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American Film Market: Juan Vera Talks ‘Love at Last Sight,’ Ricardo Darín, Argentine Growth

Artistic director at Disney-backed Patagonik goes behind the cameras for a comedy of second-chance love

It’s never too late for love, as Juan Vera’s feature “Love at Last Sight” suggests. Equally, it’s never too late to direct. A case in point, Vera, who almost qualifies as an institution on Argentina’s production scene, is directing his first feature 26 years after launching his career as a producer. “Love at Last Sight” is being produced by the Patagonik, co-owned by Disney, the company behind “Nine Queens,” Academy Award-nominated “Son of the Bride,” Pablo Trapero’s “Carancho” and “White Elephant,” and a string of box office smash hits, such as this year’s “10 Days Without Mom.” The pic also stars Ricardo Darín, a Argentina’s biggest international star. With that kind of pedigree, Vera’s directorial debut is shaping up as one of the big new films coming out of Latin America for 2018. “Love at Last Sight” is being repped at the American Film Market by Guido Rud’s FilmSharks Intl., and turns on Marcos (Darín) and Ana (Mercedes Moran), who have been married for 25 years, but split after their son leaves Argentina to study abroad. But single life becomes monotonous to her, almost a nightmare to him. One day he asks her out on a date. Vera talked to Variety about why he’s taken so long to direct, his ability to cast Darin and shifting export trends for Argentine — and implicitly Latin American — films.

Why direct after 26 years producing? 

I’ve always liked writing but went into producing. But as Patagonik’s artistic director, I supervise screenplays and directors, generate projects and ideas, do casting and scout for new talent. On 201o’s “Just Like Me,” based on an idea by Adrián Suar, I hired screenwriters but they couldn’t hit the right tone. So I began writing, and the film worked at the box office, as did “2 + 2,” which I also wrote, this time from my own idea. “Love at First Sight” is more personal, reflecting things I think about the world, so I thought that this time round I’d direct.

How did you snag Ricardo Darín for your first feature? 

He read the screenplay, and said “Yes.” He’s a great comedy actor and was looking for a comedy with a more serious side. Also, “Love at First Sight” is his official first feature as a producer, his first title at his first production label, Kenya Film.

“2 +2” revolved around partner swapping. “Love at Last Sight” portrays an Argentine middle class that was born in the 1960s but, as you say, “has seen almost all utopias die.” You seem to gravitate towards generational comedy of manners….

Like “2 +2” “Love at First Sight” asks how to renew desire. Marriage doesn’t have all the answers to life. But if you want audiences to reflect on certain more challenging ideas, it’s better to make films more audience-friendly.

In France last year, according to the CNC French state film agency, more 50-plus women (34.9% of total female attendance) bought cinema tickets than 3-24 year olds (29.4%). Does “Love at Last Sight” also target a burgeoning Argentine older audience?

There’s aren’t any audience studies in Argentina. But the core audience is probably 35 to [audiences in their] 60s. That said, anybody who’s been in a relationship five years will understand the film.

“Son of the Bride,” which you produced in 2001, helped launch the New Argentine Cinema as an international phenomenon. How has the Argentine film industry evolved since then?

It now has far larger reach: Films by Juan José Campanella, Pablo Trapero and Lucrecia Martel are seen all over the world. It also opening up in Argentina: You no longer have to have Darín, Guillermo Francella or Adrian Suar to get an audience. There’s a robust remake business. Some original films have encouraging results: “10 Days Without Mom” sold 250,000 tickets in Peru. However, a large number of films still don’t find their audience and we lack a pan-Latin America star system.

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