San Sebastian: Chile’s Jirafa, Italy’s Alba Team for Francisca Alegria’s Debut ‘The Cow That Sang Its Song’ (EXCLUSIVE)

First feature is set in the universe of Alegria’s Telluride and Toronto short, ‘And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye'

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Courtesy: Jirafa Films/Forastero

SAN SEBASTIAN — Building Chile’s growing pantheon of eye-catching young women directors, already one of the strongest of any national cinema in Latin America, Chile’s Jirafa Films (“The Blind Christ”) has closed a deal with Rosanna Seregni at Italy’s Alba Produzioni for Alba to co-produce the feature debut of Chile’s Francisca Alegria, a prize-winning Columbia U. alum.

Jirafa’s Augusto Matte announced the deal at the San Sebastian Festival. The co-production pact will now allow the partners to apply to a newly-created Chile-Italy bilateral co-production fund, he added.

A family drama, “The Cow That Sang Its Song About the Future” expands on the magical realist universe, poetic symbolism and shooting style – fluid dolly shots, a realist treatment of supernatural elements – of her Columbia U. School of the Arts MFA degree short “And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye” (pictured). This world premiered at Telluride, before playing the Toronto and New York festivals. It also won three honors at the 2016 Columbia U. Film Festival.

In the short, 85-year-old Emetria is visited by the ghost of her former employer, who’s been dead for 30 years though he looks totally alive and is mightily hungry. He has come on a mission, which Emetria, when she hears about it, aims to frustrate.

Written by Alegria, “The Cow That Sang Its Song About the Future” kicks in like the short with 55 cows dying in the south of Chile. The locals blame Isidoro, one of Chile’s biggest landowners who’s constructed a nearby hydroelectric dam. His estranged children and their offspring pay him a visit – his two sons have a score to settle with their violent father – as their mother returns from the dead, again seemingly totally alive,  and dying cows and fishes sing opera songs.

A story with wider social and even political resonance of a family still traumatised by the acts of a Chilean patriarch – “The Cow That Sang Its Song About the Future” is currently cast availability, Matte said.

The Chile-Italy bilateral co-production fund follows on a co-production treaty between the two countries. It comes as the Chile’s government attempts to encourage international co-production with countries of strategic importance.

According to a study by international film promotion org CinemaChile, “Global Audiences of Chilean Cinema,” Chilean cinema performs better as World Cinema than as a Spanish-language movie industry. In the report’s year under study, 2013, Europe repped 62% of box office of the seven Chilean titles which opened in cinemas abroad, with Italy (15.8%), France (13.5%), and Germany (10.4%) ranking as Europe’s biggest export markets for Chilean movies.

Producer of both Christopher Murray’s Venice competition player “The Blind Christ” – singled out by Venice director Alberto Barbera as “the big discovery” of this year’s festival – and Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’ “Much Ado About Nothing,” which was selected this year for Sundance and Berlin’s Panorama section, Jirafa is also producing “Los Perros,” the anticipated second feature of Chile’s Marcela Said.

Chosen for Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, Said’s debut, “The Summer of Flying Fish,” was one of the two first movie acquisitions made for Latin America by AMC’s new Sundance Channel in Latin America.

The Jirafa-Alba co-production pact was announced one day before Chile’s Pepa San Martin’s debut “Rara,” co-written with Alicia Scherson (“The Future”), won the top prize at San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos, one of its biggest sidebars.

Of other women directors in Chile, Marialy Rivas won a Sundance Festival best screenwriting award in 2012 for “Young & Wild,” the same month that Dominga Sotomayor scored a top Rotterdam Tiger Award for “Thursday Till Sunday.”

Other Alegria shorts include “Of Her I Sing,” capturing an old man’s flashback memories of his wife and himself when they were a young couple. These are contrasted with scenes of them now in their seventies, still together, but his wife no longer the firebrand of youth, set to the voiceover of Paul Lobo Portuges’ eponymous poem.

Another point-of-view piece, capturing the emotional claustrophobia of a man who returns to his family home for his father’s funeral, 2010’s “On the Table” delineates oppressive conservative Chile which may surface again in Algeria’s first feature.