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San Sebastian: ‘Calabozo,’ Burning Sun,’ ‘Broken Years’ Set for Europe-Latin America Co-Pro Forum

Forum ups first looks, genre project, political punch

MADRID – In what may be highlights of a now firmly established industry meet, Alvaro Brechner’s “Memorias del calabozo,” Israel Adrián Caetano’s “Beneath This Burning Sun” and Gerardo Tort’s “The Broken Years” will be pitched at San Sebastián’s upcoming Europe-Latin American Co-production Forum, along with Carlos Ameglio’s “Kiken” and Marite Ugas’ “Contactado.”

Now in its fourth edition, the Forum is a fest fixture. Indeed, running parallel to San Sebastian’s Films in Progress over Sept. 21-23, it forms San Sebastian’s industry backbone, attracting a large third-party presence. A Focus on Canada, for instance, will run alongside the Forum, facilitating contacts between the Latin American, Spanish and Canadian producers in San Sebastian.

Three factors mark something of a departure at the Forum, however. As San Sebastian drives to shore up its world premiere credentials, it is insisting evermore that Forum projects are first looks: 11 of the 17 bow for the first time to the public.

Second, the Forum is driving ever more into full-blooded genre. At 2014’s Forum, and now advancing toward production, Davi Pretto’s “Until the Way” has Western overtones; Gorki Glasser-Muller’s “The Return,” another 2014 effort, has been described as a political thriller.

But 2015’s Co-production Forum raises the ante, underscoring Latin America’s energetic genre build. Set to shoot in part in vast “Mad Max”-ish sand-dunes in Uruguay, “Kiken” bears some similarity to John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” said producer Mariana Secco (“Mr. Kaplan,” “High Five”). Segueing from San Sebastian to Austin’s Fantastic Market, it centers on a couple attempting to rekindle their relationship in a mutant infested town, Secco added.

The latest projects from director-producers Mariana Rondon and Marite Ugas, whose “Bad Hair” won San Sebastian’s 2013 Golden Seashell, “Contactado,” helmed by Ugas, is an identity-theft thriller, centering on “the conflicts of faith and alien cults in Latin America,” per Ugas.

Lastly, as Latin America’s economy enters the second half of the current decade, its young filmmakers turned to plumb personal relationships — issues of maturity, happiness — often framed in dysfunctional family dramas. Many of the projects at San Sebastian’s 2013 were a case in point. A larger political punch has now returned to Latin American filmmaking seen in three of the most ambitious projects at the Forum: “Calabozo,” “Broken Years” and “Burning Sun.” Two return to the recent past.

Ozcar Ramirez’s Arte Mecanica, director Gerardo Tort (“Round Trip,” “Streeters”) and Tort’s screenwriter Marina Stavenhagen (“Have You Seen Lupita?”) team on “The Broken Years,” about Mexico’s officially suppressed 1970s Dirty War. One of the most politically compelling of titles at the Forum, it follows a man who sets out to find his brother, supposedly killed in the conflict but seen alive years later. “We want to bring this to the table so that we don’t forget. Thousands of people were killed over many years and we never knew about it,” Ramirez told Variety, announcing the project.

Produced by Spain’s Oscar-winning Tornasol Films (“The Secret in Their Eyes”), Brechner’s follow-up to the Memento-sold “Mr. Kaplan” centers on how three Tupamaro political prisoners of Uruguay’s 1973-85 dictatorship who survived 12 years of solitary confinement. One, José “Pepe” Mujica, became Uruguay’s most popular president, another its defense minister.

In “Burning Sun” Adrian Caetano, one of the early leading lights of the New Argentine Cinema (“Bolivia,” “A Red Bear,” “Chronicle of an Escape”), adapts Carlos Busqued’s surrealistic, phantasmagorical novel of violence and corruption in a benighted north Argentine hellhole village. Project is one of the latest from Rizoma, headed by Hernan Musaluppi and Natacha Cervi, along with Agustin Toscano’s second feature, “The Moto-Snatcher,” is set against big city migration in Argentina’s San Miguel de Tucuman, turns on a thief, seeking redemption.

The Forum has consolidated as an early incubator for projects that go on to snag sale agents and key fest berths. Announcing 2015’s lineup, the festival cited various examples. A 2012 San Sebastian project, Colombian Carlos Moreno’s “Que Viva la Musica!,” played 2015 Sundance’s New Fronteirs. Also this year, 2014’s David Pablos’ “The Chosen Ones” was selected for Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, and Cesar Augusto Acevedo’s “Land and Shade,” at San Sebastian in 2013, played this year’s Critics’ Week, scooping Cannes best first feature Camera d’Or.

