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San Sebastian: Films in Progress Picks ‘Los Fuertes,’ ‘The Prince,’ ‘Sirena’

Two pix in post from Uruguay - ‘Mateina,’ ‘The Sharks- and Argentina’s ‘Neither Hero Nor Traitor’

MADRID — Omar Zuñiga’s “Los Fuertes,’ Sebastián Muñoz’s “The Prince” and Carlos Piñeiro’s “Sirena” have been selected for the 34th, twice-yearly, Films in Progress, a Latin American pix-in-post competition which runs Sept.24-26 at Spain’s San Sebastián Festival, representing one of the event’s biggest industry attractions for arthouse sales agents and distributors.

Strong on co-productions – a reflection if the bi-lateral and minority co-production funds in place in Brazil, Argentina and Chile – this year’s selection packs five first features – six if you count Argentine Nicolas Savignone’s prior “Los desechables” as a medium-feature – a reminder of the hordes of filmmakers pouring out of film schools in Latin America, powering up production levels dramatically over the last decade.

Some of the first-time filmmakers are, however, already well-known. A New York University’s Graduate Film Program alum, Chile’s Omar Zuñiga co-founded Santiago de Chile-based Cinestación in 2008 with director Dominga Sotomayor (“Thursday Till Sunday,” “The Island”) and post-production manager-editor Catalina Marin: in 2012, directed “On Learning Of a Friend’s Illness,” a segment featuring James Franco and Zach Braff of omnibus feature “The Color of Time”; won a best short Teddy Award at the 2015 Berlin Festival for “San Cristóbal”; produced Sotomayor’s “Too Late To Die Young” which took best director in main competition at Locarno last Saturday.

Set in Southern Chile, and inspired by “San Cristóbal,” “Los Fuertes” depicts a love story between a middle-class man who’s just about to move abroad and a struggling young fisherman. “Their relationship forces them to confront their own realities and break their loneliness, learning to trust the people they can finally feel close to,” Zuñiga said, announcing the film to Variety, adding that they “grow together towards a new space of independence in their adulthood.”

Building buzz before it hits Sanfic’s Latin American Works in Progress next week, the mystical-toned “Sirena,” from Bolivia’s Carlos Piñeiro, also straddles tradition and modernity. Produced by Socavón Cine, it begins with an engineer from La Paz drowning in Lake Titicaca. Fellow engineers – part of  modern-day Chile – set off to reclaim the man’s body, but find the Amayra people who recovered it unwilling to let it go for fear of warding off a bountiful harvest.

Based on a same-titled book, Chilean Sebastián Muñoz’s “The Prince” is a homoerotic tale set in the ‘70s which focuses on Jaime, a twenty-year-old narcissist who ends up in jail after he stabs his best friend in a passionate outburst. There, via his relationship with block inmate boss El Potro, he becomes “The Prince,” and learns about penitentiary power struggles.

“’The Prince’ portrays the society of the ‘70s through a history of violence, love and sex among prisoners,” Muñoz told Variety. “It’s a captivating story which inspired me to build its universe, its colors and architecture.”

Like “Los Fuertes” and “The Prince,” Films in Progress’ two Uruguayan titles and Argentina’s “Neither Hero nor Traitor” also plumb issues of identity, empathy and allegiance in an alienating and fast-changing world.

An absurdist adventure-friendship tale, “Mateina,” a Uruguay, Brazil-Argentina co-production directed by Joaquín Peñagaricano and Pablo Abdala, is set in a 2045 Uruguay which is much the same as now, save that yerba mate consumption is banned. Two friends, mate dealers, set off to Paraguay on the trail of pure yerba.

Directed by Lucia Garibaldi, “The Sharks” centers on a young girl, Rosina, at a small seaside resort threatened – or rumors have it – by the arrival of sharks offshore. Rosina welcomes the new arrivals, does everything she shouldn’t “as if driven by animal instinct,” the festival synopsis reads. “The Sharks” “talks about what’s hidden beneath the surface, about hot blood, the sea and the irremediable search for empathy,” the synopsis adds.

In “Neither Hero nor Traitor,” Argentine Matías confronts his conflicting feelings when being called up to fight in the Falklands War. The cause may be just; but he doesn’t feel this to be his war, nor sincere.

SAN SEBASTIAN 2018 FILMS IN PROGRESS

“Los Fuertes,” (Omar Zúñiga, Chile)

“Mateína,” (Joaquín Peñagaricano, Pablo Abdala, Uruguay, Brasil, Argentina)

“The Prince,” (Sebastián Muñoz, Chile, Argentina)

“The Sharks,” (Lucía Garibaldi, Uruguay, Argentina)

“Neither Hero nor Traitor,” (Nicolás Savignone, Argentina)

“Sirena,” (Carlos Piñeiro, Bolivia)

Pictured, top to bottom: “Los Fuertes,” “The Sharks,” “Neither Hero nor Traitor.”

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