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Malta, Film Tank, Forastero Team For ‘The Contestant’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Pic part of rising pan-regional co-production in Latin America

In a pioneering three-way alliance between top producers across Latin America, Colombia’s Malta Cine has inked with Mexico’s Film Tank and Chile’s Forastero to co-produce “The Contestant.”

Carlos Osuna, who made an auspicious debut with “Fat, Bald, Short Man,” directs.

Written by Osuna, Juan Mauricio Ruiz, the pic’s lead producer, and Alejandro Quintero, and based on a true event, “The Contestant’s” protagonist is Cristobal, a shy 24-year-old who yearns for a quiet life living with his parents in a humble district of Cartagena, Colombia.

His mother dispatches him to pick up a free pressure cooker, offered by a condiments company. But supply is outrun by demand, as a line of 12,000 people forms at dawn. Queuing all day, Cristobal meets a beautiful woman. The line creates its own micro-communities. But by evening time, it erupts in chaotic indignation, with protestors clashing with police.

“The company making the promotion underestimated the emotion it could create and poverty levels in Colombia,” said Osuna.

With echoes of Mike Leigh’s “Happy Go Lucky” and Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” “The Contestant” is a “re-vindication of the importance of social resentment as a potential force for change and an escape valve to generate a bit of justice,” Osuna added.

Trilateral co-productions are not rare in Latin America. What distinguishes this pact is the project — it won the Cartagena Festival’s 9th International Producers Meetings this March — and the pedigree of its producers.

Malta also produced “Man,” Forastero Sebastian Silva’s 2010 Golden Globe-nommed “The Maid,” Rotterdam winner “Thursday Till Sunday” and now “Aurora,” which topped works-in-progress at Miami and Toulouse this March.

Film Tank’s credits include San Sebastian winner “Norteado,” Cannes 2012 Directors’ Fortnight player “La Sirga,” and “The Maid.”

Given the substantial rise in state film funding across Latin America — in subsidies, TV coin and tax breaks — Latin American producers can now bring substantial money to the table. Playing off economical shoot costs in Colombia — “The Contestant” aims to shoot in Cartagena — funding ensures that Osuna, as many leading lights of Latin America’s new generation of directors, will have a budget to meet the artistic ambition of “The Contestant.”

With ingratiating compassion, animated feature “Fat, Bald, Short Man” mixed rotoscoping, line-drawn 2D and CGI backgrounds to chronicle the pathetic life of a chronically-shy law clerk.

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