Forum projects vie for an EGEDA Prize, worth €10,000 ($11,400 ). In a continuing partnership with Cannes Film Market and Argentina’s INCAA Film Institute, a selection of projects will be invited to December’s Ventana Sur and Cannes’ Producers Network in May.

Forum projects still range wide this year. Some, of which details are known, exhibit a direct social focus that seemed, only a short time ago, to be steadily disappearing from Latin American film fiction. Prized at Marseille’s 2015 FIDLab edition, for instance, Eduardo Williams’ “El auge del humano” follows three young boys from Argentina, Mozambique and Philippines as they struggle against their depressing jobs. “El Auge” teams Argentina’s Un Puma Cine and Ruda Cine with Portugal’s Bando a Parte.

In “Clara sola,” her feature debut, Colombia’s Nathalie Alvarez frames in a small and conservative Latin American village the story of a 35 year-old woman that suffers from autism and scoliosis and fights to control her sexual desire.

Designed as a Sweden-Colombia-Denmark co-production, “Clara sola” is produced by Peter Kropenin at Stockholm-based company Hob AB. Project was pitched by Colombia’s Ciudad Lunar, which won Directors’ Fortnight with “Embrace of a Serpent,” at July’s Bogota Audiovisual Market.

“The Omission,” a drama about a very young girl mother who is emotionally overwhelmed, marks the feature film debut by Argentine writer-helmer Sebastian Schjaer, whose short “The Broken Past” played at Cannes’ 2015 Directors’ Fortnight. Produced by Melanie Schapiro at Buenos Aires’ Trapecio Cine, project has already secured backing from Rotterdam fest’s Hubert Bals Fund and Argentina’s Universidad del Cine.

Further projects at the fourth Europe-Latin American European Forum include a second Marseille’s 2015 FIDLab winner, Brazilian Larissa Figueiredo’s second feature, docu-fiction “Agontime.” Set up at Curitiba-based outfit Tu i Tam Filmes, it addresses the legend of Na Agontime, an Afro-Brazilian priestess, slave and queen who, after three centuries trapped in Brazil’s city of Sao Luis, breaks free and embarks for her homeland, the African Kingdom of Dahomey – current Benin — to regain the sacred place she considers hers by right.

Produced by Bogota-based Medio de Contencion, Colombian-Belgian co-production “Tantas almas” marks the newest project by Nicolas Rincon Gille, a Colombian-born filmmaker, well known for his docu trilogy “Campo hablado,” on the relationship between oral tradition and violence in the Colombian countryside.

“Lanza internacional,” from Berlin-based Chilean Victor Cubillos’ (“Morales, el Reformador”), centers on Katy, a 23-year-old gifted pickpocket from a small criminal family in a slum of Santiago, who is sent by her father to work as a thief in Berlin. Set up at Casavera Films, a prodco with offices in Santiago de Chile and Berlin, “Lanza” represents the third feature by Cubillos, a Chilean helmer-producer who confesses to be influenced by ’80s Hollywood action movies.

Also bound from Chile for San Sebastian, Theo Court impressed fans with 2010’s “Declined,” a minimalist neo-docu portrait of the last day, acts and memories of an aged former butler at a dilapidated mansion. “Blanco en blanco,” a Hubert Bals Fund backed project is produced by El Viaje Films (“Hotel Nueva Isla”), whose “Dead Slow Ahead” played Locarno’s Filmmakers of the Present.

San Sebastian’s Forum has also chosen “Ronnie Monroy ama a todas,” by multi-awarded Peruvian filmmaker Josue Mendez, who broke through in 2004 with acclaimed drama “Days of Santiago,” followed by 2008’s family meller “Dioses,” a San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos contender.

“Oliverio y la piscina” is directed by Mexican first-timer Arcadi Palerm, who won the Audience Award at 2008’s New York City Short Film festival with “Background Sirens.”

Selected from Ibermedia’s Central-America and Caribbean Film Project Development Workshop, “El sueco,” from Patricia Ramos and a screenplay by Humberto Jimenez, co-scribe on Fernando Perez’s “La vida es silbar,” will be presented at the Forum, out of competition.

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