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Omar Zúñiga Bows ‘Los Fuertes’ in San Sebastian’s Films in Progress

Locarno best director Dominga Sotomayor's Cinestación produces love story

SAN SEBASTIAN — Omar Zúñiga Hidalgo’s debut feature “Los fuertes” screened for the first time to potential industry partners at San Sebastian’s Films in Progress competition this week. Zúñiga’s short “San Cristóbal” took a Teddy Award at the 2015 Berlin Festival.

Zúñiga, Dominga Sotomayor and Catalina Marín are co-founders of Cinestación Producciones, the Santiago-based production outfit behind “Los fuertes” and Sotomayor’s “Too Late to Die Young.”

One of the most promising young director-producers in Chile, Sotomayor took the Best Director Award at Locarno’s main competition this year the Stray Dogs-sold film. A coming of age drama produced by Cinestación, RT Features, Ruda Cine and Circe Films production. Her debut “Thursday Through Sunday” was a Rotterdam Festival winner in 2012.

“Los Fuertes” is financed through Chile’s Audiovisual Fund, has received development aid from Ibermedia and is backed by the New York University Production Lab.

“‘Los Fuertes’ is a story of love, heartrending and complex, but above all political, with two young people who search for, and defend their place in the world, not allowing themselves to be ridden roughshod over by hostility,” Sotomayor said.

In “Los Fuertes,” Lucas visits his sister in an out-of-the-way southern Chilean town before an upcoming move to Canada. There he meets Antonio, a local fishing vessel’s boatswain. When a passionate romance arises between them, the relationship will force them to face social hostility and find a way to mature and gain personal independence.

Cinestación works as a creative cooperative, with both Dominga and you alternating production and direction. Isn’t that a highly-demanding model?

It works for us due to our deep internal confidence in each other. We influence each other, share a lot of the creative work. Producing is, finally, creative management – to design teams, to build financing models, cooperation in the casting, the script, the editing. For many reasons it has worked very well for us. Nevertheless we want also to develop our own movies.

What makes “Los fuertes” stand apart as a story?

It’s a love story between two young men who celebrate their independence, strength, and adulthood, and about how they find a way to oppose and overcome any intimidation. It’s also about how they, together, move forward to a new stage in their lives. My aim was to build a romantic, highly emotive story which would celebrate the empowerment of Lucas and Antonio.

LGTB movies are emerging on the international scene. Do you see any trends or gaps in these films?

I learned with my short that there are many people who find a validation, a legitimization of their lives and experiences when they see them on the screen. In this sense, many diverse stories are being represented and have an unquestionable importance. However, I think we lack precise stories with strong characters which build a celebration of this empowerment. I was very interested in how Lucas and Antonio found this strength within themselves.

Could you talk about the look of your movie?

I wanted to explore the physicality of this small coastal town. There’s a strong presence of the sea, the fog, the waves, the boats. I wanted to fuse all this with the intimacy of the lovers and their intense romance in a very organic and naturalistic way. This was a crucial aspect for the mise-en-scène.

What kind of cinema are you interested in?

I primarily love to make touching stories in which I have been involved in one way or another. And they don’t have to be necessarily linked to this queer universe.

What’s next?

It’s pretty early. I have to finish this one first, but I have two projects in mind. The first is based on a Chilean writer’s novel whose rights are already optioned. It’s a family-based story centered on two brothers’ relationship over many years. I would love also to shoot a musical.

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