BUENOS AIRES – Paris- and New York-based UDI has acquired world sales rights to Jose Luis Rugeles’ “Alias Maria,” a vision of Colombia’s inhuman armed conflict, seen through the eyes of a young – and pregnant – girl soldier.
Set up at Bogota’s Rhayuela, the producer of Wild Bunch-sold “El Paramo,” “Alias Maria” is co-produced by Gilles Duffaut’s Paris-based production-distribution-sales company Axxon Films (“Irina, the Scarlet Briefcase,” “Wax”) and Buenos Aires’ Sudestada Cine (“Refugiado,” “El Paramo,” “Solo”).
Deal, sealed at the American Film Market, excludes Colombia, France and Argentina, said Eric Schnedecker, who heads up UDI’s New York office.
Penned by Diego Vivanco and directed by Jose Luis Rugeles (“Garcia”), in his second directorial outing, and part of a multiplatform production that includes a Web series, feature-length docu “Alias: Ginette” and workshops with children, “Alias Maria” turns on a touchstone dilemma for Colombia of characters forced to choose between violence and life-enhancing action.
Here, Maria, 13, who’s been a guerrilla soldier for two years, discovers she’s pregnant. She takes part in a mission to take the commander’s newborn baby across the jungle to a safe town with three other guerrilla soldiers: Byron (17), Yuldor (just 12) and her boyfriend Mauricio (28).
Exposed during the mission, she runs away in order to avoid being forced to abort by the local high command.
Through Maria’s eyes, “Alias Maria” pictures the desolate state of Colombia’s armed conflict: Towns devastated by massacres, peasants trapped in the cross-fire, parents who have lost their families, and kids who try to carry on having a normal childhood.
“’Alias Maria’ will be ready for delivery winter 2015,” Schnedecker said.
An “intimate drama,“ “Alias Maria” is an attempt to dissuade young audiences from taking up arms in Colombia, said Rhayuela producer Federico Duran. The average age of recruits in Colombia in 2013 was 12.5 years of age. Some sources say that nearly 50% of combatants are under 18, and almost half of these under 15, he added.
“The film is still in post-production, but it’s already extremely moving with an outstanding performance by the lead actress Karen Torres as Maria,” said Schnedecker.
He went on: “In addition to dealing with the political complexities of Latin America and Colombia in particular, it addresses the emotional aspect of motherhood and pregnancy in the guerrilla and the length to which one will go to protect the life of a child.”
Boasting Rhayuela’s hallmark social-issue genre mix, Duran’s aimed-for directorial debut “Dark Room” will be pitched at Ventana Sur’s Beyond the Window showcase. A psycho thriller, it turns on a high-school act of vengeance that is mistaken for a kidnapping.
Anna Marie de la Fuente contributed to this article.