides.

Among genre projects, “Feral,” from Mexico’s Osvaldo Montano and Andres E. Kaiser, is a real-life found footage film – though it seems the stuff of a fictional chiller -turning on the discovery of Hi8 video movies filmed in 1986 by a former Benedictine monk. These recorded his attempts to educate three feral children. Teacher and pupils perished together in a fire.

Ecuador’s Alfredo Leon Leon, who debuted with an original prisoner-of-war drama “Open Wound,” follows-up with “Submersible,” a narco-capsule-sub-set thriller. Jose Luis Valle, (“Workers,” “The Searches”) will present “Operation Baby,” about the biggest manhunt in the Americas.

Outside genre, several projects come to Guadalajara emphasizing one of their only possible selling points: Screenplay credentials.

Also making Cannes Atelier’s cut, “In the Shade of the Trees,” from Chile’s Matias Rojas (“Raiz”), won June’s Bolivia Lab. The chronicle of true events at a sinister Chilean boarding school run by German settlers, its development including script consultancy from Gonzalo Maza, co-scribe of “Gloria,” Sebastian Lelio’s 2013 Berlin Silver Bear winner.

Set on a sprawling rural estate in the depths of a Patagonia winter. “The Winter” marks the directorial debut of Argentine scribe/A.D. Emiliano Torres, co-writer of two early Daniel Burman features,“Waiting For the Messiah” (2000) and “Every Stewardess Goes To Heaven” (2002).

This year’s Co-Pro Meeting highlights nine docu pic projects, recording the drama of a continent that teems with tragedy.

One of Mexico’s most insistently prized docu directors, Everardo Gonzalez, (“The Song of Pulque,” “The Old Thieves,” “The Open Sky,” “Cuates de Australia”) returns to Guadalajara with the Mexico/U.S.-set “El paso,” the story of gardeners, bakers, waiters and taxi drivers who were once journalists in Mexico, but forced to leav after threats from organized crime and federal forces. Roberto Garza and Bertha Navarro (“Cronos,” “Cronicas,” “Pan’s Labyrinth”) produce.

“La foto del Zocalo,” by Emmy-nommed Alejandro Strauss Lombardo, is a docu-diary of a Spanish teacher, interned in a concentration camp in France, then forced into exile in Mexico after the Spanish Civil War. Famed Mexican line producer Tita Lombardo (“On the Road,” “Babel”) produces.

Helmed by Julio Lopez, one of the directors of itinerant docu fest Ambulante in El Salvador, “The Battle of the Volcano” is the story of four child soldiers fighting for the FMLN guerrilla during the siege of San Salvador, a turning point in the Salvadoran Civil War.

Pitched at the 12th Doc Buenos Aires, the Morelia Lab and Sanfic Industry, and the recipient of a Tribeca Film Institute development award, Fernando Dominguez’s “Proper Names,” portrays the inhabitants of a remote region of Patagonia whose inhabitants are going blind but refuse to leave.

10TH IBERO-AMERICAN CO-PRODUCTION MEETING, MARCH 23-25, 2014

THE FULL LINE-UP:

Title, (director, country) description, company, city.

“The Winter,” (Emiliano Torres, Argentina) An aged foreman is replaced by a much younger man on an estate in Patagonia. Winter wells. Wanka, Buenos Aires.

“Nahuel, the Human Submarine,” (Fernando Diaz, Argentina) A surreal comedy from Diaz (“Soul’s Square,” “The Stranger”), laced with Argentine color, about a breath-holding champion, encouraged to swim the River Plate underwater. Machaco Films, Buenos Aires.

“The Heavy Case of Benavidez,” (Laura Casabe, Argentina) A highly-stylized dramedy laced with fright-fare from Casabe, best-known for her Peronist lampoon, “The Good Fairy: a Peronist Fable.” Magali Nieva Umansky, Hernan Findling, Buenos Aires.

“Proper Names,” (Fernando Dominguez, Chile) Supported by Argentina’s INCAA Film Institute and the Tribeca Film Institute. La Pata de Juana/Nina Nino Producciones, Buenos Aires

“A Map of Latin American Dreams,” (Martin Weber, Argentina, Mexico) Over 20 years, Weber asked people in eight countries to share their dream on a blackboard as he photographed them. He returns to chart the passage of time, and what cameof their dreams. Cien Cine, Mexico City.

“Skirts’ Revolution,” (Sergio Estrada, Bolivia) With his latest docu-feature, the Potosi mine-set “Night Inside Me,” at Guadalajara’s 2014 Films in Progress, Estrada takes a lighter turn in “Revolution,” a doc about progressive Bolivian women favoring traditional peasants’ skirts, bucking social button-holing and sexism. Valeria Ponce, Bolivia

“The Father’s Shadow” (Gabriela Amaral, Brazil) Set in Sao Paulo, a city of widening rich/poor contrasts, a bricklayer, part of Brazil’s struggling masses, works on a swish new middle-class building while his own family life, particularly his relationship with his young daughter, crumbles. Acere Producao Artistica e Cultural, Sao Paulo.

“X Quinientos” (Juan Andres Arango, Colombia) Turning on an indigenous Mexican punk, a Buenaventura drug gang member and a 70-year-old Filipino maid in Canada, an exploration of change and relocation in the Americas. Peripheria, Montreal/Septima Films, Bogota.

