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Sundance-Winning Screenwriter-Producer Julio Chavezmontes Discusses ‘Time Share’

Following a screenplay award at Sundance and competition screenings at Guadalajara, “Time Share” is one of the most buzzed-up title at this year’s Mexican festival

A film still from Time Share
Courtesy of Berlin Film Festival

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Sebastian Hofmann and Julio Chavezmontes’ “Time Share” arrived at the Guadalajara Film Festival among the most-anticipated films participating in the event’s Premio Mezcal and Ibero-American Fiction Feature competitions.

With good reason. At January’s Sundance Film Festival, the co-writers scored the World Competition – Dramatic award for best screenplay. This week, in addition to competing at Guadalajara, the film is in the running for the grand jury best feature at the Miami Film Festival, which will announce winners on Sunday. Before Carlos Reygadas’ “Where Life is Born” and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” possibly hit Cannes, “Time Share” stands aside Alfonso Ruizpalacios’s Berlin competition screenplay winner “Museum” as the highest-profile early 2018 Mexican film in a potentially notable first half 2018 harvest.

Both writers worked double duties on the film, with Chavezmontes producing and Hofmann directing and co-producing, continuing a partnership that has paid dividends in the past. In addition to Hofmann and Chavezmontes’ production company Piano, the Netherlands’ Circe Films co-produced.

In 2012, Hofmann and Chavezmontes combined on the horror-drama “Halley,” which won awards at East End, Sitges and Mexico’s Ariels, the country’s equivalent of the Oscars, among others. But, where that horror film was dark and daunting start-to-finish, the insidious themes in “Time Share” are buried beneath the veneer of pastels, pools and sunshine at a tropical resort.

What should be a relaxing and healing vacation for a family reunited after an unexplained trauma quickly turns into a nightmare for patriarch Pedro, when their private villa gets double-booked by the new owners of the complex. After an unsatisfying evening of arguing with management, Pedro concedes to sharing the villa with a family that he instantly dislikes. With gritted teeth, he tries his best to make due and spend some quality time with his family, but is constantly interrupted by their co-occupants. To make matters worse, his family seem to be enjoying their time with their unexpected roommates.

Meanwhile Gloria and her husband Andres, Pedro’s kindred spirit of sorts, work for the resort. It’s clear from the start that they too are suffering from tragedy and trauma.

The stories mirror and eventually intersect as all characters involved participate in a high-pressure time share sales presentation. Writer-producer Julio Chavezmontes talked with Variety about the film, blending genre and the state of the Mexican industry.

Latin America has seen significant growth in genre-mainstream hybrids, and “Time Share” fits that mold, where as your first film “Halley” was more pure genre. Was the change intentional?

We weren’t responding to anything we heard in the marketplace. “Halley” was our first film and we are really proud of it. As with any first film it was done with extreme budget limitations, so there were many things we couldn’t do. After the success of that film, we were in the position to be able to do something much more ambitious that had a wider reach. We wanted to challenge ourselves creatively but still within our sensibilities. There was no sense back then about what is happening now, with genre films having more space in the market. There is a growing acceptance of elevated genre now.

How did “Time Share” come about?

We started writing “Time Share” as we were finishing “Halley.” The first little teaser for “Time Share” is in “Halley,” when Alberto is listening to an add on the TV which is for the resort from this film.

Your films have horror or thriller aspects, but a strong sense of humor. Can you talk about why that’s important?

This film has very much the same sense of humor you find in “Halley.” It’s not quite as present, but in the same sense there is a curiosity about people and how they have mirages of how they see themselves and they are imprisoned by that.

And how do you balance comedy and drama?

One thing that was really important was making the film take place in a place that felt really truthful to what our characters would imagine as a paradise. It was important the hotel felt stately and imposing. Then with the program they are participating in they are actually trapped there. With “Halley” it was similar. The main character is in another form of limbo, trapped in his own body.

When you did start on “Time Share,” what were your goals?

One of the things in writing the script was to do a sort of a haunted house film where the ghosts would be these uncontrollable feelings the characters are possessed by. It was really crucial that there was a sense of something wrong with the Everfield Corporation, but that it wasn’t over the top. What they were saying, you had to believe they could fall into it. We also looked at the corporate structure where now a job doesn’t just offer you a paycheck, but it offers a whole identity and you are supposed to be part of this larger project where everything becomes branded. It’s another form of possession.

Do you have any distribution plans yet?

Our company Piano will handle the Mexican distribution. We are really looking forward to giving the film a wide release in the second half of 2018. We really want to get it to a broader audience in Mexico. It’s important that we bring the project home and find a good audience here. Mexico has a terrific audience, and a growing audience that has proven itself as being very generous in taking chances on films that are not so easy. For international, we have offers, but haven’t signed anything yet.

Can you talk about the state of Mexican filmmaking? It’s growing rapidly, and always more sophisticated.

I think it comes from the enormous success of the public policies enacted in Mexico for film production. I think it isn’t given enough credit for how successful it’s been in creating a thriving industry that has a growing diversity of voices. We have so many different visionaries that are working, and creating new audiences for their types of films. I think that’s a sign of a really healthy industry.