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Alebrije, Total Team for ‘If I Were You’ Redo (EXCLUSIVE)

‘Instructions’ producer allies with Brazilian powerhouse

RIO DE JANEIRO – Monica Lozano’s Mexico City-based Alebrije Cine y Video, the producer behind U.S./Mexico B.O. phenom “Instructions Not Included,” is teaming with Walkiria Barbosa’s Total Filmes in Rio to produce a Mexican Spanish-language version of identity-switch comedy, “If I Were You,” already a Brazilian smash-hit movie franchise.

Produced by Total, “If I Were You” was distributed by Fox in Brazil.

Lozano and Barbosa sealed the deal Wednesday at the Rio Festival’s RioMarket.

It comes as “Instructions,” starring, written and directed by Univision/Televisa host Eugenio Derbez, has romped to $28.6 million in Mexico, released by Televisa’a Videocine, making it the highest-grossing Mexican film of all time on home turf.

Distributed Stateside by Pantelion, a joint venture of Lionsgate and Televisa, “Instructions” has already become the biggest Spanish language-hit ever in the U.S., grossing $39.1 million to date.

“If I Were You,” a franchise in Brazil, also caught fire at local wickets. Released in 2006 and 2009, its two parts have grossed a combined 79.5 million reals ($36.1 million), ranking No. 2 and No. 6. in Brazilian releases over 2000-12, per Filme B.

A comedy with broad social point, “If I Were You” turns on a couple who, after a particularly virulent row, change bodies. Both, but particularly the husband, haven’t a clue about how to behave, suggesting they haven’t a clue about how their other half really lived.

“It’s a fantasy comedy about couples, the little value and understanding one gives to the other’s work and role,” Lozano said in Rio.

Redo’s core target market is Mexico and the U.S., she added.

Alebrije will remake the first film in the Brazilian franchise.

“If I Were You” toplined two Brazilian telenovela icon, Tony Ramos and Gloria Pires. Like the string of comedic blockbusters which has helped propel Brazilian films to double digit market shares – 19% through August, something unheard off in the rest of Latin America – it also touched a national nerve, capturing the insecurities of a Brazilian society hurtling towards modernization.

In Mexico, the Spanish version is penned by Hugo Rodriguez and Miguel Necoechea, co-scribes on true-event historical thriller “Colosio: The Assassination,” also produced by Alebrije and the top-ranking Mexican film of 2012.

Lozano is in negotiations for two big Mexican stars to topline “If I Were You.” She is also discussing Mexican distribution with a major, she said.

Mexico has nothing like Brazil’s modern tradition of comedy blockbusters. The dramatic breakout this year of two Mexican movies — Warner Bros-released “We Are the Nobles” ($26.3 million), and now dramedy “Instructions,” suggests, however, that that could be changing.

“’We Are the Nobles’ and ‘Instructions Not Included’ are comedy-dramas about social issues that concern people, the lack of communication between parents and children and men’s problems about commitment and refusal to accept his parenthood, respectively. But they are treated with a light touch,” Lozano said.

Lozano aims to produce “If I Were You,” with co-production equity, a distribution advance, Article 226 tax-coin and her own capital.

Post-“Instructions,” Alebrije will not, however, just be making broad comedies.

“We have to make films with different stories targeting different audiences,” Lozano said.

Also backed by Lady Leonor and Agencia SHA, “The Obscure Spring,” Ernesto Contreras’ fiction feature follow-up to his debut, Cannes Critics’ Week player “Blue Eyes,” is near completion.

“We’re now exploring festival and international sales opportunities,” Lozano said.

Jose Maria Yazpik (“I’m So Excited”), Cecilia Suarez (“Spanglish”) and Irene Azuela (“Miss Bala”) star in Contreras’ drama about a torrid and carnal affair.

Alebrije will also co-produce Barcelona-based Antonio Chavarrias’ historical thriller about Ramon Mercader, the communist who murdered Trotsky at Stalin’s behest.

Again, it’s no broad comedy: “Our film reflects a historical period which changed from the hope of the Russian Revolution to the nightmare Stalin made it. Our story tracks the transformation of a free idealist into a murderer unable to escape his destiny,” Chavarrias said.

“We are very happy. We have been talking about an ‘If I Were You’ remake for years,” Barbosa said at the RioMarket.

The partners are now divvying up key craft and technical contributions, she added.

Total already adapted for Brazil a Mexican hit comedy, “Sex, Shame & Tears,” which was originally produced by Matthias Ehrenberg.

For Total, the “If I Were You” deal adds another element to its construction of international film/TV alliances straddling Latin America’s biggest territories.

It is building a film co-production slate with Daniel Burman’s BD Cine, and exploring further co-production opportunities with Alebrije, Barbosa said.

“We want to make films together in and an outside Latin America in Portuguese in Brazil and in Spanish for the rest of Latin America,” Barbosa said.

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