San Sebastián: Emma Suárez to Star in Celina Murga’s ‘Irene’ (EXCLUSIVE)

As Avalon boards a co-producer, the pieces begin to fall into place on Murga’s upcoming movie of a woman’s transformation

SAN SEBASTIAN — Emma Suárez, star of Pedro Almodóvar’s “Julieta” and Michel Franco’s “April Daughter,” is attached to headline another potentially high-profile movie from the Spanish-speaking world: “Irene,” from Argentina’s Celina Murga, whose 2014 Berlin competition player “The Third Side of the River” was exec produced by Martin Scorsese.

“Emma Suárez has a magnetic camera presence, is an actress with a huge range able to embody a large character narrative arc, which is certainly the case in ‘Irene,’ Murga said in San Sebastián.

She added: “Emma also has a human warmth and capacity for dialogue which is enormously important because what I’m looking for is really a creative partner.”

In another development on the project, Spain’s Avalon Films, headed by Stefan Schmidt, and an ever more important driver of Spain’s arthouse-crossover scene, has boarded “Irene” as its Spanish co-producer.

Buenos Aires-based Tresmilmundos Cine, the label owned by Murga and off-screen partner Juan Villegas, will produce with Cepa Audiovisual, run by Andrés Longares and Felicitas Raffo, and also based out of Buenos Aires.

“Irene” is now scheduled to go into production from May, shooting in Argentina. Its “point of departure,” Murga said at San Sebastián, inspired by Roberto Rossellini and Martin Scorsese, more particularly Scorsese’s reflections in “Voyage to Italy” on Rossellini’s “Europe ’51.” But while Rossellini’s original was heavily inflected by his ardent Catholicism, Murga’s “Irene” is seen from the present, and takes place a contemporary Buenos Aires, reflects the burning issue of women’s empowerment and is set in a bigger picture in a tradition of lay humanism.

In a deal confirmed at this week’s San Sebastián Festival, Suárez plays the titular character who is a member of Argentina’s well-to-do middle class. After the suicide of her son, Irene, 45. returns to university, studying at a state-backed institution on the fringes of Buenos Aires with students 20 years younger from diverse social backgrounds. Befriending one, and then his mother, Irene discovers a neighborhood wrapped around the local factory and a sense of community and community center where she begins to work and her life starts to make some kind of sense.

Having spent a lot of time in the neighborhoods on Buenos Aires’ outskirts, “which are every near to Buenos Aires but whose social dynamics have nothing to do with the main capital,” Murga said, the context of Irene’s odyssey from an endogamic middle-class to valuable member of a community beyond the pale of state aid has gained in real-life detail, she added, citing the films of the Dardenne brothers as an example of cinema humanism with which she identifies.

“At Cepa Audiovisual, we wanted to work on slightly more international projects and we are very happy at how ‘Irene’ is developing,” with Emma Suárez and Avalon joining the film, said Raffo.

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