Netflix has steadily been buying Spanish-language content to bolster its services in Latin America, and it hasn’t shied away from controversial fare in building its lineup of hits, some of which have resonated beyond the box office.
Its latest buy, Chilean director Matias Lira’s drama “El Bosque de Karadima,” dramatizes events in the case against Chilean priest Rev. Fernando Karadima, first accused in 2010 of having, over the course of 30 years, seduced boys who were acolytes and aspiring priests. Karadima was forced to retire by the Vatican in 2011.
The film joins Mexican helmer Luis Estrada’s political satire “The Perfect Dictatorship,” which Netflix is also streaming in the U.S.; and Netflix’s original Spanish-language series “Narcos,” the story of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, as projects that tread on sensitive ground.
Lira faced a series of challenges earlier this year that nearly scuttled “Karadima.” Three days before principal photography was set to begin at a local church, the film’s permit was rescinded, and Lira had to scramble to secure another site. He scouted at least 50 churches before he found one that permitted him to film. “I was given only 48 hours to shoot around 30 scenes, some with numerous extras,” he recalls.
The director completed the pic in mid-April and, fearing an injunction, released it three days later via the distrib he co-owns, BF Distribution. “Karadima” now ranks among the top three most successful dramas in Chile’s box office history with 320,000 admissions to date.
The film has spawned a three-part TV miniseries, produced by Lira’s Ocio Films, which the Turner-owned Chilevision is set to air at the end of the theatrical run of the movie. The miniseries launches on Netflix in October in Chile, then rolls out in Latin America. Lira is in talks for a U.S. deal.
“This film is not an attack on the church, it is an attack against power,” says the director. “What happened in El Bosque (parish) happens (at other institutions), and it will keep going on unless you educate people.”