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Argentina Selects Luis Ortega’s ‘El Angel’ for Foreign Language Oscar Submission

The serial-killer biopic of Argentina’s most iconic criminal has set box office records at home and played big festivals abroad

Luis Ortega’s Pedro Almodovar-backed ‘El Angel,’ which premiered at Cannes and screens at this week’s San Sebastian Film Festival, has been selected as Argentina’s submission for consideration for the Academy Award for best foreign language picture.

Sold by Vicente Canales’ Film Factory, produced by Argentina’s K & S and and Pedro Almodovar’s El Deseo and co-produced by Argentine broadcast network Telefe – a quartet with previous Oscars clout – their film “Wild Tales” was nominated for best foreign-language feature in 2015 – “El Ángel” also marks a move into feature film production for Underground Producciones, one of Argentina’s foremost drama series production houses (“El Marginal”).

The film examines the teenage beginnings of Argentina’s longest-serving prisoner, the near-celebrity Carlos Robledo Puch. Dubbed the “Angel of Death” because of his age, baby face and angelic blonde curls, Carlos and his older friend from school, Ramón, started experimenting with petty crime when still in school, spurred on by Ramón’s similarly mal-behaved parents.

After his capture, Carlos went the ’70s equivalent of viral in Argentina. He rose to overnight stardom when the details of his brief but furious reign of terror were revealed to the public. Carlos is believed to have committed more than 40 thefts – in the film we see daring robberies of guns shops, jewelry stores and affluent-looking homes – and 11 homicides.

The film portrays two sides of Carlos, a dichotomy that contributed to his stardom. At home and in public he seemed sweet-tonged, soft spoken and close with his family. Beneath all that however, he was cold, unfeeling and remorseless. The Carlos of ‘El Angel’ is fearless, and almost relishes in evading capture while flaunting his perceived purity.

Feature stars newcomer Lorenzo Ferro, Argentine rising star Chino Darín – son of the country’s most marketable cinematic actor Ricardo Darín, and a stellar cast of supporting actors such as this year’s Karlovy Vary best actress award winner Mercedes Morán, her “Neruda” co-star Luis Gnecco and two-time Argentine Academy Award nominee Daniel Fanego.

‘El Angel’ pushed Argentina box office records in August, consistently the top month for box office success in that country, when it surpassed the aforementioned “Wild Tales,” with the country’s largest ever first four-day box office draw of 56 million Argentine pesos ($1.9million), following its Aug. 9 bow.

That number is slightly misleading when considering both inflation in Argentine and the devaluation of the Argentine peso when calculating U.S. dollar earnings, but the film’s almost 453,000 admissions was the fifth best-ever for a domestic release in Argentina.

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