GUADALAJARA – Ozcar Ramirez’s Arte Mecanica, director Gerardo Tort (“Round Trip,” “Streeters”) and Tort’s screenwriter Marina Stavenhagen (“Have You Seem Lupita?) are teaming to make “The Broken Years,” about Mexico’s little-known 1970s Dirty War.
“The Broken Years” also forms part of a compelling production slate at Arte Mecanica, one of Mexico’s fast-rising production houses, which also includes “The Romantic Barber” from Ivan Avila (“La sangre iluminada”), and “Short Plays,” a soccer-themed movie/TV series with shorts from Carlos Reygadas, Vincent Gallo, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Gaspar Noe. Its announcement has already made it one of the buzz titles at Guadalajara.
The 2014 slate has come together just after Arte Mecanica moved last year into theatrical distribution, launching successfully “Ciclo” through a spirited campaign linking to interest groups and associations.
“Broken Years” begins with a fifty-something man who is having breakfast in downtown Mexico City, when a friend from school recognizes him. They start talking, and the school friend asks about his brother. The man says: “He died in the ‘70s, he disappeared,” to which his school friend replies: “Of course not: I saw him years later, alive.”
“Our main character learned to live by the rules and now he wants to understand why his brother put himself in danger,” Arte Mecanica’s Ramirez said at Mexico’s Guadalajara Festival.
“Via the man’s quest to find his brother, we understand what happened in those years, which we never talk about, because it was silenced by the government,” Ramirez said.
Calling “The Broken Years” “an important, deep film, he added: “We want to bring this to the table so that we don’t forget. Hundreds of people were killed over the years and most people never heard about it.”
“The Romantic Barber” is co-financed by funding from Fidecine, a Mexican state film support fund. It is set to shoot in June and is currently being structured as a Mexico-Brazil co-production. Helmed by Avila, who also directed “Adan y Eva (todavia),” it turns on a man who is a routine fanatic, loves classic movies, old songs, supports the worst soccer team in Mexico, and whose whole ordered life is thrown out of synch when he discovers he’s inherited a house in Rio de Janeiro.
Per Ramirez, the aesthetic of the film morphs as it advances from a naturalistic style to an older black and white style, as the man adapts the Rio he encounters to an idealized Brazil he knows from his old movies.
“We empathize with the character, understand that the only thing he wants is a peaceful and predictable existence,” Ramirez said.
Cast will be built up from alternative actors, new faces that come mostly from theater, he added.
Arte Mecanica’s first two releases in Mexico have been “Ciclo” and “La brujula la lleva el muerto.” “As our own productions, we wanted to care for them more,” Ramirez said.
Releasing both titles in 2013, as Arte Mecanica celebrated its tenth anniversary, Arte Mecanica adopted various strategies. One was to reduce release windows. Another was to associate with interest groups seeking similar goals to Arte Mecanica’s distribution titles, working social media and creating personalized events.
On docu feature “Ciclo,” which accompanies two brothers on the route they took on a bike trip 50 years ago between Mexico City and Toronto to see what’s changed, Arte Mecanica allied with cycling associations, and attended cycling events. It went out in 25 cities in Mexico and sold 5,000 DVD units. “It’s not a blockbuster but, for the kind of film it is, it’s perfect.”
Arte Mecanica has just acquired Anthony Chen’s Cannes Camera d’Or winner “Ilo, Ilo” from Memento Films International. Cleaning ladies’ rights is now a hot topic in Mexico, opening up market opportunities because of our distribution strategy, Ramirez said.