Alejandro Fernandez Almendras to Direct Dramedy ‘A Work of Love’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Czech-spoken dramedy

SAN SEBASTIAN — In a career departure and sign of the growing empowerment of top Latin American filmmakers, Chilean Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Alejandro Fernandez Almendras (“To Kill a Man”) will direct “A Work of Love,” a bittersweet dramedy to be shot in Czech in the Czech Republic.

Almendras leapt to fame with two searing social indictments: “Man” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” which was selected for 2016’s Sundance and Berlin Panorama editions. Set in Almendras’ native Chile and shot in Spanish, both attacked failings in Chile’s justice system.

To shoot in b/w, “A Work of Love” is produced by Chile’s Jirafa Films, the company behind “Much Ado” and Christopher Murray’s Venice competition player “The Blind Christ,” Guillaume de Seille’s Paris-based Arizona Films, a producer on “Man and “Much Ado,” and Veronica Finkova’s Film & Roll in the Czech Republic.

Written by Almendras, “A Work of Love” turns on Petr, a small-town Czech theater director who determines to stage Georges Perec’s “Life: A User’s Manual” to make his name, maybe score a job in Prague. But Perec’s novel is vast, encyclopaedic, and unadaptable. containing 100 or so main stories.

Popular on Variety

The movie takes in the four-week final rehearsal build-up to the play’s opening, as the theater director battles to stage the unstageable, react to being dumped by his lover, the play’s lead actress who obsesses him, lay off staff, and handle the complaints of his estranged wife who wants to go back to work after having their baby. The opening night is a disaster of sorts: Very few people understand the play or attend its cocktail. But it wins a complement from one of the only people whose opinion Petr values – his father-in-law, a Czech acting legend – and brings him closer again to his baby son and wife, who may be in the process of forgiving him.

“After two very political films, I wanted to do some very personal, a movie made from the heart and soul, about love for people, your partner, your children, the work you do, the love of art and theater,” Almendras told Variety at San Sebastian, where he presented a second project, “Una periodista,” a Chile-set true-event-based political thriller which he plans to shoot after “A Work of Love.”

Almendras added that “A Work of Love” is “also about growing up, accepting the weaknesses of your partner, the complexities of love.” Inspirations include the “emotional, family dramas of Cassavetes and Garrel, though my film will be sweeter,” he said.

Traditionally, European producers would board Latin American films which depict its still hugely-challenged social realities and score overseas arthouse sales playing off an upbeat reception at an A-grade fest. Following in the footsteps of Cuaron, Del Toro and Iñarritu, Latin American directors are, however, increasingly challenging the idea that they should limit their career to observing their own part of the world. “Jackie,” filmed by fellow Chilean Pablo Larrain, is just one example.

Shooting will take place preferably in February-March or October-November 2017, using a small Chilean-Czech crew. Almendras will compose the film’s score. Opening credits will be drawn by Almendras’ six-year-old daughter Julieta, using simple pen on paper.

More Film

  • Saweetie62nd Annual Grammy Awards, Arrivals, Los

    When 'Birds of Prey' Came Calling, 'I Passed Out,' Says Saweetie

    “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” the R-rated girl gang-driven comic book actioner starring Margot Robbie and directed by Cathy Yan, bows in theaters Feb. 7 — the same date its equally female-driven soundtrack drops. And the latter even has its own trailer.  The film’s playlist includes tracks by Megan [...]

  • The Evening Hour

    'The Evening Hour': Film Review

    A small town already down on its luck receives a few fresh kicks in “The Evening Hour.” Based on Carter Sickels’ 2012 novel, this second narrative feature from director Braden King is more plot-driven than his first, 2011’s “Here,” a leisurely and slight, if pleasant, road-trip romance. Indeed, there may be a little more content [...]

  • Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Zainab Jah,

    'Farewell Amor': Film Review

    There are small, telling differences in the way each of the three long-separated main characters in “Farewell Amor” remembers the day of their reunion. Standing at JFK, awkwardly clutching a bunch of flowers to give to the wife and child he has not seen in 17 years, Walter (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine from “The Chi”), [...]

  • 'The Father': Anthony Hopkins Gives a

    'The Father': Film Review

    There have been some good dramas about people sliding into dementia, like “Away From Her” and “Still Alice,” but I confess I almost always have a problem with them. As the person at the center of the movie begins to recede from her adult children, from the larger world, and from herself, he or she [...]

  • The Last Thing He Wanted Sundance

    Anne Hathaway, Rosie Perez on Bringing Joan Didion to the Big Screen

    After “Pariah” and “Mudbound,” director Dee Rees returns to the Sundance Film Festival with her next feature, “The Last Thing He Wanted,” a political thriller based on a 1996 Joan Didion novel. The adapted screenplay follows a reporter named Elena McMahon (Anne Hathaway) and her photojournalist friend (Rosie Perez) as they chase a complicated story [...]

  • Ana Gasteyer to Host WGA Awards

    Film News Roundup: Ana Gasteyer to Host WGA Awards

    In today’s film news roundup, the PGA selects a site for its Produced By Conference, Ana Gasteyer is hosting the WGA Awards, and Docu-Day is set for Feb. 8. PGA CONFERENCE The Producers Guild of America will hold its 12th annual Produced By Conference on June 6-7 at Fox Studio Lot in Los Angeles. The [...]

  • 'Welcome to Chechnya' Review: LGBT Survivors

    'Welcome to Chechnya': Film Review

    You can do anything with a face on screen these days, whether it’s shaving decades off with a digital scalpel or deepfaking it into unrecognizable oblivion. Usually this wizardry has the air of a stunt, a transformation pulled off merely because it’s possible. Never, however, have such effects proven as chillingly essential as they are [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content