MORELIA, Mexico — Mexican producer-distributor Machete and France’s Cine-Sud Promotion are co-producing Mexican-Italian helmer Federico Cecchetti’s next feature, “Letters from the Land of the Tarahumara,” which Cecchetti developed at the Cannes Festival’s directors’ residence Cinefondation last year. Cecchetti’s debut feature “Mara’Akame’s Dream” (“El Sueno del Mara’Akame”) won the Best First Mexican Feature Prize at the Morelia Film Festival in 2016 and a Silver Ariel Award, Mexico’s Oscar equivalent, for Best First Film this year.
Described by Cecchetti as a “fantastic biography,” “Letters” traces the journey taken by French poet, actor and playwright Antonin Artaud in the Tarahumara sierra during the 1930s from the perspective of a young Tarahumara Indian named Rayenari whose life is transformed upon meeting the Frenchman. Their encounter explores the enigmatic bond that exists between magic, poetry, art and madness.
Just as in “Mara’Akame’s Dream,” Cecchetti will be working with non-actors except for one French actor for the role of the playwright, which French casting director Nicolas Ronchi has been commissioned to find. “It will be a docu-fiction hybrid, just like “Mara’Akame’s Dream,” said Edher Campos of Machete, which releases the film next year.
Cecchetti is currently rewriting the script with the assistance of Paris-based Mexican scribe Alejandro Mendoza who co-wrote Nicolas Pereda’s “The Absent” (“Los Ausentes”), a Cine-Sud co-production with Spain’s Tornasol Films and Film Tank of Mexico.
Luis Buñuel co-scribe Jean-Claude Carriere, a 2015 Honorary Oscar Awardee whose writing credits include “Cyrano de Bergerac” and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” serves as a consultant.
“50% of the movie will take place in the state of Chihuahua, where the Tarahumara land is and the other 50% in France,” said Campos.
“I think this project is really original and strong,” said Cine-Sud’s Thierry Lenouvel. “It’s based on the letters that Artaud wrote about his meetings with the Tarahumara Indians in Cañon del Cobre (north of Chihuahua), his relationship with a shaman and his descent into madness,” said Lenouvel.
The film will be in French, Spanish and Indian dialect and shot on location by the second semester of 2018.
Meanwhile, “Sonora” the Sonora desert-set period film lead produced by Bertha Navarro of Tequila Gang with Machete and director Alejandro Springall is currently in post, with music to be arranged by Leonardo Heiblum, who worked on Tatiana Huezo’s “Tempestad” and Diego Quemada-Diez’s “La Jaula de Oro.”
“Letters” is only Cine-Sud’s second production with Mexico after “The Absent” although it has boarded a number of Colombian films with minority Mexican producers such as “Violence” and “La Sirga.”
Machete recently released “Tales of Mexico” (“La Habitacion”) in some 50 screens across Mexico on Oct. 20. Produced by Machete, the omnibus takes place in the same room from 1910, the Revolution and contemporary times, revealing a turbulent portrait of Mexico. The eight directors include Carlos Carrera (“Ana & Bruno”), Ernesto Contreras (“I Dream in Another Language”) and Natalia Beristáin (“The Eternal Feminine”), all of whom have their films playing at the 15th Morelia Int’l Film Fest. “Ana & Bruno” closes the festival on Saturday night when the winners will be announced.