Juan Sebastian Torales arrived at this year’s Ventana Sur Proyecta showcase for Latin American projects as one of the event’s most buzzed up debutants with his upcoming semi-autobiographical feature “Almamula.”

In September, Torales and producer Pilar Peredo, from France’s Tu Vas Voir, pitched the project at San Sebastian’s Co-production Forum, where it won the Eurimages award, opening up the opportunity to present at Ventana Sur. It has since participated in the BrLab writing laboratory in Sao Paulo, which Peredo says went a long way towards refining the script.

Tu Vas Voir’s Edgard Tenembaum and Argentina’s Lorena Quevedo of Twins Latin Films also produce.

“Almamula” starts in Santiago del Estero, Argentina, where 12-year-old Nino is assaulted for being homosexual. In an effort to protect the boy, his parents move the family to a small rural village. Overwhelmed by guilt and shame and facing the scorn of a conservative community, he will do everything he can think of to attract the Almamula: a legendary creature which captures those who commit an impure sexual act.

Torales short film “Sacha” was an initial approach to the story he is developing with his first feature. His initial interest in tracking the 12-year-old protagonist, the atmosphere of rural Northern Argentina, the climate of tension and wilderness signal his search to find the tone that will define “Almamula.”

Torales explained how the story will play in the realms of reality and fantasy to Variety while in Buenos Aires.

“’Almamula’ is both a real and fantastic drama,” he said. “It’s real and palpable because it addresses a universal issue, one of the greatest fears any human can face, which is to be alone. And it’s fantastic because in reality we all need our own fantasies to survive. For me, ‘Almamula’ is proof that we are all part reality and part fantasy, confused all the time. I like to say that ‘Almamula’ is a film with horror aspects as well, which give it a completely original dimension.”

It’s been years since Juan’s childhood in rural Argentina, looking for the Almamula himself, but Peredo explained that his experiences are still as current as ever in the conservative territories.

“The film is born from a personal experience, and everything that happens is directly inspired by Juan’s real-life experience. But of course, it’s also a fictional story in which Juan takes liberties. He still frequently goes back to his home province, Santiago del Estero, and the Almamula is as well-known as ever,” she said.

“Its legend is still alive and hasn’t changed in the years since Juan has grown up,” she continued. “Everyone, both in the city and in the countryside, knows about her and fears her. It doesn’t matter what age, social class or environment people move in.”

According to Peredo, they hope to start filming in the first quarter of 2021. To that end, the producer was in Ventana Sur “to promote the project, continue conversations initiated at San Sebastian with distributors and interested sellers, and evaluate new possibilities of collaboration with other co-producers and partners.