MADRID — U.S. director Josef Wladyka is advancing in post-production on his feature film debut, “Manos sucias,” a groundbreaking U.S.-Colombian production which has drawn both inspiration and co-financing from Latin America.
As it becomes increasingly hard to make independent films in Hollywood, such groundbreaking cases attain a cardinal importance.
Co-written by Wladyka and Alan Blanco, also the movie’s D.P., and filmed in Spanish, often using the local area’s colloquial dialect, “Manos sucias” turns on two Afro-Colombian fisherman, one desperate, the other young and naive, who are forced to tow a “narco torpedo” carrying millions of dollars worth of cocaine up the Pacific Coast of Colombia to Panama. Together they must navigate the war-torn region and the rising friction between them.
Of the films leads, Jarlin Javier Martinez graduated from the Dramatic Arts Program at Buenaventura’s Universidad del Valle. Cristian James Abvincula is still enrolled in the same department.
Wrapping production June 29, “Manos sucias” is produced by U.S.-based Elena Greenlee and Marcia Nunes, a former sales and acquisitions exec for London-based Goldcrest Films Intl.
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During film development, it became clear that “however difficult it might be to shoot in this area of Colombia on a logistics level, it would be impossible to re-create this world, its texture and authenticity anywhere else,” Greenlee said.
Given that, one challenge and achievement of “Manos sucias” has been to mesh U.S. and Colombian financing.
Exec produced by Regency Boies, Marisa Polvino and Kate Cohen at Santa Monica-based Heart Headed Productions, “Manos sucias” tapped a Canon Filmmaker Award through Film Independent, a SFFS/KRF Filmmaking Grant for production from the San Francisco Film Society, a Spike Lee Fellowship Award, and coin from U.S. private investors.
In Colombia, “Manos sucias” is co-produced by former Dynamo producer Mirlanda Torres Zapata at her shingle El Colectivo Grupo Creativo. One of Colombia’s two largest broadcast networks, Caracol TV, will air “Manos sucias” in Colombia. Cine Colombia, the country’s biggest distributor-exhibitor, has acquired theatrical rights. Colombian investors benefit from a 41% tax credit.
“It’s important to establish talent relationships with directors and think of co-productions,” said Pia Barragan, Cine Colombia’s alternative content manager.
For Barragan, “Josef has a special talent and we want to grow with him. His sensibility and vision will be very enriching for our cinema.”
Kickstarter funding, which reached targets, supplied gap financing. “Manos sucias” straddles borders in more than financing terms, however.
“There has never been a film that takes audiences into such an authentically Colombian world, executed with a U.S. indie film production strategy. Nor one that blends local talent so seamlessly with more classical American genre elements,” Nunes claimed.
While “Manos sucias” uses the naturalistic, handheld shots common to other independent films shot in developing locations, Wladyka and Blanco were also inspired by classic American films, she added.
That led them to make what Nunes called “bold choices” when designing the film’s aesthetic and motifs.
“We believe it is this combination of local and genre elements that will attract audiences to the film.”
Production did present challenges: “Especially with cash-flowing production since most things had to be paid in cash on location and Colombian funds are dispersed by fiduciary account designed to pay third parties directly,” Greenlee said.
Neither Greenlee nor Nunes are complaining much, however. Start of development to delivery will be just 15 months. Both producers would be highly interested in shooting another Latin American subject in Latin America.