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Alameda Films still spry at 60

Producer started 'Daniel & Ana' last week

Alameda Films, Mexico’s oldest and most prolific film production company, marks its 60th year with a turn toward edgier fare. The producer of various Arturo Ripstein classics and 2003 Oscar-nommed “The Crime of Father Amaro,” the highest-grossing local pic in Mexican film history, started shooting “Daniel & Ana” last week. Drama tracks two siblings whose joint kidnapping takes its toll on their relationship and their family.

Budgeted at $1.5 million, somber tale is the directorial feature debut of Michel Franco and stars newcomers Dario Yazbek Bernal, the younger brother of “Father Amaro” lead Gael Garcia Bernal, and Marimar Vega, daughter of veteran thesp Gonzalo Vega. Cinematographer Chuy Chavez’s credits include the visually arresting “Me and You and Everyone We Know.” Spain’s Morena Films co- produces pic.

Under the stewardship of Daniel Birman Ripstein, who took over full reins of the company when partner/ grandfather Alfredo Ripstein (and father of helmer Arturo) died in January 2007, Alameda Films has a lined up a couple of ambitious projects.

Shingle moves into uncharted territory with its first animated pic, “El Santos,” based on the wildly popular ’80s comic strip by illustrators Jis and Trino. Development has been under way the past three years, according to Birman who, chafing at the sluggish pace of animation filmmaking, says the pic should be finished by 2010.

“El Santos” could bring Alameda box office gold, just as it did the makers of 2006 toon “Una pelicula de huevos” (A Movie With Eggs), which now ranks as the second all-time grossing Mexican pic. Alameda is also developing an adaptation of Arthur Machen’s short story, “The Islington Mystery” which inspired the darkly comic 1960 pic “El esqueleto de la Senora Morales” (The Skeleton of Mrs. Morales).

Meanwhile, company is prepping digitally restored collections of the more than 100 pics produced by Alfredo Ripstein/Alameda since 1948, among them Jorge Pons’ “Midaq Alley,” which launched Salma Hayek.

Shingle produced a couple of docus in the past years, among them Carrera’s “The Red Queen: A Mayan Mystery” for the Discovery Channel. Birman is co-producing the Mexican adaptation of Broadway show “Avenue Q.” He also heads sister distrib Film House, which has released a number of pics.

“There just weren’t that many good projects out there,” says Birman of the shingle’s five year hiatus from fiction pics. But once he read Franco’s screenplay, Birman jumped at the chance to produce it. “I know that this has been well worth the wait.”

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