MADRID — Aligning two like-minded up-and-coming companies making acclaimed auteur-driven cinema, Jonas Carpignano’s Italy-based Stayblack has boarded “1976,” the directorial feature debut of actress Manuela Martelli, set up at Santiago de Chile-based Cinestación, headed by director-producers Omar Zuñiga and Dominga Sotomayor.
Aline Kuppenheim, the protagonist’s glamorous, smothering, but purblind mother in “Machuca,” will play “1976’s” lead.
Stayblack’s credits include both of Carpignano’s own films, “Mediterraneo” and “A Ciambra,” the latter a Europa Cinemas Label Award winner for best European film at this year’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. It also marks the first fruit of the Emerging Film Fund, a joint initiative between Martin Scorsese and Sikelia producer partner Emma Koskoff and Rodrigo Teixeira’s Brazil-based RT Features.
“1976” is also Stayblack’s first project with Latin America and Cinestación’s first co-production with Italy. Sotomayor, Zuñiga, and Stayblack’s Carpignano and Jon Coplon will produce.
A double Rotterdam Tiger winner with “Thursday Till Sunday,” her debut, and “The Island,” which she co-directed, Sotomayor is currently editing “Late To Die Young,” co-produced by RT Features, Argentina’s Ruda Cine and the Netherland’s Circe Films. Inspired by “San Cristobal,” which won a best short Teddy Award at the 2015 Berlin Festival, “Los Fuertes,” Zuñiga’s feature debut, is scheduled to shoot in the first trimester of 2018.
Also written by Martelli, “1976” is set at that time in Chile, three years into Augusto Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship. But it centers on a woman, Carmen, who is 49, has a good family, a house with a yard, a dog, a maid and severe insomnia which she fights with pills, the synopsis suggests. Then her bourgeois life is interrupted when the priest at the Italian church where she does charity work asks her to take care of a young revolutionary, a man he is giving asylum to, who has just been injured.
Shooting is planned for second semester 2018, with delivery in 2019.
“I feel the need to portray the small story behind the already known violence of Chile’s dictatorship,” said Martelli.
She added: “I want to do this from a new angle, focusing on gender and domestic spaces, to enter a house from 1976 and observe the dynamics between a woman and her family, at a period of time whose stories have commonly been told by men.”
Some of this focus is anticipated by 2014’s “Apnea,” a five-minute short directed by Martelli and produced by Sotomayor for Cinestación. In it, a small girl washes her maid’s hair in households somewhere in the U.S. It’s a lovely intimate scene, but shot through by questions of class, ethnic origin, and economic subjugation.
Despite her youth, Martelli has considerable acting credentials. Debuting in 2004’s “B-Happy,” where she carries the whole film, she came to international attention and showed her range in Andrés Wood’s “Machuca,” where she plays a shanty-village girl who has a mix of fragility and street smarts. She also stars in Alicia Scherson’s “Il Futuro,” Chile’s first big-screen adaptation of Chilean Roberto Bolano, a towering figure in post-Boom Latin American literature. There the“entire cast provides mesmerizing, evocative performances,” critic Alisa Simon wrote in Variety.
Growing up in a family where her mother was always filming, she has said, she always wanted to be a director.
Set against the background of Pinochet’s repression, “1976” looks to weigh in, on paper at least, on a far more pervasive malaise, a study of a woman’s unconscious self-repression in a highly conservative environment, and its consequences when she suddenly wakes up to life.
“Manuela has a very strong directorial voice that we look forward to supporting and fostering. Besides her great proven talent as an actress, we believe in her point of view, going back to historical issues in our country with a very precise eye,” Sotomayor and Zuñiga said in a joint statement.
They added: “For Cinestación, it is also very important to support films that are directed and led by women. We want to create a roster [which partly stands out for the] diversity and great creativity of the directors that we work with.”
On the international market radar from 2014, when it proved one of the most memorable titles at Tres Puertos Cine, a BAL-AustraLab-Cinemart project promotion initiative, “1976” was also presented at Produire au Sud, part of the Festival des 3 Continents at Nantes in France.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with Cinestación, a company that we are very close to, on Manuela Martelli’s debut feature,” said Carpignano, calling Martelli “a special talent who has made an impact on screens both in Chile and Italy.”
“‘1976’ should be on everyone’s radar, especially those watching the amazing cinema that has been coming out of Chile over the past years,” he added.
The Cinestación-Stayblack accord comes as Chile is opening up to international co-production, thanks in part to the bilateral funds created with other countries and to the opportunities created by Italy’s joining Ibermedia, the pan-Ibero American film fund, in a move announced at last year’s Rome Festival.
“Late To Die Young” is co-financed by a Brazil-Chile Co-Production fund and a co-production fund at Argentina’s Incaa public-sector Film-TV agency.
“1976’s” producers now aim to snag co-production funding from Chile’s Cnca in Chile and in Mibact in Italy and take advantage of Italy’s recent inclusion in Ibermedia, Zuñiga said.
Cinestación believe’s strongly in broadening its networks for the projects it makes, In 2017, it has co-produced with Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica and The Netherlands.
“Through our partnership with Stayblack we’re not only working with friends whom we trust, but also opening up more distribution alternatives throughout Europe,” Zuñiga said.
Around 30, Chile’s youngest generation, which is now steering many of the most significant productions coming out of the country, is far more cosmopolitan than their predecessors. Carpignano is one of Zuñiga’s closest friends from New York University, he said. Martelli made “Apnea” when studying filmmaking at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Co-production also brings more creative and industry expertise to the table, and breaks with a double sense of isolation of Chile – its distance, the walls of the Andes – one of the topoi of its culture.