Mexico: Up Next! – Nicolas Celis

Energetic producer moves into international co-production, moves slate with significant femme producer-director presence

Profile of Mexican Producer Nicolas Celis
Copyright: Elisa Miller

LOS CABOS – Prolific, still young, hard working, Mexican Nicolas Celis, – with the inestimable aid of brother Sebastian Celis, a former physics specialist, and U.S-based producer Jim Stark (“Stranger Than Paradise”) – is rapidly building Pimienta Films into a key and highly flexible production outfit as it drives to become, said Celis, “one of Mexico’s most important production houses, working increasingly in international co-productions, but always with auteur-driven cinema.”

Among Pimienta’s new productions, Celis will co-produce “Pajaros de verano,” the new project from Ciro Guerra, who topped Cannes Directors’ Fortnight with “Embrace of the Serpent.”

Pimienta is also a minority co-producer on Rafi Pitts’ “Soy Negro.”

“This is very different from his previous films, a kind of war movie,” said Celis.

“We’re betting a lot on long-term relationships with U.S., European and non-Mexican producers. The movies we do are not always easy to finance.”

One key to Pimienta, said Celis, is its flexibility. It has also overseen some inevitably challenging shoots, such as Amat Escalante’s “Heli,” a Narco-victim-themed Cannes 2103 best director winner, and Jonas Cuaron’s “Desierto,” which it executive produced. Being on set, Celis said, Jonas had a partner which allowed him to take decisions during the shoot.”

The Celis brothers are also consolidating strong lines in documentaries and distaff cineastes, which have seen to date arguably their greatest hits.

Celis produced “Llevate mis amores” (All of Me), first-time Mexican director Arturo Gonzalez Villasenor’s 2014 Los Cabos Fest Mexico first winner, a North America pick-up from Paul Hudson’s Outsider Pictures which also took home the only kudo, an audience award, at Jean-Christophe Berjon’s Mexican Festival in Paris. He now produces Arturo Gonzalez Vilaseñor’s ‘50s Cuba-set “Gunpowder Seeds,” a docu feature about an unsung hero of the Cuban revolution, betrayed by Castro.

Celis is empowering a growing generation of Mexican femme filmmakers. He also backed Tatiana Huezo’s “The Tiniest Place,” described as a “sublime documentary debut” by Variety, and now produces “Tempestad,” the latest from Huezo a standout at Morelia Impulso pix-in-post showcase in October, despite no official prize. “This is one of our most important movies, very personal, and a big documentary.”

Completing its production cycle at Los Cabos – it won a Gabriel Figueroa Fund development grant there in 2013, a production award in 2014 and now screens in new director showcase Mexico Primero – Alejandra Marquez’s Semana Santa turns on a young widow holidaying with on the beach with her young daughter and the new man in her life. The experience transforms their relationship. Screening at Toronto and Rio, “Semana Santa” has been acquired for worldwide sales by Mundial.

Meanwhile, Elisa Miller, best known to date as a director, who teams with Nicolas and Sebastian Celis to produce “Skin Deep,” a portrait of female sexuality deviated by a conservative social context, which marks respected video artist/docu director Paulina del Paso’s fiction feature deb. Miller and Del Paso wrote the screenplay.

“She’s very artistic, is very strong visually, did a great first docu feature “The Warrior.”