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Cannibals, Hallucinogens Help Chilean Pics Gain Traction in English

Horrormeister Eli Roth partners on Chilewood venture

In Chile, as in much of the world, English is becoming the lingua franca among a growing number of filmmakers, as arthouse and genre helmers alike make it the primary language in films targeted to play beyond the country’s tiny film market.

The trend comes at a time when Chilean pics have been gaining recognition on the fest circuit: This year, Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria” played in competition at Berlin and picked up three awards; it reps Chile in the foreign-language Oscar race. (Last year, Pablo Larrain’s “No” grabbed a foreign-language Oscar nom.)

And at this year’s Sundance, Sebastian Silva took home the directing award for his hallucinogenic drug-fueled romp “Crystal Fairy,” following his Grand Jury Prize for “The Maid” in 2009.

Jirafa Films’ founder Bruno Bettati notes that the move to English is especially strong “among directors who have made more than three films and have already gained some international recognition.”

Silva, now a Brooklyn resident, is prepping his next project, “Nasty Baby,” starring Kristen Wiig. “Crystal Fairy” is mainly in English, while his other Sundance 2013 entry, “Magic, Magic” (pictured) is in both English and Spanish. Both star Michael Cera.

Nicolas Lopez, who has established a partnership he has dubbed Chilewood with Eli Roth, helmed earthquake thriller “Aftershock” — set in Chile and in English and Spanish — and is tipped to direct the sequel to Roth’s cannibal horror pic “The Green Inferno.” Both pics were lensed mostly in Chile at a fraction of what they would have cost if they had been made in the U.S.

“We shot ‘Aftershock’ for $2 million, but it looked like a $10 million movie,” Lopez maintains. Chilewood aims to produce local pics with budgets of no less than $500,000 and international mainstream pics for no less than $10 million, he adds.

Even Chile’s pioneering horrormeister Jorge Olguin has made the country’s first 3D pic, “Whispers of the Forest,” mainly in English. Now in post, the fantasy pic cost a paltry $500,000 despite the use of 3D cameras.

While English-lingo horror sells well in the international marketplace, arthouse helmers also are adopting the tongue. Cristian Jimenez (“Bonsai,” which preemed at Cannes 2011), and Gonzalo Justiniano (“B-Happy” and “Have You Seen Lupita?”) are prepping pics in English. Even wildly popular mimic/standup comedian Stefan Kramer, whose broad comedy “Stefan vs. Kramer” was Chile’s biggest blockbuster, is mulling a fish-out-of-water story set in Miami after Fox releases his next comedy, “El Ciudadano Kramer,” in December.

Indeed, with the growing push to grab international sales, worldwide mainstream audiences and festival accolades, a new generation of Chilean filmmakers has its eyes on the global prize. And it’s an easy concept to translate.

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