Colombia’s Black Factory Cinema and Brazil’s Machado Filmes are set to co-produce “Estela,” a tale of two women’s building, across-the-tracks friendship, lead-produced by Bernat Manzano’s Boogaloo Films, one of Barcelona’s up-and-coming movie production houses.
Boogaloo’s most recent credits include “Hayati: My Life,” produced with “Waltz with Bashir’s” Les Films d’Ici in Paris, which world premiered at this year’s Malaga Festival.
Directed by Colombian Liliana Díaz Castillo, owner of Black Factory, “Estela” was one highlight of last week’s Small is Biutiful forum in Paris, where it was pitched by Díaz Castillo and Manzano to French distributors and sales agents.
Written by Díaz Castillo, the novelty of “Estela” resides in its story of the building friendship and solidarity between Estela, a 38-year-old Colombian immigrant and Monserrat, once a Republican in Spain’s Civil War, now an old and frail widow. When Monserrat is threatened by foreclosure of her flat in Barcelona, mortgaged without her knowledge by her husband, Estela moves in to care for her and determines to help her. Chronicling the pair’s battle with bureaucracy to halt an eviction order, the film draws parallels between resistance to Franco’s armed rebellion, made to turn back the clock in defense of a conservative ruling elite, and Montserrat and Estela’s defiance of an eviction order issued by a seemingly uncaring administration.
“Institutions are the main antagonist,” Díaz Castillo wrote in a director’s statement made available at Small is Biutiful. She added: “Estela is a film about the necessary presence of others, not only for the construction of self, but transformation of the point of view from which we look at life. That’s why this is not film about a woman, but about two women: Estela and Montserrat.”
As their battle with bureaucracy builds, Estela gains in confidence and enterprise; Montserrat regains the energy to fight a last battle in defense of her rights.
Their relationship serves as a metaphor for the shifting and enhancing relationship between Latin America and Spain, where power roles are in a process of transformation, Manzano added in Paris, observing that “there’s a generation of Spaniards who experienced the Spanish Civil War directly which is now dying.” Estela examines what this generation has to offer to far younger people fighting for their rights, whether against machismo, discrimination or unjust home foreclosure.
“Estela” has tapped development support from Ibermedia, the arthouse film regional fund, and an €59,000 ($69,000) grant from Colombia’s Proimagenes Film Development Fund (FDC), an incentive ever harder to come by, given the fierce competition among applicants.
Based out of Brazilia, Machado Filmes is able to tap into substantial Brazilian government funds for international co-production. Black Factory and Machado’s participations are both minority equity stakes.
Díaz Castillo studied cinema at the Sorbonne, while working as an au-pair in Paris, before traveling to China, where she made two documentaries, about Jia Zhangke and life in the suburbs of Chan-Ping. She co-founded Black Factory Cinema with producer Estephania Bonnett in 2013 and caught attention with “Iris,” a knowing slice of life about a young Colombian actress, doubting between staying on in Spain without papers or returning to a her hamlet in Colombia to help out her mother.
Launched in 2008 by Manzano, Boogaloo has built up a slate of social-issue fiction movies, documentaries and trans-media projects that tap young directorial talent, often women, focusing on the contemporary world from a pointedly international viewpoint.
Whatever the nationality of the director, the films suggest much empathy for foreigners. Directed by Sofi Escudé y Liliana Torres, the doc feature “Hayati” turns on the life of Sirian soccer trainer Ossameh Al Mohsen, famously tripped by a Hungarian camera woman as he attempted to enter Hungary. Now in Spain, he attempts to reunite his family. “Hayati” is a “lesson on how individual action is necessary confronted with the inaction of European governments,” its directors said in a statement.