LOS CABOS — Woo Films, producer via Noc Noc Cinema of Netflix’s “The House of Flowers,” is preparing a new movie project from Natalia Beristáin and Diego Enrique Osorno, “Ruido.”
In a further move, Noc Noc Cinema – a TV-film production house set up by “The House of Flowers’” show-runner Manolo Caro and Woo Films’ Rafael Ley and María José Córdova – is backing the feature debut of Natalia García Agraz “ “Extraños Que Se Besan,” from a screenplay being written by García Agraz and Caro.
Portugal’s Rosa Filmes has also just boarded Lisandro Alonso’s “Eureka,” a multilateral international production on which Woo Films serves as the Mexican partner.
The news comes as Noc Noc Cinema has just announced its first production in Spain, Netflix series “Alguien Tiene Que Morir.” Adding to feature titles at Woo Films from Lisandro Alonso, Elisa Miller and Matías Meyer -the last “Modern Loves” which world premiere at Los Cabos – plus multiple other projects, the new titles consolidate Woo/Noc Noc as sporting one of the strongest film-TV slates of any production house in Mexico.
“Ruido” will be directed by Beristáin, whose second feature, 2017’s “The Goodbyes” – produced by Woo Films, sold by Luxbox and a portrait of the singular artistic sensibility and emotional fragility of writer Rosario Castellanos – established her as one of the foremost female film directors in Mexico.
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It is written by Beristain and Osorno, a multi-prized investigative journalist, author of books on Carlos Slim and Mexico’s narco wars. Osorno co wrote doc-feature “The Mayor,” wrote Everardo González’s “Devil’s Freedom” and wrote and directed “1994,” a five-part documentary mini-series analyzing the assassination of PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio and the Zapatista uprising.
“Inspired not by one true story but thousands,” said Woo Films’ Ley, “Ruido” turns on a mother desperately searching for daughter who’s been missing for two years. The filmmakers will be advised by “rastreadoras” – groups of Mexican women set up to discover missing persons’ remains.”The film is not intended to be a vehicle for such groups, but we do hope that it will help propagate their voices, show what they have to face in real life as mothers in this situation,” Ley said.
To be directed by García Agraz, who caught wide attention with her first short, 2018’s Tribeca Festival-selected “The Last Romantic,” which was also nominated for the U.S. Student Awards, “Extraños Que Se Besan” takes place in Mexico, 80% in a hotel. Co-written with Caro, “It’s a comedy which has Manolo’s mix of tragicomedy and melodrama,” said Ley. “But García Agraz brings her own aesthetic style to get table , like a black humor and and elements of screwball comedy,” he added. “Extraños Que Se Besan” is currently at a financing stage.
“Ruido” and “Extraños Que Se Besan” add further banner titles to a fast-growing Woo Films’ feature slate:
*Woo is co-producing “Eureka,” from Argentina’s Lisandro Alonso, whose “Jauja,” starring Viggo Mortensen, was a major hit at the 2014 Cannes Festival, bringing Alonso’s world and narrative vision to a broader public without sacrificing – and indeed in some ways increasing – Alonso’s capacity to make audiences think.
Set between 1870 and 2019, “Eureka” focuses on Amerindians across the Americas.
“I want to shoot places, people and cultures which I lament not seeing on large or small screens,” Alonso is quoted as saying. He added: “I’d like to know what happened to people of the Amerindian community, what it’s like to be a native American today.” “Eureka” turns on a concern for the environment, the roots of Native Americans in each territory and their relationship with the earth,” Ley added.
*Director Elisa Miller and Woo Films’ will present at this week’s Los Cabos Festival, in its Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund (GFFF) section, “Hurricane Season,” an adaptation by Daniela Gómez and Miller of Fernanda Melchor’s fiction work of the same name, greeted by critics with a rare unanimity as the great Mexican novel of 2017. Narrated by the inhabitants of a village after the murdered body of La Bruja, its supposed witch, is found floating in a nearby river. it delivers a forceful portrait of dirt poverty, bigotry, pervasive gender abuse, violence and carnal appetites. “Hurricane Season” turns on “the dynamics between violence and poverty and ignorance, told from the POV of its characters, which is essential to understand which they take the decisions, many criminal, which they do,” said Ley. “It’s because they’re born in a context, trapped there, with no way out.”
*Woo Films also figures as an associate producer on “Modern Loves,” from Matías Meyer (“Yo,” “The Last Christeros”), one of the two Mexican movies in Los Cabos competition. An ensemble contemporary relationship drama kicked off by a death in an upper middle-class Mexican family, it weaves seven relationship stories that chronicle the decline of a once romantic mainstay: the life-long couple
Each film is its own world, in financing needs and potential distribution. Woo Films’ slate, nevertheless, says much about key market trends forging a new Mexican film scene.
One is co-production. As the value and possibility of pre-sales on arthouse titles has dwindled and sales on even major arthouse films have become highly difficult to predict – they either break out or hardly move the needle – , equity finance from production partners has come to dominate over pre-sales as the major supplementary source of funding in a producer’s home territories. Ley says that he will look to European co-production on both “Ruido” and “Hurricane Season,” whose novel has won several literary prizes in Germany. “Eureka,” for example, is lead-produced by France’s Luxbox and Brazil’s Bananeira (“Zama”), and co-produced by Arte France Cinéma, Alonso’s Buenos Aires-based label 4L, Dutch company Fortuna Films, headed by Ilse Hughan, and Germany Komplizen (“Toni Erdmann”): a pedigree production lineup.
Second, over much of Latin America a generation which broke through with edgy, minimalist, radical, shoestring or intimate dramas now has a clutch of films under its belt, often fest faves and critical raves, and wants to step up into something larger, more mainstream, sometimes incorporating genre tropes or stars, seeking to reaches broader audiences.
The directors will not abandon, however, their main auteurist obsession or experiment with structure and narrative. Alonso’s “Jauja” was already an example of this, a movie which starred Viggo Mortensen, had a clear narrative thrust, but abandons a unity of time, mixes reality with fantasy, allows theme in a coda to predominate over plot. Likewise, in a step up on scale, “Eureka” ranges from Mexico to the Amazon to the U.S., where it will be spoken in English and set on a Native American tribe reservation, said Ley.
As with “Jauja,” however, “there are highly interesting twists which might slightly shock audiences,” accustomed to straight realism, he added.
Characters are often still in some form of existential crisis in “Modern Loves,” as Matías Meyer’s earlier films. But it employs stars – Ilse Salas (“The Good Girls,” “Sr. Avila”), Leonardo Ortizgris (“Museo”) – and again has clear narrative drive .
A big screen adaptation of one of Mexico’s biggest recent literary IPs, “Hurricane Season” suggests larger directorial ambition for Miller, being shot, she imagines, in a near documentary way,” mixing “realism and crudity, canteens and prostitutes, sex and violence.”
Likewise, “Ruido” looks to continue Beristain’s focus on the travails of women, but paints a far larger social canvas.
Over the last few years, Beristain has directed episodes of “luis Miguel: The Series” and “El Secreto de Selena.”
Directors “are opening up to all kinds of content,” said Ley.
That can only be to the good.