RIO DE JANEIRO — Just ten years ago, a rapidly-plexing Latin America seemed like a wasteland for arthouse distribution, as U.S. and overseas exhibition groups constructed multiplexes ideal for the exhibition of Hollywood blockbusters to Latin American youth and families.
Now the boot is – just slightly – moving towards the other foot. In its latest move, NDM, the adventurous Paris/Mexico based sales company launched by Jaime Romandia’s Mantarraya and Carlos Reygadas’ No Dream Cinema, has acquired world sales rights to “Lucifer,” from the almost preternaturally young Belgian director Gust Van den Berghe. When just 24, Van den Burghe burst onto the scene with “Little Baby Jesus of Flandyr,” which played Directors’ Fortnight in 2010, as did his follow-up, “Blue Bird.”
His third feature, “Lucifer” will world premiere in the main Cinema d’Oggi competition for emerging talent at mid-October’s Rome Festival.
The pick-up comes just six weeks after NDM pounced on Norwegian Ole Giaever’s mountains-set dramedy “Out of Nature.” NDM already distributes two more European films: Bruno Dumont’s “Li’l Quinquin,” and Lluis Minarro’s “Falling Star.”
“Lucifer” is no easy play: The third part of a triptych on the emergence of human consciousness, post “Little Baby Jesus of Flandr” and “Blue Bird,” the film narrates how Lucifer, on his way from Heaven to Hell, visits a Mexican village where an elderly woman, Lupita tends the sheep with her grand-daughter Maroa while Lupita’s sciving brother Emanuel pretends he’s paralyzed to dedicate himself to drinking and gambling. Plating a miraculous healer, Lucifer forces Emanuel to walk, seduces Maria, sows seeds of doubt in Lupita about her faith.
This is no ordinary devil, exposing people’s folly, hypocrisy and weaknesses, setting the record straight.
Nor is “Lucifer” an ordinary film, inspired in part by part of a celebrated 1654 theater play by Dutch playwright Joost Van den Vondel, and shot entirely, according to Flanders Image, in Tondoscope, a new circular – see photo – format and lens. It was especially created for the film by its d.p. Hans Bruch Jr, and researchers at Brussels’ VUB University.
As many European sales companies are moving out of high-arthouse, citing, among other factors, the reluctance or inability of European broadcasters to pick-up non-national European films, a New World company is moving in.
European companies worry about the sustainability of arthouse models. In Mexico, though from a very low base, art pic production and distribution has grown. Mantarraya and Nodream also run a highly active distribution house in Mexico, ND Mantarraya. When it launched seven years ago, it released four films a year and bowed its first film on two copies. Now it bows films every three weeks on up-to-30, NDM’s Fiorella Moretti told Variety this August.