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10 to Watch: Jorge Vergara

Man behind 'Mama' tests Mexico's boundaries

Jorge Vergara’s debut in cinema was probably just a matter of time. The producer of “Y Tu Mama Tambien” is widely regarded as a businessman with a vision and flair that go beyond the bottom line.

Prior to co-founding indie production outfit Anhelo with Alfonso Cuaron, Vergara built up his Omnilife empire selling health supplements across Latin America during the 1990s. Annual sales now top $600 million.

Informal and preferring first names, the billionaire also has embarked on the construction of a risky $500 million postmodern city center just outside his hometown of Guadalajara. Featuring a modern art museum and cockfighting ring, the project’s list collaborators reads like a who’s who of world architecture.

His incursion into film came after he met helmer Cuaron in 1999 to ask the latter to make an Omnilife promo. Instead, Cuaron sold Vergara on his plans for “Y Tu Mama.” Within hours of reading the script, Vergara had told Cuaron to get on with the project.

Nevertheless, Vergara is keen not to be seen as simply the money man to Cuaron’s creative role in Anhelo. Vergara is in the hunt for a scripter to flesh out his own feminist idea “Escuela de Mujeres” (Women’s School).

“This is a macho society where it is forbidden for a woman to be successful,” says Vergara, who is determined to test more boundaries in patriarchal, Catholic Mexico.

Snapshot:

Primary credits: Produced “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and co-produced “El Espinazo del Diablo” (The Devil’s Backbone) with Pedro Almodovar’s Deseo

Definition of a producer: “Someone with the leverage to pick and choose projects and the vision to match the cash.”

Strengths: “If I like a project, funding is not an issue.”

Achilles’ heel: Doesn’t want to be seen as a one-hit wonder if Anhelo fails to build on the success of “Y Tu Mama Tambien.”