Linking two of Latin America’s high-profile producers, Argentina’s AZ Films has boarded “El Duende” (The Elf), a horror parable lead-produced by Bogota and Cali-based 64A Films, the Colombian producer of Sundance entry “All Your Dead Ones,” TV smash hit “Pablo Escobar: The Drug Lord“ and now “Blanca,” one of Vivendi’s Studio Plus mobile-first premium web series.
64A Films co-founder Diego Ramirez has also announced some of the most ambitious TV plans of any independent movie production house in Latin America: Production of 10 one-hour TV series and 10 10-minute-per-episode series. Carlos Moreno’s one-hour “El Dorado,” the story of the Spanish Conquest, based on William Ospina’s “The Amazon Trilogy,” is now in advanced development.
“The Elf” will shoot in English, said Ramirez, whose producer credits also include Carlos Moreno’s “Dog Eat Dog.” It marks the second solo feature from Jorge Navas, who debuted with 2009 Venice Days player “Blood and Rain,” described by Variety as a “cracking slice of genre filmmaking that nods to vintage Michael Mann and Martin Scorsese as well as the new generation of Latin American filmmakers.”
Deal was closed on the first day of trading at the Bogota Audiovisual Market (BAM), which kicked off July 11 with Argentina as its guest country of honor.
Coursing through “The Elf” are many of the tensions etched into Colombia’s collective psyche by an end of 50-years of civil conflict – the idea of making a new start; the fear of inexorable evil.
“I am interested in the human struggle to maintain spiritual integrity and mental balance when one is attacked,” Navas noted in BAM catalog production notes.
Written by Alonso Torres (“Dog Eat Dog”) and Laila Burbano, “The Elf” turns on Camila a young city-based woman who takes a trip to Colombia’s idyllic del Cauca. The trip is meant to bring the family together, after her breakdown. But Camila loses her son and, falling under the influence of a dark spirit, battles to stop herself turning into a force for evil that will tear apart the bonds holding her family together.
Set for a first-half 2017 shoot, “The Elf” marks the second collaboration announced between 64A Films and AZ Films after they teamed earlier this year with Mexico’s Canana, headed by Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal and Pablo Cruz, to produce Colombian revenge drama “Matar a Jesus” (Killing Jesus) which is scheduled to go into production this November.
The feature debut of Medellin-born Laura Mora, “Killing Jesus” centers on a girl who witnesses her father’s assassination. She decides to seek out her father’s killer before exacting revenge.
Headed by Alex Zito, and incorporating Sudestada Cine’s Ignacio Rey, Gaston Rothschild and Juan Pablo Garcia, AZ Films is fast growing its pan-Latin American production partnerships, particularly with Chile and Colombia. Its current 11 feature slate, maybe Argentina’s largest, includes Pablo Larrain’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight hit “Neruda” and Marialy Rivas’ “The Little Princess,” both produced with Chile’s Fabula.
GDP growth looks set to drop in Colombia to around 2.5% this year, down from 4% in 2014, according to the World Bank. Colombia’s central subsidy fund is financed by a levy on box office. As the its movie market skyrocketed last year to 59.5 million admissions, overtaking Argentina as Latin America’s third largest film market by cinema tickets sold, Colombian producers have less to fear than in many Latin America countries from a possible midterm plunge in state subsidy support.
But as more producers than ever compete for state funds, 64A Films has diversified fast from its core pic production business. Having carved out a reputation for upscale genre, such as Moreno’s “All the Dead Ones,” it is making more direct commercial plays for domestic B.O. of late. Backed by Puerto Rico One Film Corporation and Caracol Cine, 64A Films’ “Fragmentos de amor,” which bows Aug. 18 in Colombia, is its most recent example, an erotic romantic drama where a woman’s tales of past sexual adventures drives her boyfriend to near paranoid jealousy.
Rolling off Colombia’s Law 1556, which offers 20%-40% rebates to foreign shoots, 64A has also driven into production services, working as line producer on the Colombian shoot of Ken Sanzel’s “Blunt Force Drama,” with Ryan Kwanten, Freida Pinto and Mickey Rourke, and on French drama “Au Nom du Fils,” from Oliver Peray.
Another new venture is branded content.“Entre Panas,” a web sitcom – about a couch-potato who still lives with his mother, and his three near live-in friends, which 64A Films created and produced – has drawn 24 million YouTube views for its first three seasons. It promotes Poker beer for Colombia’s Bavaria Brewery, a SABMiller subsid. That makes it the most successful branded web series in Colombia in terms of YouTube/Facebook hits, Rodriguez said. 64A has just shot seasons 4 and 5.
Above all, having exec-produced “Escobar” for Colombian broadcaster Caracol, 64A Films is upping the ante on TV, launching a TV division. Three of its 10 one-hour series have now gone through development, Ramirez said: “El Dorado,” “25,” a dramedy about women in their mid-twenties; and “Palenque,” a historical drama set in sixteenth century Cartagena de las Indias, about an African king, Benkos Bioho, captured to be sold there into slavery.
The new TV division is a response to the feeding frenzy for higher-end TV drama, Ramirez observed. While 64A Films has traditionally worked with Caracol and RCN on long-format series such as “Escobar,” it will present its new series to some international TV operators, such as Latin America’s burgeoning bevy of digital platforms and pan-regional pay TV channels.
Directed by Carlos Moreno, and starring Spain’s Carlos Bardem (“Cell 211”) and Colombia’s Martina Garcia (“The Hidden Face”), “Blanca” is a narco action thriller with Bardem playing an undercover cop who infiltrates a drug cartel. It is produced by 64A Films and France’s Borsalino/Full House for Vivendi Content’s Studio Plus.