SANTIAGO DE CHILE — Teaming up with producer Isabel Orellana at Araucaria Cine (“Nunca vas a estar solo”), Alicia Scherson (“Family Life,” “Il Futuro”) is tackling the world of men for the first time in her second adaptation of a Roberto Bolaño novel after “Il Futuro,” her 2013 screen adaptation of the Chilean novelist’s “Una Novelita Lumpen.”
“Most of my films have displayed a more female perspective; it was a challenge to immerse myself in the world of a male, one obsessed with war games, to boot,” said Scherson.
After struggling with the script for a year, changing the original setting from Spain in Bolaño’s novel “The Third Reich” to Chile made all its disparate elements fall into place.
Scherson’s “1989” takes place in Chile during a time of transition after military dictator Augusto Pinochet has stepped down but before a democratic government has established itself.
“It’s a time of great uncertainty, the Berlin Wall has fallen and ‘1989’ picks up on that atmosphere, with a tone akin to that of Roman Polanski’s ‘The Tenant’ or the Coen Brother’s ‘Barton Fink,’” she said.
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One of the 16 titles selected for San Sebastian’s 2017 Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum, “1989” turns on a German tourist, Udo Berger, who visits Chile with his girlfriend. He is obsessed with the board game, “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” of which he is a champion in Germany. They hang out with an Argentine couple until the Argentine man disappears at sea. Berger stays in Chile to find out what happened, encountering some shady characters in the process, led by the mysterious El Quemado (The Burnt One). The story “turns into a psychological thriller but without losing its humor,” said Orellana, who added that the project has an initial budget of €700,000 ($823,000) “but this could rise depending on the international cast.”
“1989” has a German lead as well as Argentine and Chilean characters. This opens up the possibility of a participation from Germany, Argentina and Chile and from a fourth country as the enigmatic ‘El Quemado’ could be of any nationality,” she noted. “We’re also interested in approaching television networks and potential partners in Nordic territories or the Netherlands,” said Orellana.
This is the first director-producer collaboration between Scherson and Orellana, who was, ironically, Scherson’s student at the University of Chile where Scherson is an associate professor.