‘Violeta’s’ Andres Wood, ‘Neruda’s’ Guillermo Calderon

Produced by Alejandra Garcia, ‘Araña’ shows Wood scaling up in ambition, budget

BUENOS AIRES —  Andres Wood, director of Sundance winner “Violeta Went to Heaven,” is teaming with Guillermo Calderón, co-writer of Pablo Larrain’s “The Club” and writer of his “Neruda,” to create “Araña,” a political thriller that explores the roots of a new nationalism now threatening the world.

Produced by Alejandra Garcia at Santiago de Chile’s Wood Producciones, “Araña” also sets out to join a burgeoning and distinguished breed of powerful Latin American cross-over movies which combine mainstream tropes and wider audience and artistic ambitions, amped-up budgets, multiple partner co-production structures, and often star presence. Think “Wild Tales” and “The Clan” and indeed, “Neruda” and now Santiago Mitre’s” The Summit.”

With a Wood-Calderon screenplay near to completion, “Araña” is fruit of a reflection about what really merits being brought to the big screen in a contemporary context of multimedia contents, Garcia said.

Departing from true events, “Araña” joins the dots between Chile’s great trauma, Augusto Pinochet’s coup d’etat, and today’s welling non-civic nationalism. But it does so weaving a tale of passion, betrayal and egotism. It turns on three once inseparable friends, Ines, husband Justo and Gerardo, all members in the early 1970s of Chile’s ultra-nationalist movement, Fatherland and Liberty. which organises attacks and crimes to sow disorder in the build-up to Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup d’etat. Ines and Gerardo carry on a passionate love affair. But in one operation, where they assassinate an Allende aide-de-camp, an act of treachery separates them, seemingly for ever.

More than 40 years later, pardoned by Pinochet, Ines and Justo have ridden Chile’s neo-liberal wave, are now powerful, prestigious professionals. Then Gerardo, still a nationalist bigot, erupts once more into their life threatening the couple’s privileged existence.

“‘Araña’ is set in a specific historical context but this is treated in a symbolic wave, this is symbolic not historical realism,” Garcia said, adding that the feature “shows how many societies have very strong nationalistic roots which are growing throughout the world.”

The reflection could hardly be more opportune as U.S. president elect Donald Trump champions America First and the expulsion of millions of paperless immigrants from the U.S.

Wood Producciones script consultant Eliseo Altunaga is advising on the screenplay. Garcia added that Wood Producciones aims to set up “Araña” as a international co-production. It will go into production second half 2017.

Wood and Calderon have already collaborated on the screenplay of “Violeta Went To Heaven,” hit Chilean TV series “Ecos del Desierto,” co-produced with Turner, and “Ramona,” selected for Cannes’ inaugural MipDrama Screenings last April, and soon to air on Chilean pubcaster TVN.

The energetic move into small-screen production shows Wood Producciones taking advantage of both mass audiences for upscale TV fare and Chilean state-backed funding.

“Many series produced in Chile that have won funding from Chile’s national TV regulator show social issues, historic events, current debates on education, political corruption and the role of the church that aren’t very common topics on other countries’ TV schedules, Wood told Variety last year, mentioning series such as “The Substitute Teacher,” “Juana Brava” and “The Karadima Forest,” among others. In TV production, Wood Producciones has found a business model, immediate raison d’être and an audience.

Four-part Miniseries “Ecos del desierto” narrates a woman’s campaign over 40 years to bring the murderers of her husband, killed by Chile’s Caravan of Death, a Chilean death squad formed after Pinochet’s coup. It scored an around-20% share.

“Los 80” aired on Canal 13 to around-25% shares. “The series has its own rhythm, many times slow and with pauses, which people liked so much that it has run to seven seasons,” Garcia said.

Wood Producciones currently has two series in development: “Colonia Dignidad” and “Mary & Mike.” Produced by Invercine and Wood Producciones, “Colonia Dignidad” is based on the true story of the only people who succeeded in escaping from Colonia Dignidad, re-baptised Villa Baviera, a Chilean community which, founded by Paul Schafer in 1961, became a torture center under Pinochet. Schafer himself was convicted of pedophilia in 2007. Patricio Pereira, Julio Jorquera and Esteban Larraín have developed the show. Screenplay is by Luis Barrales.

Another Invercine-Wood co-production made in conjunction with Turner, “Mary & Mike” is in pre-production, Garcia said. It turns on a true-life couple who worked outside Chile for Augusto Pinochet’s secret police, assassinating opposition to his regime, such as Orlando Leterial, Salvador Allende’s former chanciller, in a murder perpetrated in 1976 in Washington.

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