Gabriel Herrera Torres is pitching his latest project, the historically inspired absurdist comedy “Ana Doesn’t Want to be Seen Dancing,” at Los Cabos Films in Development Stage showcase, accompanied by the film’s producers, Amondo Cine’s Joaquín del Paso and Fernanda De la Peza.
Explaining when and where “Ana” takes place can be challenging. The narrative is set in 1518 Europe, but filming will be done in Mexico using an all Mexican cast, playing the roles of medieval knights, farmers, blacksmiths and kings.
That narrative is based on the well-documented dancing plague of 1518, a phenomenon in which 400 people of Strasbourg, Alsace – modern day France – began dancing and didn’t stop for nearly month. Some of the villagers suffered exhaustion, stroke and even heart attacks, a few unofficially reported as fatal.
In Herrera’s version, those unaffected by the malady are led by Ana, an embarrassed teenage girl wishing to disassociate herself from her mother, one of the suffering dancers. Ana and the rest of the unaffected community work to maintain the illusion of social structure as the dancers begin dying in an upbeat, collective form of suicide.
“The main question we try to tackle is one about identity and our relationship to the other: Where do I end and where does the other begin?” Herrera explained to Variety.
According to Del Paso, there are two ways they approach that central question. One: As a basic existential question of a teenager who cannot distinguish herself from her own mother regardless of how she tries. The other: In a historical context, the film will examine how one cultural group respects the independence of another. To address the second, the film will look at migration and colonization through the metaphoric looking glass of the dancers as “others” and with young Ana representing self-interest and the desires of the dominant population.
The project features a diverse international production structure, headed by Amondo Films, a Warsaw-Mexico City-Delhi-based collective, and co-produced by Tsiako Abesadze’s Natura Film from Georgia. Amondo was founded by a group of young international filmmakers who met during their studies at the Polish National Film School in Lodz.
Amondo’s other projects include Del Paso’s “The Hole in the Fence,” profiled by Variety at Los Cabos 2018; Natalia López’s “Supernova,” a standout at last year’s innaugural Ventana Sur Proyecta showcase for film projects; and Pawel Tarasiewicz’s Mexico-Poland co-production “X-mas Story.”
Abesadze boarded “Ana” early in development and is leading the search for international co-producers and private equity for the film’s production.
“Gabriel’s unique cinematic vision, philosophical thinking and acute sense of humor will create a very powerful combination,” De la Peza told Variety ahead of Los Cabos. “We have no doubt that Gabriel will become a reference in Mexican and world cinema. ‘Ana Doesn’t Want to be Seen Dancing’ clearly represents what we aim to embrace in our line-up; new and established auteurs with strong and unique voices.”
Although still in early development, the project has already participated at the Berlinale Talent Campus 2018 and Herrera was artist in residence of the Medienboard in Berlin in 2017. The film’s team is taking meetings in Los Cabos this week, and will next head next to the Torino ScriptLab, which runs Nov 21-23.