Taking off the table the only Spanish-language title confirmed to date for Cannes, ARP Selection, one of France’s premier arthouse distributors, has acquired French rights to David Pablos’ “The Chosen Ones” (“Las Elegidas”).
One of 14 Un Certain Regard titles unveiled last Thursday by Thierry Fremaux, “Chosen” is lead-produced by top Mexican production house Canana, founded by Pablo Cruz, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, whose credits include Gerardo Naranjo’s “Miss Bala,” Cary Fukunaga’s “Sin Nombre” and the Luna-directed “Abel” and “Cesar Chavez.”
“The Chosen Ones” is co-produced by Paris-based Manny Films, founded by Philippe Gompel, which also co-produced Pablo Fendrik’s “El Ardor” with Argentina’s Magma Cine, Canana and Brazil’s Bananeira Filmes.
A joint venture of IM Global and Canana, Mundial will handle worldwide sales.
Produced by Cruz and a love story with thriller elements and ethical dilemmas, “The Chosen Ones” turns on 15-year-old, Ulises, who is being groomed by his father to enamor young girls, tricking them into prostitution. But he falls in love with Sofia, his first victim, who’s just 14. To save her, his father demands he seduces a second girl, entangling Ulises in the world of juvenile prostitution that he was trying to avoid, from which escape comes at a very high price.
“Though set in the world of juvenile prostitution, this is a film about characters, the relationship between Ulises and Sofia, how it’s transformed,” Pablos told Variety. He added: “The story’s seen from the masculine point of view. What moved me was to have someone born into a specific context, where he’s obliged to do certain things because of family tradition, suddenly question the world he’s in and doubt what he’s doing.”
According to Pablos, the plot places spectators at an “ethical crossroads,” where they wanting Sofia to escape from prostitution but ask how they can hope for another girl to pay such a high price for that to happen. Shot in Tijuana, Pablos’ native town, the film’s leads — Oscar Torres, Nancy Lourdes Talamantes — are locals, like the rest of the cast. Torres and Talamantes had no acting experience but personalities and ages similar to Ulises and Sofia. Pablos said he wanted at all costs to avoid a “sordid” or “sermonizing” film.
“The Chosen Ones” is written by Pablos. Pedro Peirano, the screenwriter of Pablo Larrain’s Oscar-nominated “No” and co-scribe on Sebastian Silva’s “The Maid,” served as a script consultant. Running 1 hour 45 minutes, “Chosen” is inspired by an idea from famed Mexican writer Jorge Volpi that he subsequently published as a novel.
A buzz project at San Sebastián’s 2014 Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum, “Chosen” marks the second feature from Pablos, an alum of Mexico’s Centro de Capacitacion Cinematografica (CCC), following “The Life After,” a teen brother road movie that, remarkably for a graduation film, played Venice Horizons in 2013, establishing Pablos as a talent to track. “On watching ‘The Life After,’ I could see behind it one of the most talented of young Mexican directors in recent years,” said producer Cruz.
Buying mostly from Europe, ARP targets often art films with potentially wider audience appeal: Ari Folman’s “The Congress,” with Robin Wright, J.C. Chandor’s “Margin Call,” and Paulo Sorrentino’s Sean Penn starrer “This Must Be the Place” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects.” ARP moved smartly to acquire Jayro Bustamante’s Nicaraguan drama “Ixcanul” before the Berlin Festival, where it won a Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize.