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Yepez, Villacis Prep ‘Mirror’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Latin America’s animation scene builds

LOCARNO — A lynchpin in one of Latin America’s newest pushes to fire up movie production, producer Arturo Yepez (“No Autumn, No Spring”), a partner of “Europa Report” director Sebastian Cordero in Ecuador’s Carnaval Cine, has boarded “El espejo humeante” (The Smoking Mirror).

Pic reps one of the most ambitious animation projects currently under development in Latin America.

A fantasy epic, “Mirror” is based on a macro exhibition of oil and acrylic paintings, sketches and multiple mock artifacts imagining an alternative history in which, following Christopher Colombus’ discovery of America, the Aztecs conquered Europe, creating a civilization known as Amexica.

Created by Eduardo Villacis, an Ecuador-based painter, comic book artist and multi-prized animator, the exhibition’s narrative culminates with the Pope being burnt at the stake in Rome for heresy.

Described by Yepez as a “black-humored feature not necessarily targeting kids,” the 3D toon pic “The Smoking Mirror” pictures a universe where the Aztecs, having conquered Europe, build their central pyramid in Rome. Their high priest demands more blood sacrifices to step up the work rate, but a European slave, one Leonardo da Vinci, saves the day designing a machine to manhandle huge stones up the pyramid.

The priest, who’s announced the world will end the next year, decides anyway to slaughter all Europe’s natives.

“’The Smoking Mirror’ talks about power play, and how victors write history at their convenience,” said Yepez, who is in Locarno for the 5th Puentes Europe-Latin America Producers Workshop. There he is developing the next movie by Cordero, “Such Is Life in the Tropics,” a co-production with Argentina’s Aeroplano.

Currently being written by Villacis, who is also attached to direct, and Felipe Teran, an Ecuadorian screenwriter, “The Smoking Mirror” is set up as a 50/50 co-production between Yepez and Colombia’s Jaguar Taller Digital, which produced the well-received animated docu feature “Little Voices,” Yepez said.

Yepez is now in talks with Cordero, who has been caught up in the U.S. release of “Europa Report,” and Andres Crespo, the third partner at Carnaval Cine, to make “Mirror” a Carnaval Cine production, he added.

Bowed by Magnolia Pics genre label Magnet Releasing on Aug. 2, sci-fi thriller “Europa Report,” Cordero’s first full English-language movie, has met with an upbeat critical reception — Variety called it a “reasonably plausible and impressively controlled achievement” — and $22,243 on a first-frame three-theater limited release. It will platform up to a further 15 locations by Sept. 15.

Expanding into distribution, Carnaval will release “Europa Report” in Ecuador, Yepez said.

He also confirmed that Zachary Sklar, the co-scribe with Oliver Stone of “JFK,” will attend a screenwriting laboratory organized with La Orquidea Cuenca Film Festival and Mexican producer Bertha Navarro, who already organizes the Oaxaca Screenwriting Lab.

The 1st Screenwriting for the Andean Community, Cuenca-Ecuador, as the event is known, is slated for November. Cordero will also serve as a tutor.

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