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Itaca Films Ramping Up Cuban Branch (EXCLUSIVE)

Production kicks off with Jorge Perugorria’s ‘Fatima’

MORELIA, Mexico – Latin American powerhouse shingle Itaca Films, led by founder/president Alex Garcia and CEO Santiago Garcia Galvan (“Desierto,” “Under the Same Moon”), has been quietly building a roster of feature films and documentaries in Cuba, which has seen major studio pics shoot there for the first time, starting with the latest in Universal Studios’ “Fast and Furious” franchise, “Fast 8,” and Paramount’s fifth installment in the “Transformers” franchise.

Itaca Havana has provided production services to both. For “Transformers 5,” Itaca worked in tandem with producer Ricardo del Rio’s Art in Motion.

First up among the Itaca Havana productions is “Fatima,” based on the Juan Rulfo award-winning short story by Cuban novelist Miguel Barnet, which centers on a drag queen’s love story. It is directed by actor-helmer Jorge Perugorria who first shot to fame in Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio’s Oscar-nominated 1993 gay drama “Fresa y Chocolate.”

A co-production between Itaca, Jay Rodriguez’s NMP and Cuban film institute ICAIC, “Fatima” marks the first co-production between Mexico and Cuba in 10 years, said Garcia. Pic is slated to have its world premiere at the upcoming Huelva Ibero-American Festival in Spain, which is paying homage to Perugorria and opens with Itaca Films’ “Un Cuento de Circo & a Love Song” by Oscar-shortlisted thesp Demian Bichir. Formerly titled “Refugio,” Bichir’s directorial debut staged its world premiere at the Morelia Int’l Film Festival on Sunday, Oct 23.

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Itaca Havana is in the process of adapting another acclaimed book by Barnet, “La Vida Real.”

“It’s a well-crafted story, with complex characters,” said Garcia of Barnet’s novel about a Cuban immigrant in New York. “I’m a huge fan; I feel so honored that a writer of his stature would entrust us again with an adaptation of his work,” he said.

Company’s next co-production with ICAIC, Arturo Sotto’s thriller “Nido de Mantis” is set to kick off principal photography in January. Drama is a love triangle of two men vying for a woman’s affection that spans the history of Cuba in the 60s until the “special period” in the early to mid-90s, a time of great deprivation after the breakup of Cuba’s main benefactor, the former Soviet Union.

In the non-fiction genre, Itaca Havana is producing a series of docu features with Perugorria directing and narrating, about nature reserves, starting with Cuba’s Los Jardines de la Reina, a pristine marine reserve located 60 miles off the coast of Cuba. In development is a docu TV series about Cuban artists, “Revolution Art.”

Underscoring Itaca Films’ commitment to building and nurturing a pantheon of Latin American films with established and new local talent, the company has produced a number of projects across the region, including the U.S.

Itaca Mexico, run by Andres Tagliavini, has been producing a raft of docus and features, having just wrapped the untitled romantic comedy by Javier Colinas, Itaca’s fourth pic with him, and Santiago Limon’s untitled directorial debut.

“We want to work with content creators who provide a life experience like no other: honest, contemporary and who have the power to move audiences,” said Tagliavini.

It’s also producing newcomer Valentina Sachetti’ debut feature, road movie “Transpeninsular” set in Baja California Sur, which tracks three girl friends on a vacation in the peninsula.  “We’re always on the lookout for new talent,” said Garcia who has produced up to 44 film and TV projects in his career. Helmer-scribe Guillermo Arriaga’s son and daughter Mariana and Santiago Arriaga have also jumped into the film biz, with Itaca executive producing their short drama “Libre de Culpa,” now in post, and developing their first feature.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Juan Curi’s comedy “Hypnotized,” once titled “Mind Puppets,” is in post after wrapping principal photography in New Orleans.

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