Chile’s Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, Jirafa Films Ink Two-Pic Production Alliance (EXCLUSIVE)

Almendras, Matte prep musical comedy ‘La indomita luz,’ and an end-of-world drama-thriller, with Japan’s Kiki Sugino

Alejandro Fernandez Almendras
Chad Hurst/Getty Images

PANAMA CITY – Fresh off a Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for “To Kill a Man,” Chilean writer-director Alejandro Fernandez Almendras has signed a two-pic deal with top Chilean production house Jirafa Films.

Jirafa’s Augusto Matte will produce both pics. The alliance between one of Chile’s highest-profile directors and one of its foremost production forces – “To Kill” also won Locarno’s Carte Blanche and has sealed multiple sales for Film Factory; Jirafa’s credits include Alicia Scherson’s “The Future” and Marcela Said’s “The Summer of Flying Fish” – looks like one of Chile’s signature deals of 2014.

The partnership also looks set to accelerate the already robust diversification of Chile’s movie industry, as Almendras and Jirafa broaden their output from arthouse into what Jirafa’s Augusto Matte terms Latino indie production, and could well spell Almendras’ English-language debut. Also, as the financing Chilean films can pull down at home hits a ceiling, it shows its most ambitious filmmakers reaching out to significant funding abroad, here from Japan.

One project, musical comedy “La indomita luz” – a reference to the first line of a song by Argentina’s Charly Garcia and Luis Alberto Spinetta, “Rezo por vos” – turns on an Argentine musician who misses his big moment in the ‘80s Latino rock scene, ends up in his 50s singing in bars in the southern city of Concepcion, the center of Chile’s rock scene. Then he meets a group of young musicians and begins to get his mojo back.

The protagonist will be a real musician, hopefully someone who was a real name in the ‘80s, not a professional actor, Almendras said at the Panama Festival, where he presented “To Kill a Man,” which played its Ibero-American competition.

“La indomita luz” will be a musical in the sense that “songs, from the ‘80s and ‘90s as well as new original ones, performed by a young Chilean band, will be respected in their entirety, not cut: The film will be thought around the songs,” he added,

“The film’s Latino rock subject will prime it international attraction,” added Jirafa’s Matte.

“At Jirafa we want to produce the very best films by the very best Chilean directors. The alliance also marks the return of a prodigal son,” Matte said of Almendras whose feature debut, “Huacho,” was co-produced by Jirafa.

Almendras and Jirafa are linking with Japan-based Wa Entertainment, the production house of actress-producer Kiki Sugino (“Au revoir l’ete”), for an untitled English-language end-of-the-world sci-fi drama. Movie is set between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales, near Patagonia’s landmark Paine Towers, in the southernmost tip of South America.

Sugino would co-star with a Latin American actor, Almendras said. Film could shoot by year-end, he added.

“We are very excited to work with Alejandro, whose work we know for many years. We think the film is a very good project and we are sure it will be one of the best works of Kiki,” said Kousuke Ono, producer and partner of Kiki Sugino.

“In most end-of-the-world films, people know and agree the world is ending,” Almendras said. “That’s not the case in this film.”

Film will be set three or four years after a global catastrophe, when there are no credit cards or mobile phones, though people still take their children to school.

“It’s science fiction but its tone is in the line of ‘Alphaville’ or ‘Stalker,’” Almendras said. “It starts like a genre film, ends like a wild near-metaphysical Western near the Paine Towers.”