MADRID — Big Spanish-language arthouse sales company Latido Films has just acquired world sales rights to Berlinale Panorama entry “Holy Beasts,” a step up in scale for its directors, “Sand Dollars” Laura Amelia Guzman and Israel Cardenas, which turns around the extraordinary, if ill-known, Dominican cineast Jean-Louis Jorge.
The deal excludes producers’ home territories.
Starring Geraldine Chaplin, Udo Kier, Luis Ospina and, “Holy Beasts” is produced by the Dominican Republic’s Gabriel Tineo at Batú Films (“Miriam Miente”), Lantica Media and Aurora Dominicana, Argentina’s Rei Cine, (“Zama,” “The Accused”) and Mexico’s Pimienta Films, represented by Nicolás Celis and Sandino Sarabia Vinay, a producer and associate producer on “Roma.”
“Holy Beasts” turns on an actress (Chaplin), based on the figure of Edwige Belmore, who travels to the Dominican Republic to direct and star in an unfinished film she originally took part in, begun by Jean-Louis Jorge.
George’s short oeuvre, with just two features – 1973’s “Serpents of the Pirate Moon,” Jorge’s graduate film at UCLA, 1975’s “Melodrame,” which played Cannes Critics’ Week – combines Hollywood glam and Latino melodrama in a kitsch excess which has caused him to be hailed as a precursor of Almodovar. His two movies also feature protagonists who confuse fiction and real life.
Jorge himself died in 2000, murdered in what is thought to have a homophobic homicide.
Reuniting new and old cast (Udo Kier) and crew (cinematographer Martin, played by legendary Colombian underground filmmaker Luis Ospina) in a movie about a vampire slaking his thirst on starlets, Chaplin’s actress-director is threatened with a similar fate to that of Jorge’s protagonists. As she moves nearer to the people she cares for most in the world – Jorge, her estranged grandson, a dancer on the film – she must battle to complete a film which, despite being shot at Pinewood, is being made on far too tight a schedule and budget and seems to be dammed.
“Memories that emerge exploring the work of the deceased director, the encounter with old and new intellectuals living distant from the country’s realities, rekindled love, past stories haunting the present – this composes the core of a movie that could be described as an Almodóvar-meets-Sorrentino in the Caribbean,” commented Latino Films’ Antonio Saura.
“Like many of the directors we work with, Laura and Israel have an inherent and individual capacity to extract and reformulate, rendering real and visible what would otherwise remain invisible in their context, here the Dominican Republic,” said Benjamín Domenech, a producer-partner at Rei Cine.
“Holy Beasts” is an attempt to rescue and revindicate the figure of Jean-Louis Jorge, overlooked in part because, though Dominican, he made his films abroad. based on years of research, said Guzmán.
Though a step-up in scale, it is a natural one, organically connected to both the films of Guzmán and Cárdenas and the current bust growth in the Dominican film industry.
“We wanted to to continue making films with Geraldine Chaplin, [star of “Sand Dollars”] ,thought she needed to be accompanied by an international figure, so brought on Udo Kier. Jorge’s films exalted classic Hollywood, so we thought, given the growth of the industry and launch of thePinewood Dominican Republic Studios, to shoot in studios.
“Holy Beasts” is also a step-up in co-production terms, said Tineo, the first of Guzman and Cardenas’ films to have two Dominican production houses, marked a departure in bringing on board Lantica Media, owner of the Pinewood Dominican Republic Studios, as a co-producer.
Yoking auteurist hallmarks – the mix of fiction and reality . more mainstream beats in its cast, location and production values, “Holy Beasts” can be seen as the biggest film yet in the Dominican Republic’s burgeoning cannon of arthouse films, and a crossover towards a more international mainstream, Tineo added.