Lara preps Mexican battle epic

$5.5 mil '5 de mayo' re-creates Battle of Puebla

Mexico’s Rafa Lara (“La Milagrosa,” “Labios rojos”) is set to direct “5 de mayo: la batalla,” re-creating Mexico’s 1862 Battle of Puebla.

The $5.5 million-budgeted film uses 5,000 members of Mexico’s armed forces and is backed by Mexico’s State of Puebla, which has put up $2.5 million.

“5 de mayo” weighs is the latest in a string of sweeping and high-end — for Mexico — historical dramas produced locally over the last couple of years, further confirming the raised ambitions of Latin American filmmakers.

Written by Lara and producer partner Francisco Gallastegui, “5 de mayo” covers the December 1861 invasion of Mexico by Emperor Napoleon III’s troops, Lara said at Huelva’s Co-Production Forum.

In the battle, 4,000 Mexicans under the 33-year-old General Ignacio Zaragoza, low on guns and ammunition and some armed only with stones, defeated 5,000 crack French troops.

Repelled, Napoleon III shelved plans to drive through Mexico and unite with Confederate Forces in the American Civil War, Lara said.

“5 de mayo” is set up at Lara and Gallastegui’s Mexico City-based Gala Films.

Mexico’s state-owned Estudios Churubusco is co-producing, investing $1 million in services. Private investors are committing a further $500,000, Gallastegui said.

“5 de mayo” will roll early 2012, in time for Puebla’s 150th anniversary celebrations, he added.

Lara demonstrated his action movie directing chops in 2006’s “La Milagrosa,” about the abduction of a well-to-do Colombian by FARC guerrilla forces. He also created and co-helmed Latino TV series “At the Edge of the Law,” this year’s serial-killer thriller “The 5th Commandment,” now closing major territories sales for Latido, and sex comedy “Labios rojos,” whose U.S. release, simultaneous to Mexico’s, notched up $136,163 for Lionsgate through Oct. 28.

Both “Commandment” and “Labios” screen at Argentina’s Ventana Sur film mart, which kicks off Friday.

“Puebla was Mexico’s most glorious battle,” Lara said. “At such a sad time for Mexico, ‘5 de mayo’ talks about a victory, a source of pride.”