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Cannes: ‘Heli’ Director Amat Escalante Preps ‘Untamed’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Mexico’s Mantarraya, France’s Le Pacte, Denmark’s Adomeit, Norway’s MER co-produce.

CANNES – Mexico’s Amat Escalante, whose “Heli” won Cannes’ 2013 best director award, is scaling up and branching out for “The Untamed” (“La region salvaje”), a social/sci fi movie about Mexico’s machismo, homophobia and the repression of women which taps the visual expertise behind Lars von Trier’s “”Melancholia” and “Nymphomaniac.”

Made on a significantly higher budget than “Heli,” “The Untamed” is scheduled to go into production in September,  Escalante said.

As on Escalante’s first three movies, “The Untamed” is lead produced by Jaime Romandia’s Mantarraya, that also produced Carlos Reygadas’ 2012 best director winner “Post Tenebras Lux.” Tapping into strong Euro co-prod backing, Jean Labadie’s Paris-based Le Pacte co-produces, as does Katrin Pors at Denmark’s Adomeit Film and Norway’s MER.

NDM, the Paris-Mexico City sales company launched by and Carlos Reygadas’ Nodream Cinema, will initiate pre-sales on “The Untamed” at Cannes. Manuel Alberto Claro, the d.p. on Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” and “Nymphomaniac,” will serve as cinematographer. Peter Hjorth, the VFX supervisor on all Von Trier’s movies since “Dancer in the Dark,” will play a similar role on “Untamed.”

Written by Escalante, begins with a meteorite crashing into a mountain. In a nearby town on the lowlands, a young couple struggles to find themselves, with the man cheating on the woman. But they destroy each other in the process. Then something out of this world comes, changing their lives forever.

“Untamed” was inspired by a Guanajuato tabloid headline “Men Drown Little Faggot Drowned,” about men murdering a male nurse.

“Instead of putting male nurse, somebody who helped people most of his life, they put this thing. They humiliated him even in death,” Escalante commented.

Escalante’s first three movies, Un Certain Regard players “Sangre” and “The Bastards,” then Palme d’Or contender “Heli” drew despairing portraits of violence, in Mexico and the U.S. “The Untamed” reps in part a change of focus. “My films are very social, I like to use real people, real locations, dealing with situations in Mexico, because that’s what I’m close to. But here I wanted mix things up, challenge myself, to search for a larger metaphor to express my views,” Escalante explained.

“Untamed” has drawn down financing from the Copenhagen Film Fund and Norway’s Sorfund fund.

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