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SANFIC: ‘Dry Martina,’ ’Unidad XV,’ ‘Untamed Helmets’ Showcased in Works in Progress

Many Latin American WIP titles set in a world of unemployment and often visceral disappointment

Three movies by key Latin American production houses – Martin Desalvo’s “Unidad XV: La Fuga,” Che Sandoval’s “Dry Martina” and Neto Villalobos’ “Cascos Indomables” – will be unveiled in rough-cut at this year’s SANFIC-Santiago Intl. Film Festival which kicks off Aug. 20 in Santiago de Chile with Santiago Mitre’s “The Summit,” starring Ricardo Darin.

They will be joined by another five titles at SANFIC’s 2017 Latin American Work in Progress. Now in its  sixth year, the section has grown in status as a first-look showcase for titles which go on to screen at other pix-in-post sections and eventually big festival berths in the upcoming year. Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’ “To Kill a Man,” which won 2013’s SANFIC Latin American Work in Progress and went on to become a 2014 Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, is one case in point. The competition allots $3,000 cash prizes to winners.  One title chosen from the competition will be screened at late November’s Ventana Sur at a branded SANFIC event.

Argentina’s Magma Cine, one of Latin America’s clearest exponent of auteur genre (“Blood Appears,” “El Ardor,” “Second Death”), will present “Unidad XV: La Fuga,” a historical prison break thriller with political point. Set in 1957, and inspired by real events, it tracks four Peronist politicians’ desperate break out of a Patagonian desert penitentiary. Either they get to and cross the Andes or die. Desalvo’s “El día trajo la oscuridad” won best director at the 2014 Austin Fantastic Festival.

“Our challenge is to generate a political historical film that is relevant, modern and reflects an original creative voice,” said producer Juan Pablo Gugliotta, at Argentina’s Magma Cine. He added that “Unidad XIV” “connects perfectly with the political moment that our country – and indeed our whole region – is experiencing.”

Otherwise, the six features which will be screened in rough-cut at SANFIC’s WIP, paint a picture of a confused and suffering contemporary world where characters are afflicted by trauma, unemployment and visceral frustration, adopting desperate measures to get by. Rare and winding, the road to happiness is also unexpected.

Forastero, producer of Sebastian Silva’s Golden Globe-nominated “The Maid” and Dominga Sotomayor’s Rotterdam Tiger winner “Thursday Through Sunday,” teams with Rizoma, a driving force of the New Argentine Cinema (“Giant,” “The Custodian”) on “Dry Martina.” A dramedy, like his first features,  it questions the crisis in modern sentiments as characters cling to outmoded or inappropriate gender models,  while unable to accept or appreciate their circumstances, Here, Antonella Costa (“The Wind,” “Today and Tomorrow”) plays a 35-year-old Argentine singer who is dumped, loses her voice and becomes frigid – until she meets Chilean Carlos, who turns her on. But “the real root of her problems is affection, not sex,” Sandoval says, and a potential new family their solution.

Lead-produced by Karina Avellán and Marcelo Quesada at Costa Rica’s Pacífica Grey, and co-produced by Dominga Sotomayor and Omar Zúñiga at Chile’s Cinestación, “Cascos Indomables” (Untamed Helmets) boasts director Neto Villalobos’ hallmark bathos: a two-second clip recalls the opening credit scene of Marlon Brando’s “The Wild One,” but with his biker crew replaced by Costa Rican bike messengers on clapped-out machines.

“Untamed Helmets” weighs in as a comedic, but loving tribute to friendship and the streets of Costa Rican capital San Juan, where it was shot. That is framed in a coming of age tale of Mancha who, when a massive layoff at his messenger company threatens to end his neb-adolescent lifestyle, has to decide whether to step up as a leader of the sacked workers, or take his life to another next stage, joining his girlfriend on a small island. Starring newcomer Arturo Pardo and theater actress Daniela Mora, “Untamed Helmets” was developed at a Cannes Festival Cinéfondation Résidence.

Directed by Sofia Paloma Gomez and Camilo Becerra and set up at Chile’s La Jauria Comunicaciones, “Trastornos de sueño” (“Dreaming Disorders”) turns on Joel who, having been laid off, is forced to live with his mother and grandmother, an Alzheimer sufferer, in the cramped family flat. “Dreaming Disorders” is a dysfunctional family portrait capturing “the anguish felt when people have not been able to construct their own life projects,” Gomez and Becerra have said.

Another pan-Latin America co-production – between Venezuela and Chile –  “Atacama” marks the second feature of Enrique Bencomo, after 2014’s debut “Pipí Mil Pupú Dos Lucas.” It narrates three stories – involving a miner, an astronomer at the Alma radio-telescope site, and a big-city dweller – against the background of the Atacama Desert, which Bencomo has attempted to transform into a fourth main character in the movie.

Of documentaries, Marcel Beltrán’s “El Desaparecido de Kafka” is a portrait of legendary Cuban shutterbug Fernando Lopez Junque, better known as Chinolope. Once a famed photographer of the famous, working in New York and Cuba, he now lives in a humble Havana barrio and feels at 85 that his work is no longer respected:  He’s a shadow of his former self, like the anti-hero of Kafka’s novel, he argues.

SANFIC’s Latin American WIP also features two boxing documentaries. A record of dedication – the subject’s, the director’s – “El Guru” was shot over five years. Set up at Chile’s Hay que Hacerlo Producciones and directed and produced by Rory Barrientos Llamas, it tracks Carlos Ruiz, a salmon industry factory worker, as he prepares for over a year for a fight which, if he wins, would allow him to complete for the national title and make him remembered in his hometown.

Directed by Fernando Lopez Escrivá, “La Bonita” profiles Argentina’s Daniela “La Bonita” Bermudez, the latest from a humble family of boxers who battles to make a name for herself in boxing. Winning is the only chance for her family to rise above the poverty line and would satisfy the frustrated dreams of her father, her manager and trainer. Remarkably, she wins four world titles. Dreams come true, sometimes.

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