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Outsider’s Todo Cine Latino, Strand Releasing Take U.S. on ’Alias Maria’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Producer Rhayuela working with United Nations for film to form part of Colombia’s peace process

BUENOS AIRES — Todo Cine Latino, the speciality label of Paul Hudson’s Outsider Pictures, has acquired U.S. rights to Colombia’s 2016 Oscar submission “Alias Maria,” in a co-acquisition deal with Strand Releasing on a title put forward by its makers as part of Colombia’s ongoing peace process.

The deal with Todo Cine Latino was closed by Hudson and Eric Schnedecker of UDI, the Paris and L.A.-based sales company which is handling “Alias Maria.” Todo Cine Latino will look to build word-of-mouth via festivals throughout the Spring, then release theatrically in the rest of the U.S. throughout the Summer before bowing on digital streaming site todocinelatino.com, Hudson said.

Opening Colombia’s 2015 Cartagena Festival for its world premiere and then playing Cannes’ Un Certain Regard,  “Alias Maria’s” U.S. sale builds on other deals – Fox TV for Latin American pay TV rights, Sophie Dulac Distribution for France – on a title which is no ordinary film; or at least it is seeing no ordinary distribution.

Produced by Bogota’s Rhayuela Cine, in co-production with Argentina’s Sudestada Cine and France’s Axxon Films, and directed by Jose Luis Rugeles, “Alias Maria” chronicles the inhumanity and tragic consequences of Colombia’s armed conflict, as seen through the eyes and fate of a 13 year-old – but just pregnant –  guerrilla soldier. According to guerrilla practice, pregnancy demands abortion but Maria first hides then determines not to terminate her pregnancy.

“Alias Maria” was released Nov. 12 2015 in Colombia as Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos led negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to formally end 50 years of a civil war bloodbath that killed 220,000 people, displacing several million more. On June 30, the same day as Brexit, Colombia’s government and Farc rebels signed a cease-fire. In an Oct. 2 referendum, Colombians voters narrowly rejected a peace deal with the Marxist guerrillas. In mid-November, Santos and FARC signed a revised peace accord.

Such momentous events cannot but impact filmmaking in Colombia in a region where cinema has often functioned as the region’s social conscience.  At July’s Bogota Audiovisual Market, nearly half the films presented, some 27 titles, worked through the country’s huge sweep of post-conflict traumas, questions and debates on how Colombia should move forward.

“For over 50 years, all the media has overwhelmed us with images, an excess of a devastating reality,” said “Alias Maria” director Rugeles.

The peace process determines “Alias Maria” distribution; it also heavily influences how it was made as a film.

Rugeles said he set out to show “a desolate everyday panorama, the combatants’ human side, seen through Maria’s eyes.”

So, in an early sequence, when Maria’s camp is attacked, a hand-held camera hugs close to María as she and other child soldiers begin a forced march along a slippery stream then up muddy scarp slopes out of the jungle.

As the film’s screenplay was written, the director conducted more than 60 interviews with girls and women who had fought for the guerrilla. Other scenes, as when FARC medics check if the girls soldiers are pregnant, have the force of documentary. “Alias Maria” also addresses patriarchal pressures on the female soldiers: Maria is expected to obey her boy friend not only because he is her superior officer but also a man.

“The peace process doesn’t finish with the signing of the agreement, it begins with it,’ Duran argued.

A film made to remind spectators of the inhumanity of war – Maria is required to abort, whether she wants to or not; desertion is punished with death – “Alias Maria” may well also be screened to demonstrate the humanity of the FARC combatants, embodied in Maria herself.

“We wanted to show what day-to-day life was like for the guerrilla,” said Rugeles. Duran added that Rhayuela is working with the United Nations to screen “Alias Maria” in early December to ex-FARC combatants and civilians in the zones which will welcome the guerrilla as part of its integration into civil life. The film can allow people to see the guerrilla as human beings and victims since many were recruited underage, he added.

“Alias Yineth,” a Rhayuela documentary made about an ex-FARC member, recruited at the age of 12, will be completed by March or April.

“Alias Maria’” was topical before the referendum in Colombia,” Outsider’s Hudson added. He went on: “The question for me is how do you bring a nation together that has been fighting so long, and how do you change the mentality of generations that have been impacted by the fighting and the violence? “Alias Maria reveals this through the eyes of a young girl who is also a guerrilla fighter.”

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