PANAMA CITY — Pimienta Films, one of Mexico’s leading production outfits, is completing production on Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma,” his first picture lensed in Mexico since “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” and “Birds of Passage,” from Colombia’s Oscar nominated Ciro Guerra (“Embrace of the Serpent”).
Pimienta is also prepping its first TV series, “Monstruos Perfectos,” which recently received development support from the Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE) under the new TV series support scheme launched in late 2016.
“Monstruos” is set in Mexico and will be produced by Pimienta, with external producers Marion d’Ornato and Enrique M. Rizo. Rizo has worked with Celis as second assistant director on “Semana Santa,” and as production manager on “Tempestad,” “Soy Nero,” and “The Untamed.”
“This will be my first experience in TV,” Celis revealed to Variety, although he refrained from outlining the story. “I’m really happy to jump aboard. For me this is completely new world. I really love that IMCINE is exploring new content opportunities. We want to make a TV series that’s much more cinematic, than TV series produced in Mexico so far.”
30-year old Celis said that it’s been great to work with Alfonso Cuaron on “Roma,” having previously worked with his brother, Carlos, on “Rudo y Cursi,” early in his career, and having been one of the producers on the 2015 pic “Desierto,” by his son, Jonas.
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“Roma” chronicles a year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s and is produced by Cuaron, Celis, Gabriela Rodriguez (“Gravity”), and exec produced by Participant Media.
“Roma” is Celis’ first period movie. Its 1970s setting was prior to his own birth – in 1986 – which he says provoked some wisecracks during the shoot. “For me it’s been my most challenging and interesting project so far. I’m a big fan of Alfonso’s work since a kid and I loved that he wanted me to work on his new film.”
Guerra’s “Birds of Passage” is also set in the 1970s and is produced by Colombia’s Ciudad Lunar (Cristina Gallego and Katrin Pors), as well as Celis and Argentine producers MC Productions and Buffalo Films, with Colombia’s Caracol TV also on board.
Celis previously worked with Pors on “The Untamed.” “Working with Katrin has been a great discovery,” said Celis. “We’re trying to work with her on our next projects.”
The Mexican producer said that “Birds” – which is still shooting – has been a difficult task because they have been lensing in La Guajira desert, in 35mm, hours from Bogota and without any nearby film lab. But he is a great admirer of Guerra. “Fortunately we got attached right before he finished ‘Embrace of the Serpent’,” says Celis. “It’s been very organic to be part of this project.”
Celis commented that he’s very excited about future projects because in Mexico it’s possible to finance a wide variety of different genres and budget levels and says that IMCINE is very open to foreign co-productions, which has allowed him to board projects such as the German-French-Mexican co-prod “Soy Nero,” by Rafi Pitts that screened in Berlin.
Celis also works regularly with Jim Jarmusch’s long-time producer, Jim Stark, who recently bought a house in Mexico, near to Celis.
“Jim is always on the lookout for new projects and new talent. He’s introduced me to interesting people and is a great ally. He connects me with talent, directors, from other countries. He’s been a mentor in that sense,” said Celis adding that Stark has boarded several Pimiento Films projescts, “sometimes in terms of finance and distribution, sometimes the script. We both love films, we spend vacations together. He helps me keep my feet on the ground.”
Celis says that he’s delighted to attend the Panama Film Festival, his first time in the country, since it has allowed him to see his pics “The Untamed” and “Tempestad” with an audience, given that he wasn’t able to attend the pics’ previous festival screenings.
More intimate festivals such as Panama are the best way to meet new producers and directors. “In big market-festivals, you don’t have time. At Panama, you have time to watch movies, have a coffee and talk about films. Those are the biggest connections.”
Finally, he revealed that he has no interest in directing. “It’s really great to be number two. You get the whole experience. I like being close to fire but not getting burned.”