Raindance: Guillermo Arriaga To Produce Ajitpal’s Singh’s ‘Manjhi’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Arriaga the star of Raindance’s 2015 Focus on Mexico

Guillermo Arriaga
Laura Antonelli/REX Shutterstock

LONDON – After supporting Lorenzo Vigas’ Venice Golden Lion winner “Far Away,” Mexico’s Guillermo Arriaga (“Babel,” ”Words with God”) is aiming to help another break-through talent by producing “Manjhi,” Indian director Ajitpal Singh’s debut.

Announcement was made at London’s Raindance Festival, where Arriaga joined Raindance director Elliot Grove and Guadalajara Fest head Ivan Trujillo Wednesday on a panel at Raindance’s Focus on Mexico Co-production Forum, a thorough drill-down on regs which showcased eight projects from Mexico’s youngest but often highly-prepared generation of directors and producers, some with intriguing commercial potential in and outside Mexico.

Written by Singh, and based on a true story, “Manjhi” turns on a “very poor man who is very much in love with his beautiful wife, who face very large problems.”

Arriaga said of “Manjhi,” presented at the 2012 Mumbai Mantra/Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab whose program notes describe it as “one troubled soul’s search for love and dignity.” Arriaga mentored at the Lab as a creative advisor.

He added: “It’s a great, great script by a first-time director,” It’s beautifully written. The story is magnificent. He has impeccable taste. He will be a great director.”

Singh’s short “Empty in Me,” an artistic vidclip reflection on the advertising world, was selected for the New Delhi 2007 Talent Campus 2007, in New Delhi. More experimental shorts have played on Culture Unplugged, an online film festival website.

Godfather producing projects – essentially helping to tie down cornerstone financing and shape story subject and structure – has an illustrious tradition in Mexico with Guillermo del Toro performing such a role on “The Orphanage,” the breakout debut of Juan Antonio Bayona, who followed up with “The Impossible.”

Arriaga produced Vigas’ first short, “Elephants Never Forget,” selected for 2004’s Cannes Critics’ Week.

“From Afar,” on which Arriaga takes a writing credit, achieved the remarkable coup of scoring a sales agent’s deal with Hengameh Panahi’s Celluloid Dreams, selection for Venice main competition, then Venice’s top plaudit. Arriaga said that he worked with Vigas, a longtime friend, on shaping the story, a gay relationship between a man and a poor young kid.

“From Afar” was also co-produced out of Mexico by two 2015’s big prize winning directors: Michel Franco, whose Tim Roth starrer “Chronic” won best screenplay at Cannes and, an exec producer on the film, Gabriel Ripstein, who took Berlin’s 2015 Best First Feature for “600 Miles.”

“But I must make this very clear. It’s basically Lorenzo’s achievement. He worked very hard for it,” Arriaga said in London.

Guillermo Arriaga will also deliver an awaited master-class at Raindance this weekend. “The idea is to share my writing process, organizing my experience as a teacher and creator, helping writers to have an easier way to write.”