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IDFA: Brazil’s Habanero Films Boards Ruben Mendoza’s ‘Miss María, Skirting the Mountain’ (EXCLUSIVE)

From up-and-coming Colombian director Rubén Mendoza, the doc examines an extreme and isolated case of gender politics buried in past family trauma

In its final stop before a Nov. 23 domestic theatrical release in Colombia, “Miss María, Skirting the Mountain” will screen four times at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), in the “Best of Fest” competition.

This week, executive producer Amanda Sarmiento announced that the film will be partnering with sales agent Habanero Films. The Brazil based company is headed by industry marketing sales specialist Alfredo Calvino and festival specialist Patricia Martin, and focuses on films from Latin American and Caribbean filmmakers.

Sarmiento is a former executive producer at Señal Colombia, the country’s public education and culture channel, through 2014. Currently she is a consultant with the Colombian Ministry of Culture on affairs relating to cultural and public broadcasting and non-fiction audiovisual genres.

“Miss María,” was directed and co-produced by Rubén Mendoza, who first made a name for himself with a string of successful short films, competing in many of the world’s most important festivals such as Cannes, Berlin and Clermont-Ferrand. His reputation and body of work as a writer have also earned grants and scholarships from at Cannes and Berlin. In 2010 he released his first fiction feature, “The Stoplight Society,” and in 2014 his first feature documentary, “Memorias Del Calavero.”

The director’s latest venture into documentary filmmaking takes place in the rural community of Boavita, Colombia. A conservative, ultra-Catholic community deep in the foothills of the Andes, the community is one nearly frozen in time.

The camera follows the daily life of the 45 year-old María Luisa Fuentes, who lives alone in the small home where she grew up, on the outskirts of the provincial community. She spends her days tending to the land and doing odd jobs for neighboring farmers. What makes María unique in her community, and worthy of a feature documentary, is that she was born a boy.

And, while the film starts our as an examination of gender and identity politics in a rural community, as the story of Miss María’s life unfolds new details paint a much darker picture. Her taboo family history is slowly revealed and prejudices mount, one on top of another, each beyond María’s ability to control. Quickly, the focus turns to the strength needed to survive such adversities, and the bitterness that can come from such intense isolation.

Mendoza is currently filming on his next feature project, “Niña errante,” which won the Estímulo Integral (Integral Grant), Colombia’s largest public grant award for production.

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