Following up hit Chilean Netflix series “Bala Loca,” David Miranda Hardy, head of content development at Santiago-based Filmo Estudios, is developing a new crime thriller set against the backdrop of the ongoing dispute between the Mapuche indigenous people and the Chilean state.
“En la Frontera” (“The Frontier”) – one of the 10 finalist projects taking part in Pitch Copro Series at the Conecta Fiction TV co-production event in Pamplona, Spain, this year – grew out of a concept by novelist and screenwriter Simón Soto and “Bala Loca” scribe Pablo Toro, who pitched the idea of a crime thriller set at the center of the Mapuche conflict, said Hardy.
“We immediately clicked and started developing this story about a fascinating struggle that connects us with the whole continent and its history: From Canada and the U.S. to Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, we all share these cultural and territorial disputes in our DNA as Americans.”
The series follows Detective Manuela Valencia as she investigates a brutal murder in southern Chile amid increasing tensions between Mapuche communities and state authorities. Revealing widespread corruption, the case begins to challenge Valencia’s belief in the rule of law.
Hardy has found inspiration in popular genres such as Nordic noir, with its focus on character-based, small-town police mysteries, “and the geopolitical framework of series like ‘Fauda’ that can expand the genre into social contemporary issues,” he adds.
Hardy, who also serves as a faculty member in the Film and Media Culture Department at Middlebury College in Vermont, says he and his team are “interested in creating intense emotional connections with characters that face the more difficult moral dilemmas of our times. We love drama and mystery that is circumscribed in contemporary social malaise. In particular, the growing distrust towards liberal democratic institutions that has only gotten worse in the years after ‘Bala Loca.’
“We don’t have a specific political agenda, but believe in contributing a complex gaze into social conflicts, pointing the light to the ways they manifest in our daily lives. And we want to attract as many people as possible to those conversations by creating highly compelling, entertaining stories that can grip the audience from the start.”
To that end, the writers are telling a fictionalized story based on extensive research of the actual Mapuche conflict and “honestly attempting to represent the real dynamics in the region and its true complexity that many times is simplistically overlooked in the media,” Hardy notes. “We are also aware of the enormous difficulties that depicting a centuries-long dispute involve.”
The new series is likely to benefit from the success of “Bala Loca.” While originally conceived as a local show, “Bala Loca” opened doors around the world following its international distribution via Netflix and particularly after its nominations for the Peabody and Platino awards, Hardy notes.
“We are convinced there is a space for gripping stories that bring highly specific yet lesser-known worlds to the attention of international audiences,” he adds. “Chile has a booming media industry with top professionals, magnificent locations and fascinating stories that we hope will capture eyes all around the globe. ‘En la Frontera’ is aiming at that target from the inception, using the conventions of genre to make audiences feel like they’re in a familiar place while opening unknown worlds to them.”
In achieving a high-end aesthetic, the production will extensively use a one-camera setup normally associated with film and high-quality drama series and also emphasize music and sound design. “Social realities are gritty enough, so we like to portray them with as high production values as possible,” says Hardy, who will direct along with Gabriel Díaz (“Bala Loca”).
Produced by Marcos de Aguirre, the series boasts a strong cast that includes “Bala Loca” stars Manuela Oyarzún and Alejandro Goic. “They are among the best performers out there, and we have developed a working relationship, a sense of trust,” Hardy notes. Luis Gnecco (“Neruda”), Gaston Salgado and Daniel Candia (who likewise appeared in “Bala Loca”) are also set to star.
The project’s selection for the Conecta Fiction TV co-production event is certain to boost its international prospects.
“Conecta Fiction, in particular, has a very interesting niche in creating bonds between Europe and Latin America that are not necessarily mediated by the U.S.,” says Hardy.
“Latin America-Europe collaborations have been successful for film and Chile in particular has seen a film boom with many European co-productions. Conecta is doing a tremendous effort at adapting that model to drama series.”