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Neto Villalobos’ ‘Untamed Helmets’ Casts a Light on Male Friendship

Costa Rican Glam-Rock Music heats up the soundtrack

SANTIAGO DE CHILE  — A deadpan comedic ode to male friendship and budding adulthood on the streets of San José, Costa Rica, Neto Villalobos’ “Untamed Helmets” (“Los Cascos Indomables”) is among the eight rough cuts participating at SANFIC’s work in progress section.

Armed with a degree in sociology and subsequent studies in film direction from Barcelona, Villalobos used his investigative field work skills to identify a set of non-pro actors to play the band of motorcycle messengers in his film. Just like in his feature debut “All About the Feathers” (“Por las Plumas”), only the female role is played by an actor. In “Untamed Helmets,” theatre actress Daniela Mora plays the girlfriend of lead character Mancha (“Blotch”), named after the wine-colored birthmark on his face. Glam-rock music plays an integral element in the comedy.

“Helmets” was developed at the Cannes Festival’s Cinefondation Residence, Puertos Cine, Paris Co-production Village, Produire aud Sud, the Br Lab and the Cinéma Développement program of the 27th Toulouse Cinelatino Fest. Financial backing came from Ibermedia, the now defunct Costa Rican fund Cinergia, Costa Rican arts fund ProArtes and state fund El Fauno. Its producers are Pacifica Grey, la Sucia Centroamericana and Dominga Sotomayor’s Cinestación of Chile.

This is your second film, what was your feature debut “All About the Feathers” about? 

It was about a security guard whose life changes for both the better and the worse after he secures a fighting cock. It also has a deadpan comedic tone. It premiered at Toronto’s Discovery sidebar and New Directors at San Sebastian in 2013.

What did you do between your feature films?

I’ve been working on an experimental feature film, “Jamón,” which is backed by the Tribeca Latin America Fund, where I’ve been tracking a couple for one day a month for some three, four years now. I don’t know when it will end. I also co-wrote and co-directed a short, “El Gran Libano,” with Lebanese filmmaker Mounia Akl, who studied at Columbia U. It screened at Directors’ Fortnight this year.

How did you find your lead actor, Arturo Pardo, and the rest of the cast for “Untamed Helmets”?

I wanted to find someone with a familiar-looking face, someone we can all identify with. Pardo’s actually a folk singer. I met with a number of these motorcycle messengers and asked them to join the cast. For Mora, this is her film debut.

You’ve said that glam-rock will be an important element in “Untamed Helmets.” How are you planning to achieve this?

I’m working with Pablo Rojas, who is pretty well known on Costa Rica’s indie music circuit; he’s certainly the most talented. He’ll be composing and performing the glam-rock music in the film, a first for Costa Rican cinema. I’ve directed video clips of his band.

How is the state of Costa Rican cinema these days?

It’s a small country of just four million inhabitants, but more films are being made, an average of four to eight a year. There are various film funds to tap, including ProArtes, and the two-year old state fund, El Fauno. Cinergia, which backed my film, is now gone.

What is your next project?

I’m focusing on completing “Untamed Helmets” at the moment, but then am also moving to Atlanta with my wife who is getting a PhD there, possibly by September or October. We have no kids yet; the films are our kids. With all the movies being made in Atlanta, I hope I find new work opportunities there.

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