‘Companion’ Tops San Sebastian’s Forum

‘Acevedo’s ‘Land and Shade’ receives a special mention

SAN SEBASTIAN – “The Companion,” the third solo feature of Cuban Pavel Giroud, won the best project award at San Sebastian’s 2nd Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum.

Sponsored by Spain’s Audiovisual Producers’ Rights Management Association (EGEDA), the prize carries a Euros10,000 ($13,000) cash prize.

Produced by Cuba/Panama-based Arete Audiovisual, in co-production with Panama’s Jaguar Films, Venezuela’s Trampolin Impulso Creativo and France’s Tu Vas Voir, “The Companion” was always one of the highest-profile projects at the Forum in terms of both director – this is Giroud’s third solo film after “The Silly Age” and “Omerta” – and producers: Luis Pacheco’s Jaguar Films is Panama’s best-known production/services company; Edgard Tenembaum’s Tu Vas Voir produced Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries.”

Set in 1988 Cuba, “The Companion” was also one of the most heartfelt stories pitched at the Forum, the tale of a friendship between a disgraced pugilist forced to serve as a warden – in Cuban government jingo-speak, a “companion” – for an HIV victim.

“Companion” works at several levels. Firing shots across the bows of Fidel Castro’s government – HIV victims were incarcerated in military centers – movie’s emotional heart lies in a budding odd-couple friendship, darkened by the HIV patient’s mortal illness.

Giroud told Variety at San Sebastian that filming “Companion” had become an “obsession” for him.

Also one from the heart, “Land and Shade,” which received a Special Mention, had its director, Colombia’s Cesar Augusto Acevedo, close to tears as he pitched Monday a tale with large autobiographical elements.

It turns on an ageing farmer who, after 17 years of absence, returns to his native village in Colombia to find it almost gone, devastated by sugar plantations, and his own family victims of progress.

Acevedo said that only by making the film would he recuperate his own childhood memories.

One of the driving forces in new Cuban production (“The Wind Journeys,” “Crab Trap,” “La Playa,” “La Sirga”), Diana Bustamante’s Bogota-based Burning Blue will lead produce.

The Co-production Forum ran Sept. 23-25.

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