Costa Rican director Ernesto “Neto” Villalobos’ third feature, “Love is the Monster,” will participate in September’s San Sebastian Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum.
Having found festival success with his first two features, “All About the Feathers” and “Helmet Heads,” both drama-comedies, Villalobos will head in a different direction with “Love is the Monster,” a psychological thriller co-written with author Diego van der Laat, a Costa Rican storyteller working in cinema the first time.
Villalobos explained that while working on this project, “I was interested in exploring the personal relationships between Grandmother, Mother and Granddaughter in a Latin American environment where violence is daily bread and where we live with a latent paranoia about insecurity and evil.”
To that end, the film explores how far a grandmother is willing to go in order to rescue her granddaughter from imminent danger. Villalobos describes it as “The story of a grandmother who must deal, in a particular way, with being treated as someone irrelevant.”
“The project is not only a personal challenge to make a genre film, but it also implies a change in my character construction and the way I approach them,” he explained. “I am interested in constructing a protagonist who undergoes major personal transformations that the viewer and myself can connect with, despite the ‘wrongness’ of their actions.”
Villalobos’ La Sucia Centroamericana producer is producing out of Costa Rica, and Alejo Crisostomo’s Ceibita is co-producing in Chile. In San Sebastian they will be presenting the project for the first time, looking for feedback and future partners who can help the project grow.
“We think San Sebastian is the ideal place to start development on this new collaboration,” Crisostomo told Variety.
He added: “We are particularly interested in finding a European co-producer who wants to work with us towards the realization of the film, and we are excited about the possibility of sharing our project with industry professionals and receiving feedback that they can provide on the writing process.”
Having known Villalobos for fifteen years, Crisostomo was always likely to be involved, but he explained that in this particular case, “I admire Neto’s ability to create small worlds that reflect, often with humor, universal aspects of humanity. When he shared the treatment of this new project, I was excited to accompany him across new territory.”
He went on: “While the comedy that characterizes his voice will emerge, I am sure it will lead us elegantly through the anguish and suspense of this thriller.”
San Sebastian’s Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum will take place over Sept. 22-25.