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IFF Panama: Mexico’s Pimienta Films Sets ‘Alexey’ and ‘At Two in the Morning’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Pimienta’s Sebastian Celis attends Panama Fest with “Semana Santa”

Sebastian Celis, IFF Panama 2016
Photo by Martin Dale

PANAMA CITY — Pimienta Films, one of Mexico’s fast-rising young production houses, has set two new features: “At Two in the Morning” and “Alexey,” Pimienta producer Sebastian Celis announced at the IFF Panama, which he is attending to present the Mundial-sold “Semana Santa” (Holy Week).

“At Two in the Morning,” the second documentary from Marta Ferrer, is about traditional “Cardenche” music from Northern Mexico’s La Laguna district, based on capella singing with three voices. The tradition began during the slavery era and has been passed down from generation to generation but is currently in risk of disappearing.

“It’s similar to the blues. It’s all about pain,” says Celis. “You can feel it in the music. This music was born in the mid-1800s. It was composed by the farm laborers working before the revolution, who were essentially slaves. The locals now have better conditions. They’re not great but they’re better. Through modernity, with access to other kinds of music, this tradition has started to disappear.”

Pimienta Films is also working on another documentary “Alexey” about two Russian boys adopted by a Spanish woman living in Madrid. Its director, Alana Simoes, is Mexican, but used to live in Spain. She has been shooting the family over the last seven years and has archive family videos for the initial adoption period.

The pic is being independently financed by Pimienta Films because it was difficult to raise prior funds: It’s a first feature and not a very Mexican subject. However, now that shooting has been completed and with a first cut, Celis believes that it will be easier to tap post-production funding, perhaps via a work in progress competition.

Celis says that when he first heard about Linklater’s “Boyhood” it also made him think about his project, because of the time span of the filming, although “Alexey” is a documentary.

Visiting Panama for the first time, Celis says that he was surprised by the city, in particular the large number of  skyscrapers. He views IFF Panama as the biggest and most important film festival in Central America and given the large presence of Latin American filmmakers attending the event it’s an excellent opportunity to connect with others.

Celis believes it’s a particularly interesting moment in Central American cinema and notes that Tatiana Huezo, director of “Tempestad,” which was produced by Pimienta, was born in El Salvador and now lives in Mexico.

He says that he is also a fan of “I Promise You Anarchy” by Guatemalan-born director Julio Hernandez Cordon, also now living in Mexico. “He got to show Mexican society and characters with great sincerity. They feel very real and authentic. I live in Mexico City, but somehow the film seemed even more familiar than real life. Something very special happens in the film. I’m also a skater and the body language in the film was spot on.”

Celis says he is delighted to attend IFF Panama. “When I was in Toronto, I spoke with Diana Sanchez about coming here. It’s really great to be at the fest, because it’s an extremely strong selection of films.”