Axel Shalson, Jana Díaz Juhl and Pau Brunet at L.A.-based Amplitud have boarded Federico Cecchetti’s sophomore feature “Journey to the Land of the Tarahumara,” produced by Edher Campos at Mexico’s Machete Producciones in co-production with Yanick Letourneau’s Quebec-based Périphéria (Juan Andrés Arango García’s “V-500”) and Thierry Lenouvel’s Paris-based Cine-Sud (Rubén Mendoza’s “Wandering Girl”). Mexico’s Eficine production fund is also backing the project.
As producers, Brunet and Díaz have previously backed productions such as Mexico’s Oscar submission “The Chambermaid” (Lila Avilés), a large critical and commercial success, and SXSW Special Jury winner “10,000 Km” (Carlos Marques-Marcet). Their new company, Amplitud, primarily focuses on first or second works from promising Latin American directors.
Machete produced Carlos Carrera’s “Tales of Mexico” (‘La Habitación’), and Cannes’ Un Certain Regard winner “La Jaula de Oro” from Diego Quemada-Diaz.
According to Campos, the feature is a “tribute to the Tarahumara’s indigenous millennial culture with its deep appreciation of nature and its particular conception of the human being and the cosmos.”
He added: “Personally, when I attended the first scalping ritual in Chihuahua, I felt a foreigner in my own country. This film is a confrontation between cultures that invites us to reflect on our own spirituality and the perpetuity of the sacred in order to find ourselves.”
Set in 1936, in the Tarahumara mountains, the feature follows Rayenari, a young native whose life changes with the arrival of a singular poet named Antonin Artaud –the French avant-garde writer, actor and playwright, who starred in Abel Gance’s “Napoleon” in 1927 and authored the well known ‘Theater of Cruelty” manifesto. Antonin convinces Rayenari to let him participate in a ritual of the Ciguri, the Tarahumara medicinal plant, seeking to heal the poet’s tortured soul. Meeting with the Tarahumara brings Antonin a sense of peace. Returning to France, he ended up locked away in a psychiatric institution.
Through dreams, Rayenari will try to heal the poet’s lost soul. In France the psychiatrist attending Artaud opts for a different therapy, electric shock treatment.
“We’re living at a key time in terms of handling so-called ‘craziness.’ Through a mystical story, Cecchetti’s movie studies nature’s relevance in curing sickness and invites us to reflect on some spiritual elements which we should preserve,” Brunet told Variety.
Shooting is scheduled for March 2020 in Chihuahua, Mexico. The cast will include mostly non-professional actors and will use three languages: Rarámuri —the Tarahumara’s Uto-Aztecan language — Spanish and French.
Mexican-Italian helmer Cecchetti surprised audiences and critics with his debut “Mara’Akame’s Dream,” an exploration of shamanism in Mexico. It took best first Mexican feature at the Morelia Intl. Film Festival and a Mexican Academy Ariel Award for best first film in 2016, among other kudos.
Developed at the Cannes Festival’s directors’ residence Cinefondation, the script was written by Cecchetti with assistance from Mexican scribe Alejandro Mendoza (Nicolas Pereda’s “The Absent”) and Luis Buñuel’s regular collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière, awarded an honorary Oscar in 2015.