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Gustavo Hernandez Preps ‘Albatros’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Survival thriller marks step-up for ‘Casa muda’ helmer and production house Madre Superior

BUENOS AIRES – Bursting onto Latin America’s genre scene with the Elle Driver-sold “La casa muda,” a big hit at Cannes in 2011, Uruguay’s Gustavo Hernandez has set his next feature, sci-fi survival thriller “Albatros.”

News of “Albatros” comes as Hernandez attends Ventana Sur to promote Juma Fodde Roma’s witchhunt tale “Ice for the Eagles,” part of its Beyond the Window fantastic film project showcase.

Set up at Montevideo’s Mother Superior, where Hernandez partners with Ignacio Cucucovich, “Albatros” is written by Fodde Roma. Cucucovich produces. Story centers on Iris, a young paraplegic who struggles to survive in a near-future world ravaged by a pandemic of irrational violence. On her journey, she zealously looks for her little niece, while constantly avoiding the savages that roam this decaying earth, lurking on the roads that lead to the top of the mountain, which holds the only hope of salvation.

Shot as one continuous take and the subject of a U.S. remake starring Elizabeth Olsen and directed by “Open Water’s” Chris Kentis and Lara Lau, “La casa muda” was shot in an isolated countryside house. “Local God,” Hernandez’s second film, seen at September’s Austin Fantastic Festival, unspools in a cave where a demonic force unleashes the worst nightmares of the members of a rockband.

“My films are always claustrophobic,” said Hernandez, and “Albatros” will be no exceptions, often shot in enclosed spaces and with a heroine, paraplegic from the waist down, imprisoned in her own body.

Talking to Variety at Ventana Sur with Cucucovich and Frodde, Hernandez clarified that the “savages” in “Albatros” are not zombies but extremely – and sometimes suddenly – violent people.

“’Albatros’ is a survival thriller but it has a social angle: It talks about what is happening in Uruguay and Latin America, the tremendous violence in contemporary society,” Hernandez said, expounding the tents of Mother Superior: “Films which experimental element, take risks, which also travel internationally and which can, using horror, talk about society.”

“Albatros” also signaled “one more step up in scale,” he added. “We are looking for a flagship for Mother Superior and hope it is ‘Albatros,’” said Cucucovich. It will be co-produced with Argentina, he added.

Another aim at the Mother Superior is to become a young talent hub, he added. At Ventana Sur, it has presented “Ice for the Eagles,” set as Fodde Roma’s follow-up to “Splendorous Garden of the Heart,” which won a Work in Progress Special Jury Award at September’s Austin Fantastic Market.

A debunking modern witch hunt tale, “Ice” turns on a teenage girl from the backwoods, who has mystical experiences, and is accused of being a witch by the local school teacher, eager to distract attention from her own guilty involvement in a car accident.

“’Ice for the Eagles’ is a tale about witches and strong women. Through a female universe, I want to explore ideas about the loss of boundaries and physical and psychological limits, ideas about excess and extravagance, and from that standpoint I want to approach the subjects that are at the core of this story, Frodde said.

Among other Mother Superior projects, “We’re Not Going to Fiesta Nibiru” is the fourth film by Manuel Facal (“High Five”), a sci-fi dark comedy with a good dose of suspense. It is being put through a crowdfunding campaign, and it will start shooting in April 2015.

A second project, said Cucucovich, is “The Winning Short Film,” from Nico Ciganda. It is the story of Pablo, Rodrigo y Quique, amateur short filmmakers. With no luck with awards and deeply in debt, they decide to make a jury-proof short film, at any cost. They devise a plan to spy on the jury members and then shoot a winning short film. Along the way they discover their personal paths separate and the end of their late adolescence inexorably approaches.

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