Chile’s Storyboard Media and Argentina’s Magma Cine first announced at Ventana Sur, late November’s Buenos Aires Latin American film market, that the two companies had formalized an agreement to co-produce a new political thriller titled “The Commitment.”
At the time screenwriters Paola Campos, Bernardita Olmedo and Fernando Castillo were all attached. But a director had not been tied down. Late Saturday, Storyboard’s Gabriela Sandoval informed Variety that Argentine producer-director Benjamín Ávila has agreed to fill that role.
Ávila has an impressive resume as a producer. His singular previous fiction feature as a director, “Clandestine Childhood” was a festival and award show hit. It won San Sebastian’s Films in Progress, world premiered at Cannes, San Sebastian and Guadalajara, earned a Goya nomination for Foreign Spanish-Language Film, and cleaned up at the Argentine Academy Awards where Avila won best director, best screenplay – shared with Marcelo Müller – and best film.
In “Clandestine Childhood,” Avila drew on his own personal history as an exiled youth and son of two Montoneros, the guerrilla fighters who countered the Argentine dictatorship in that country’s dirty war. It was his ability, however, to create characters who stood out as much for their singularity as their commitment, which was most impressive about the film.
Although “The Commitment” takes place in Chile, it’s not hard to see why a director with a CV like Avila’s, and a history that so many in Chile can relate to, would be a clear first choice for the project.
The historical fiction drama follows Cardinal Raúl Silva Henríquez through the years 1973-75, during the early stages of the brutal rule of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who took power in a bloody coup in 1973. The film will follow the evolution of the holy man as he flip-flops in his opposition to the dictatorship’s dirty war as he discovers more and darker information about the fledgling government.
In a promotional teaser shared with Variety, we see the Cardinal in the early phases of the dictatorship, as he refuses to believe the stories he is told of government sponsored cruelties. Faced with a constant barrage of new information, and pressure from the military, it takes being questioned by a distressed parishioner, “On which side do you think he (Jesus) would be?” before we see cracks start to form. The promo finishes with the Cardinal addressing political prisoners at Pinochet’s most infamous detention center, the Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos, Chile’s national soccer stadium, which was converted into a camp which held as many as 40,000 people during the brutal regime.