Both movies are also first features, “Home Team” from Uruguay’s Carlos Andrés Morelli, “The Watchman” from Dominican writer-turned-director Alejandro Andújar.
Though more mainstream plays for broader audiences than most Spanish-language movies on the festival circuit, the two films have garnered festival success, “Home Team” topping March’s Guadalajara Construye pix-in-post competition with three prizes, “The Watchman” winning a Yellow Ribbon Award at April’s Rotterdam Curacao Festival.
Both movies, moreover, turn on disturbing realities in Latin America. Written by Morelli, “Home Team” is unusual, a passion project of a producer, Lucia Gaviglio Salkind at Montevideo’s La Gota de Cine, who optioned rights to the same-titled novel over seven years ago. A didactic coming-of-age family drama, turning on 13-year-old soccer prodigy, it targets youth audiences, its novel source having proved a teen publishing phenomenon in Uruguay. Co-produced by Argentina’s Pensa & Rocca and Brazil’s Panda Filmes, “Home Team” turns on a 13-year-old soccer prodigy living in a humble family on the greasy plains of Uruguay who is persuaded by an agent to move to big city Montevideo.
The kid twins the slalom dribbling skills of Messi and the ego of Cristiano Ronaldo: He tells his wanna girlfriend that, if she does his homework, he’ll teach her to play better than Messi; and he’s not joking. It takes a career-halting accident to teach him more rewarding fundamentals of life and even, God forbid, to pass the ball to another member of his team.
“The Watchman” skews much older, a social drama set at a luxury villa overlooking a dazzling Dominican southern coast at Palmar de Ocoa bay. The life of its watchman, the emotionally-wounded Juan, is disturbed by the arrival of the owner’s son and a friend for a wild weekend.
As events increase in excess, the movie acts as an exposé of the underlying machismo, racism and caste gulf vitiating Dominican society, factors so strong that even their victims, such as Juan, believe in their values: Separated from his wife, he takes to heart accusations that he is being cuckolded when she goes off with another man, and prefers the life-losing solitude of the villa and fantasy of belonging to its owner’s caste to the opportunity to initiate a relationship with another woman.
Written by Andujar and Amelia del Mar Hernández and lead produced by the Dominican Republic’s El Balcón Producciones, and co-produced by Puerto Rico’s Cultura Capital and Brazil’s Tempero Filmes, “The Watchman” forms part of a building Dominican cinema whose top titles – “Woodpeckers,” “Cocote,” for example – have snagged festival awards and international sales agents.
“Home Team” screened at Ventana Sur, “The Watchman” was made available in its video library. Several distributors are still considering “Home Team”; a multiple airline deal is also underway, said Habanero Films Sales Alfredo Calvino, who runs the company with Patricia Martín. Habanero is negotiating a second U.S. pay TV window for both titles, he added.
In further deals on Ventana Sur titles, Ana Luiza Beraba’s Esfera Filmes tied down all rights for Brazil at Ventana Sur to Joel Calero’s “La ultima tarde” (One Last Afternoon), a political-come-psychological drama and best director winner at March’s Guadalajara, in which a long-separated couple, once both political activists, meet years later to officialize their divorce. For the man, the past – personal, political – still rankles.
Chile’s Arcadia Films, headed by Alex Doll, has taken all rights for Chile on the Cuba-Colombia-France co-production “Santa & Andres,” by Carlos Lechuga, the story of the unlikely friendship between a gay novelist under house arrest and the revolutionary peasant woman sent to keep an eye on him.
Cineteca Nacional, an essential player on Mexico’s artfilm distribution scene, has taken theatrical rights for Mexico on both “One Last Afternoon” and “Santa & Andres.”