Cannes: Lucrecia Martel Rolls on ‘Zama’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Much-awaited production, one of Latin America’s biggest, begins shooting

Lucrecia Martel’s “Zama” goes into production
Courtesy of Verónica Souto

CANNES — Backed by Pedro and Agustin Almodovar and written and directed by Lucrecia Martel, Latin America’s most prominent woman director, “Zama,” one of Latin America’s most awaited and ambitious films, has gone into production.

Benjamin Domenech and Santiago Gallelli’s Buenos Aires-based REI Cine and Vania Catani’s Rio de Janeiro-based Bananeira Films produce “Zama,” which is sold by the Match Factory.

Hinting at its scale, “Zama’s” wide-ranging co-producers range over Spain, Argentina, France, the U.S, and the Netherlands, taking in El Deseo, run by the Almodovar brothers and Esther Garcia; the Disney-backed Patagonik Film Group; France’s MPM Film; Danny Glover and Joslyn Barnes’ Louverture Films; Lemming Film; and Picnic Producciones.

Variety has had exclusive access to an extraordinary concept art photo by Veronica Suoto.

Also written by Martel, her fourth feature — after “La Cienaga,” “The Holy Girl” and “The Headless Woman” — “Zama” adapts the novel of the same name by Argentine Antonio di Benedetto, first published in 1956. Admired by other writers – it is “written with the pulse of a neurosurgeon, said Roberto Bolaño – it is now being recognized as a high-point of Latin American literature.

The film is set toward the end of the 18th century, just before the spark that set off the independence movements. It turns on Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), an officer of the Spanish Crown, who serves out his time in a provincial backwater, awaiting a promotion and transfer to Buenos Aires that never comes. Forced to accept submissively every task entrusted to him by successive Governors, he joins a a party of soldiers that go after a dangerous bandit. Zama leaves to distant lands inhabited by wild Indians and  gains, finally, the chance to live.

“Diego de Zama waits many years, trampling over that which he could love, doing things he’d rather not do, betraying, asserting things which he doesn’t believe and acting as if his days were not a part of his life,” commented Martel.

But “Zama” is also that moment in which a man prepares himself to live more fully. And when the opportunity arises and means risking his life, he is willing to,” she added.

“’Zama’ brings us closer, with humor, to a man from the past — in the time of an immense unknown America — who uncannily lives the same conflicts that we are wrestling and contending with in our modern world.”