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Giroud Readies ‘The Companion’

Cuba-set friendship drama unveiled at San Sebastian

SAN SEBASTIAN – Panama’s Arete Audiovisual and Jaguar Films and Venezuela’s Trampolin Impulso Creativo are linking with France’s Tu Vas Voir, the producer of Walter Salles’ “The Motorcycle Diaries,” to produce “The Companion,” a friendship drama from Pavel Giroud.

“The Companion” is one of the highest-profile projects being pitched at San Sebastian’s 2nd Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum, which unspools Monday through Wednesday at the Spanish festival.

Giroud has carved out a reputation focusing on universal experience – coming of age in his 2006 breakthrough “The Silly Age,” ageing in 2008’s “Omerta,” which world premiered at San Sebastian – against specific events in recent Cuban history, for “Age” and “Omerta” the Cuban Revolution.

In “The Companion,” Giroud moves on in time, setting the action in 1988 Cuba as Fidel Castro’s government dispatched HIV patients to AIDS centers under military rule.

There, a disgraced boxer, Horacio, the subject of a doping scandal, is forced to stand guard over Daniel, the most unruly of the HIV patients, as his so-called “companion,” accompanying him on his rare sallies outside the center. But a conflictive relationship gradually yields to real friendship.

Brazilian star Lazaro Ramos, the lead in “Madame Sata,” will play Horacio.

Overshadowing the movie is another part of the life-cycle that is Giraud’s stock in trade: Here the possibility of Daniel’s death.

“A 100% Cuban movie,” in Tenembaum’s words, “The Companion” is also written by Giroud. In an early stage of development, it was also co-written by Alejandro Brugues, who went on to helm zombie satire “Juan of the Dead.”

Panama’s Arete Audiovisual is staffed by Cubans.

The producers are now looking for a Spanish or other European producer to complete financing.

Giroud spent a year researching HIV illness in Cuba for a documentary.

“Stylistically, I hope ‘The Companion’ will be like ’70s American cinema, has had a large influence on me, a film which can connect with the public but has auteurist values, which is not just a popcorn picture,” Giroud said at San Sebastian.

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