Berlin: Jirafa, Alejandro Fernandez Almendras Set ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

‘Moral drama’ turns on a huge political scandal questioning change in Chile

Berlin: Jirafa, Alejandro Fernandez Almendras Set
Copyright: Edison Sánchez/IFF Panama

BERLIN – Valdivia’s Jirafa – Monday’s winner of the Berlinale’s Co-production Market’s Arte International Prize for Marcela Said’s “Small Talk” – is teaming with Chilean writer-director Alejandro Almendras Fernandez, for “Aquí no ha pasado nada” (Much Ado About Nothing’).

Produced by Jirafa’s Augusto Matte and inspired by a political scandal which outraged Chile, “Much Ado” is set for an April shoot, confirming it as Almendras Fernandez’s follow-up to the career milestone “To Kill a Man,” which won the 2014 Sundance World Cinema Grand Jury Prize and confirmed a move by Almendras Fernandez from exquisite art film towards broader audience filmmaking.

Announced Tuesday to Variety at Berlin, “Much Ado,” like “Small Talk” or Pablo Larrain’s Berlinale competition player “The Club,” forms part of what could be called as building cinema of discrepancy in Latin America: Films which questions the socioeconomic limits to real democratic change after the end of the continents’ dictatorships in the 1980s while seeking to deliver a more nuanced and ethically accurate portrayal of countries’ immediate past and still urgent present.

News of a new film from one of Chile’s foremost production houses and a high-profile prized Chilean helmer is these days hardly small talk. It comes as two Chilean movies – “The Club” and Patricio Guzman’s “The Pearl Necklace” – play Berlin’s main competition, ranking through Tuesday among its top-five best-reviewed movies.

Written by Fernandez-Almendras and lawyer Jeronimo Rodriguez, “Much Ado” is inspired by hit-and-run cases such as that of Martin Larrain, the son of a big-wig conservative politician, charged of involvement in an accident which left the victim dead, but absolved by a Chilean courting in 2014.

Maintaining the case is more complex than some people think and, as in “To Kill a Man,” bringing psychological depth to a film with genre tropes, Fernandez Almendras will shoot the film from the point-of-view of Agustin, one of the car’s back-seat passengers.. Played by Agustin Silva (2010 Golden Globe nominee “The Maid,” “Nasty Baby”), Agustin who was very drunk at the time of the accident, thinks he wasn’t driving – all he can remember is the cute girl he was making out wit in the back seat – and that the driver happened to be the son of one of Chile’s most powerful politicians.

“But now people want to find him guilty, because he’s less important than the politician’s son,” Matte said in Berlin, calling “Much Ado” a “moral drama.”

Paulina Garcia, a Berlin best actress winner for “Gloria,” plays Agustin’s mother, Luis Gnecco (“Aurora,” ”No”) a fixer, and Daniel Munoz (Fernandez Almendras’ “Sitting By the Fire”) and Alejandro Goic (“Gloria”) the court case defence counsels.

“Much Ado’s” cinematographer will be Inti Briones, d.p. on all the movies from Fernandez Almendras and Cristian Jimenez, including Jimenez’s “Voice Over,” and a Venice Critics’ Week best cinematography winner in 2013 for Sebastian Sepulveda’s “The Quispe Girls.”

An “urgent film,” Matte added, “the film seeks to establish a discussion about what societies accept as fair and, moreover, how far we can go to respect that.”

While also seeking co-producers, Jirafa aims for “Much Ado” to become the first Chilean film to be financed by crowd-funding, which will cover essential production costs. Jirafa will then seek post-production funding.

“Everything turns on who can pay for the best lawyers,” Fernandez Almendras said of “Much Ado” which forms part of what he calls a trilogy of justice: “To Kill a Man” depicts justice for the poor, “Much Ado” justice for the rich and a third film, “Hierro,” justice for multinational companies.

Per Matte, Jirafa is near to closing German and Dutch co-production on Fernandez Almendras’ English-language debut, the end of the world sci fi drama “The Gray Beyond.” Already co-produced with Kiki Sugino’s Wa Ent. in Japan.it was presented in January at the Rotterdam Fest’s CineMart. Jirafa is now looking for an “attractive male actor who can attract distribution interest worldwide” to play its male lead, Matte said. “Much Ado” is scheduled for delivery year-end 2015.

Lead-produced by Jirafa Films, and co-produced by France’s Cinema de Facto and Argentina’s REI Cine,

“Small Talk” is maybe the first feature to ask – and it’s a very uncomfortable question – about Chileans’ tacit compliance with Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship.

“This is the first film to suggest the close relationship between civilians and Pinochet’s regime,” Matte explained.