Argentina’s Juarez Allen, Saravia Vinay to Co-Produce Cuban Debut ‘Shock Labor’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Allen is attending IFF Panama for the screening of her Berlin-player ‘Soldier’ and the inaugural Campus Latino

Gema Juarez Allen
Courtesy of Gema Juarez Allen

Argentina’s Gema Juarez Allen, one of Latin America’s most dynamic producers, is partnering with Cuba’s María Carla del Rio (“Between the Lines”) and Uruguay’s Sandino Saravia Vinay (“Neon Bull”) to co-produce “Shock Labor,” the debut feature by Cuban director, Marcos Diaz, which has been selected for La Fabrique des Cinemas du Monde in Cannes, a project development program for young directors from emerging countries developed by the Institut Français.

“Shock” is a dark humor fantasy drama set in contemporary Cuba, about a young woman who has a miscarriage during a skeet shooting competition, and is then carried away by a tornado to a rich tourist area that transforms her life.

Diaz directed 60-minute docu “Fractal,” at the age of 17 and recently completed the short “Natural Phenomena”, which competed at Mexico’s Gudalajara Festival.

“Shock” was presented in the Berlinale Talent Market, where it won a Special Mention in the VFF Talent Highlight Award; in late March it received backing from the Tribeca Film Institute’s Latin American Fund.

Allen saw the project at Berlin and then closed the deal at the Co-Production Meeting in Guadalajara, where Vinay also came on board. The co-producers are now preparing to submit the project to Ibermedia.

“It’s a great story and such a fun way to talk about contemporary Cuba,” says Allen.

She added: “They made a short film that was totally brilliant and also a teaser which is amazing. The script is so well written. It’s really a solid project. It’s surprising that it’s a first film. It’s very fresh in terms of the language and proposed visuals. Everything is very new. You don’t get that feeling very often.”

This will be the first time that Allen will co-produce with Cuba, where the picture will be lensed. Some of the key technicians will be Argentinian, and some of the post-production will take place in Argentina.

To date, Allen has co-produced several projects with Panama, but this will be her first co-production with the Caribbean.

“In general it’s very difficult to co-produce with Central America and Caribbean because they have very little state production funding,” she explains. “In Cuba, they have some support from the national film institute, ICAIC and Ibermedia is also very important for Cuba. But it’s a challenge.”

She is attending the 6th Panama Film Festival to present her Berlin-player “Soldier,” by Manuel Abramovich, and to take part in the first edition of Campus Latino, a three-day workshop integrated within a year-long project development process spanning Panama, Mexico and Munich.

Allen says that she’s particularly interested in films from Central America and the Caribbean because many of the countries have nascent film industries – Cuba being one of the main exceptions – and offers new stories and little-known universes. One of her all-time favorite pics is the 1968 Cuban film “Memories of Underdevelopment,” by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea.

“Even though this zone has a common link to the rest of Latin America, the stories are very different and many Central American cinematographies are very new.”

Allen is also very enthusiastic about IFF Panama: “The festival treats people really well and choose a really good range of guests. There’s real buzz about this festival because it has a very well-curated small selection of films, they know what works here. It’s a good platform.”

She is currently co-producing with Panama on Abner Benaim’s documentary “Ruben Blades is Not My Name,” that also involves Benaim’s Apertura Films, Colombia’s Ciudad Lunar (“Embrace of the Serpent”), and has backing from Ibermedia, DICINE Panamá s film fund, COPA airlines and Panamanian TV station TVN.

Her other projects include docu “Veteranos,” by Lola Arias, funded by the IDFA Fund and Argentina’s INCAA film institute, and fiction film, “La Cama,” by Mónica Lairana, that is co-produced with the Netherlands (Topkapi Films), Germany (Sutor Kolonko) and Brazil (Tres Moinhos) and received support from HBF, WCF, NRW, ANCINE and INCAA.

She is also developing Manuel Abramovich’s “Blue Boy,” which will be shot in Berlin’s gay district and fiction projects by two first-time Argentinean directors – “Nora Cohen,” by Nicolas Dolensky” and “La Division Continental,” by Lucio Castro.