Guadalajara: Leonardo Zimbron, Jesus Magaña Team for ‘Invisible’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Sci-fi movie underscores Mexican film industry’s new ambitions, and its re-positioning around upscale mainstream fare

Leonardo Zimbron and Jesus Magaña

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Producer Leonardo Zimbron (“We Are the Nobles”) and writer-director Jesus Magaña (“The Alien,” “Alicia in Marialand”) are teaming on “Invisible,” a Mexican superhero movie for kids which marks the new ambitions of a diversifying Mexican film industry.

A remake of Italian Academy Award winning Gabriele Salvatores’ “Il Ragazzo Invisible” (The Invisible Boy), the project also underscores a repositioning of many Mexican movies in a crossover-to-upscale mainstream space as digital distribution, energized by robust competition in Mexico between Netflix, Blim and ClaroVideo, affords increasingly significant outlets for this kind of fare.

From Nicola Giuliano and Francesca Cima, the producers of Academy Award winner “Sleeping Beauty,” the original “The Invisible Boy” is set in a singular Trieste of white-stoned monumentalist architecture. Released in 2014, the original “The Invisible Boy” turned on Michele, 13, sensitive, bullied, in love with the school beauty Stella. He wears a superhero’s costume to a Halloween party which is mocked for its dinkiness, wishes he is invisible and becomes so – which allows him not only to get his own back on the school bullies but begin his initiation as a superhero.

A departure even for most of Europe in its extensive VFX word, “The Invisible Boy” grossed a worthy though never spectacular $5.2 million at the Italian box office, won the 2015 Young Audience European Film Award, and was singled out by critics for being a character-driven superhero movie. Salvatores (“Mediterraneo”) has recently made a sequel.

“Invisible,” a working title, is being written by Ricardo Alvarez,  a script consultant on Rigoberto Castañeda’s Mexican modern classic “KM31” and co-scribe of the soon-to-be-released “How To Break Up With Your Douchebag,” a “Trainwreck”-style comedy set up at Zimbron’s Traziende Films.

Traziende, whose credits include “Pulling Strings” and “Secondary Effects,” will produce with Magaña’s Sobrevivientes which, making Magaña’s debut way back in 2003, rates as one of the most-established of Mexican production houses.

As with the original for Europe, “Invisible” looks set to mark a departure for the Mexican film industry in scale – it will be budgeted significantly above Mexico’s average – and in film type.

Zimbron and Magana revealed the new project at the 32nd Guadalajara Festival after Zimbron had delivered a masterclass, “Adaptations of ‘The Nobles,’” in which he urged young producers to try to explore new genres, predicting that audiences could tire of romantic comedies.

“The idea is to make a film that is different,” said Magaña,  adding that he aimed to introduce “some local detail, ‘Mexicanize’ the film, give it some idiosyncrasy.”

“It is a honor to work with Jesus Magana and to have not only an artistic but also business relationship with his company which is a very multi-faceted company,” Zimbron said.

Magaña, for his part, said that it would be “a step-up to be able to work with Leonardo, and I’m sure I will learn a lot.”

One of Mexico’s most market-attuned producers and a former studio director of local production for Warner Bros. in Mexico, Zimbron’s producer credits include Eugenio Derbez’s “It’s Not You, It’s Me,” Henry Bedwell’s “Darker Than Night,” Mexico’s first 3D live-action movie, as well as “We Are the Nobles,” the second highest-grossing Mexican movie of all time, and Netflix original production “Club de Cuervos,” with Gaz Alazraki directing, as on “We Are the Nobles.”

However mould-breaking by Mexican standards, “Invisible” returns, this time from a new adolescent adventure angle, to a mix of fantasy, romance and thriller. This has marked Magaña’s best-known titles, and marked him out as a director exploring a middle-ground between art films and mainstream such as on 2007’s “Once Upon a Time, Maria,“ “Abolition of Property,” a Guadalajara best screenplay winner in 2012, and “Alicia in Marialand,” a love triangle-come-psychological thriller. The last co-starred Stephanie Sigman, who went on to become a Bond Girl in “Spectre.”

Just a decade ago, Mexican audiences might have balked at catching a teen fantasy title in Spanish. Now, in contrast, “Mexico is prepared for something like this,” said Zimbron. adding that globalization of digital platforms shows us that language is secondary, what’s important is the story.”