Dominga Sotomayor and Omar zuniga

Santiago-based production house links to Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica on international co-production

Chile’s Cinestacion, a fast-emerging Latin American co-production force, has greenlit “Los Fuertes,” the debut feature of Omar Zuñiga whose “San Cristobal” won a Berlin Festival Teddy Award last year.

Scheduled to shoot late 2017, “Los Fuertes” slots into a 2017 slate which is by far the biggest ever from Cinestacion, founded in 2008 by director Dominga Sotomayor (“Thursday Till Sunday,” “The Island”), Zuñiga and post-production manager-editor Catalina Marin.

In the quality of creative talent involved and now scale of its slate, through both creative support and international co-production, majorly with Argentina and Brazil, Cinestacion has its pedal to the metal as it firms up its status as a arthouse platform for emerging voices from across Latin America.

In other banner news, Zuñiga confirmed to Variety at Ventana Sur that Cinestacion is moving into TV production, with “Alma,” a scripted drama from Sotomayor and writer-director Manuela Martelli. It will also produce its first documentary feature, “The Story of My Name,” by first-time director Karin Cuyul, a producer at Cinestacion.

A New York University’s Graduate Film Program alum, in 2012 Zuñiga directed “On Learning Of a Friend’s Illness,” a segment featuring james Franco and Zach Braff of omnibus feature “The Color of Time.” Introduced to sales agents and distributors at Ventana Sur, “Los Fuertes” snagged a U.K. distribution deal with arthouse outfit Peccadillo Pictures. It has now just won cornerstone financing from Chile’s state-backed Arts and Audiovisual Industry Council (CNCA), allowing it to go into production late next year. Written by Zuñiga, “Los Fuertes,” which received Ibermedia development funding, is inspired by “San Cristobal,” which won a best short Teddy Award at the 2015 Berlin Festival. Set in Southern Chile, it plumbs the large benefits of a love story, however unlikely and despite a social context caught halfway between tradition and modernity, between a middle-class man who’s just about to move abroad and a struggling young fisherman.

“Their relationship forces them to confront their own realities and break their loneliness, learning to trust the people they can finally feel close to,” said Zuñiga, adding that they “grow together towards a new space of independence in their adulthood.”

Also a CNCA awardee, the semi-autobiographical “The Story of My Name” chronicles the search for a photo, taken of the director by the parents of Karin Eitel, who, incarcerated Augusto Pinochet’s regime, was tortured, sedated and interrogated on Chilean public TV  in 1987.

The case inspired Cuyul’s mother to given the director Eitel’s first name and the director, while attempting to locate the photo, to “try to reveal a common memory, in which the things we remember and the things we forget are combined, while we create our own version of our past,” the synopsis reads. That  subject has of course a larger social resonance in post-Pinochet Chile.

Seeking to establish links and pool forces with other leading talent incubators in the region, Cinestacion is teaming to produce Sotomayor’s “Late To Die Young,” with Rodrigo Teixeira’s Sao Paolo-based RT Features, which is backing new generation of Brazilian genre auteurs, and now Argentina’s Ruda Cine, producer of Milagros Mumenthaler’s first and second movies and Eduardo Williams’ “The Human Surge,” a 2016 Locarno Filmmakers of the Present winner.

The Netherlands’ Circe Films also co-produces Sotomayor’s third feature, a coming-of-age film set in an isolated rural community as Chile returns to democracy. In pre-production for an early 2017 start, “Late to Die Young” is backed by a new Brazil-Chile bilateral film fund, said Zuñiga.

Cinestacion has also taken a minority stake in “Die Monster Die,” lead-produced out of Argentina by La Union de los Rios and Alejandro Fadel’s second feature after “The Wild Ones,” which scooped Cannes’ 2012 Critics’ Week ACID/CCAS Distribution Support Award. Another minority co-production soon to shoot is “El hombre de la Mancha,” the second feature from Costa Rica’s Neto Villalobos (“Por las plumas”), portraying the esprit de corps of despatch riders in Costa Rica. Project was developed at Cannes’ Cinefondation and Produire au Sud in France’s Nantes.

Cinestacion is moving forward with negotiations for a co-production with Italy and Germany on Martelli’s first debut “1976,” about a woman who senses that life has passed her by. It also has Felipe Carmona’s “Cordillera” and Fernando Lavanderos’ “La hierba de los caminos” in development.

Doubling down on international co-production, Cinestacion can diversify risk and spread investment across a far broader slate.

Co-production is also about creativity and distribution, however.

“It’s interesting how new possibilities are opening up for co-production in Latin America, which determines new languages and new possibilities for communication and visibility across the region,” Sotomayor has commented.

Linking to international partners also forms part of a longterm mission, Zuñiga observed.

“This has been a benchmark year for us, promoting international collaboration from Santiago,” he said.

He added: “We are consolidating as an important and creative hub for film production in South America, and as producers and creators, we look forward to support the voices and directors from the region.”

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