“In the Shade of the Trees,”  (Matias Rojas, Chile) Rojas’ follow-up to “Root,” which world premiered in September in San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos section and went on to win best Chilean pic plaudit at Valdivia. Don Quijote Films, Santiago de Chile

“The Adapter,” (Rodrigo Bacigalupe, Chile) Strained father-son relationship drama “Adapter” won an Ibermedia development grant; Bacigalupe’s feature debut. No More Dramas Films, Santiago de Chile

“With the Lips Closed,” (Carlos Osuna, Colombia) Osuna’s sophomore outing after rotoscoped animated feature “Fat, Bald, Short Man,” a movie which showed his talent at exploring human neurosis, in “Fat” the bathetic life of a chronically-shy law clerk. Malta Cine, Bogota.

“In a Happy Place,” (Colbert Garcia Benalcazar, Colombia) Directed by Garcia Benalcazar, whose “Silence in Paradise” won best Latin American film at 2012’s Malaga Fest, “Place”wighs in as a peasant couple relationship drama exploring the interface between rural and high-tech Colombia. Ocho y Medios Comunicaciones, Bogota

“The Belly of the Whale,” (Horizoe Garcia, Cuba) First docu feature project from Garcia who scored on the fest circuit with 22-minute short, “Raul’s World,” an impacting confession-interview with a model Cuban Revolution worker and caring son, who also likes very young girls. Largas Luces, Havanna.

“The Things You Left Behind”  (Jayisha Patel, Cuba) Spanish-language docu pic from Brit filmmaker Patel whose  “A Paradise,” an initial exploration of the same subject, was selected for this year’s Berlinale Shorts Competition

“Submersible,” (Alfredo Leon Leon, Ecuador) Four characters shut up together in an drug-trade capsule submersible.Dominio Digital, Quito.

“The Battle of the Volcano,” (Julio Lopez, El Salvador) In early development and presented at the II Ibermedia Project Development Workshop for Central America. Tripode, San Salvador.

“La foto del Zocalo,” (Alejandro Strauss Lombardo) Ibermedia-backed, with 60% of financing in place. KMZ Producciones. Mexico City.

“Gunpowder,” (Camila Urruti, Guatemala) Guatemala City-set youth drama; feature debut of docu filmmaker/actress Urruti. Camaleon Films, Guatemala.

“The Darkness” (Daniel Castro Zimbron, Mexico) A film about “family relationships, taken to the limit,” according to helmer Castro Zimbron. Two-thirds of finance was in place by mid-Feb. Varios Lobos, Mexico City.

“Lunik III,” (Antonio Zavala Kugler, Mexico) A Mexican agent influences the Cold War space race. Backed by Mexican tax break coin and local facilities houses. KZ Films, Huixquilucan.

“El Paso,” (Everardo Gonzalez, Mexico) Latest from a double Mexican Academy Ariel best doc winner (“The Song of Pulque,” “The Old Thieves”) and Guadalajara Fest best doc recipient (“Thieves”). Artegios, Mexico City.

“Operation: Baby” (Jose Luis Valle, Mexico) Developed at the Berlinale Residency, a kidnap caper. Screenplay completed. Caverna Cine, Mexico City

“Dirtywhirl,” (Sandra Herrero Garvin, Spain) Docu portrait of a riverside community in Chiapas, which is racked by floods. La Sandia Digital/Verde Espina Studios, Mexcico City.

“Feral,” (Andres E. Kaiser, Mexico) Developed with an IMCINE Mexican Film Institute grant under the tutorship of Jorge Michel Grau and Gustavo Montiel. Now applying for Mexican tax break funding and casting. Bisonte Films, Mexico City.

“Mean Waters,” (Sergio Marcano, Venezuela) Feature deb of Marcano, co-writer-director of “Sucre, Marshal of America.” Suecinema, Caracas.

CO-PRODUCTION MEETING PRIZES Among Awards, the Churubusco Prize includes: Pesos500,000 – Pesos1,500,000 ($38,000-$113,000) in Churubusco Studios services, with Churubusco boarding as a co-producer. With its New Art Prize, Mexico’s New Art Lab covers complete post-production of a subsequent film; LCI extends a $263,000 insurance policy for its winning project’s shoot. The Panama Festival extends an invitation to one project to participate in its own inaugural co-production forum, Meets, running April 6-9.

DOCUNEXION

“Crossing Borders,”(Karina Garcia Casanov, Canada) A record of the filmmaker’s relationship with her mother and brother, both victims of severe bipolar disorder. Eye Steel Film, Montreal.

“Aim and Shoot,” (Diego Reynosa Orozco, Mexico) Tapped from DocsDF, an account of the personal experiences of Mexican photojournalists in one of the most dangerous countries in the world for shutterbugs. La Cooperativa Audiovisual/DC Producciones, Jalisco

2ND TALENTS CO-PRODUCTION MEETING

“Back Up,”  (Pilar Alvarez, Spain) Docu-portrait of a middle-class Spanish family. Tatiana Mitre.

“Jumble,” (Max Zunino) After 30 years in exile, a man returns to Uruguay.  Joceline Hernandez, Zunino, Stacy Perskie.

“Jefe,” (Sergio Barrejon, Spain-Mexico). A night janitress saves a near-bankrupt self-made millionaire. Yadira Avalos.

“Schrodinger’s Eyes,” (Sofia Gomez Cordova, Mexico) Five teens set up home in a run-down downtown Guadalajara house. Toiz Rodriguez.

“Nido,” (Diana Montero, Cuba-Brazil) Docu-pic about 12-year-old Leoneidi, who’s trying to make a go of her marriage and contemplating motherhood. Etienne Faccin.

“Ask,” (Marco Casado, Mexico) A split-up drama, produced by Carlos Reygadas’ production designer, Gerardo Teagle.

“Santo Obito,” (Leopoldo Aguilar, Mexico) Lucha libre fan Manotas falls in love with beautiful stripper Aurora, who’s the latest corpse in his morgue. A narco imbroglio. Aguilar, Francisco Herrera, Araceli Velazquez.

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