PAMPLONA, Spain — Disney’s Leonardo Aranguibel, producer of “Until I Met You” and “Selena’s Secret,” may have another winner on its hands. Produced by the Buena Vista Production Group, “Monzón,” a chronicle of the Argentine’s boxing legend’s arrest and trial, accused of murdering wife Alicia Muniz, opened on Turner Latin America’s Space on Monday June 17 to a bullish rating. That made it, after the primetime offering of Telefe and Artear the most-watched program of the day in Argentina, despite Space being cable TV not free-to-air.
“Monzon” was the only Latin America series to be chosen for SeriesMania in March and played to warm applause at Conecta Fiction’s closing prize ceremony on June 19. The Buena Vista Production Group produces with Pampa Films, headed by Pablo Bossi, who serves as showrunner. Producer of some of the iconic titles of the New Argentine Cinema, such as Nine Queens and Chinese Takeaway, Pampa’s production of “Monzon” marks its first big international TV series.
“Monzon” is also a symbol of Disney’s large artistic ambitions. Borrowing from the language of horror movies, it begins, for example, with a sinuous dolly shot, winding between the wreckage of a post-party room, up bloodied stairs. One of the most sound-designed of series from Latin America to date, “Monzón” also homes in on a hugely contradictory figure, suggesting that the same uncontrollable fury that drove him to be one of the the greatest boxers of all time also made him a murderer, but that he was not only a symbol of a culture of violence, particularly towards women, but also its victim. Variety talked to Aranguibel, Disney Latin America’s head of general entertainment productions, about “Monzón,” the series as Shakespearian tragedy, boxer Carlos Monzón’s contradictions:
As a producer in Latin America, you made your name in Mexico with “Until I Met You,” a bioseries. You insisted at Conecta Fiction, that “Monzón,” Buena Vista Production’s first series in Argentina, is not a bioseries but rather, like “Selena’s Secret,” a true crime drama. Buena Vista Production looks to be diversifying in both series type and setting. Could you comment?
In our productions’ DNA, there has been a clear interest in real life stories, which have sought to reach our audience’s emotions, doing that regardless of genres. They could be biopics, true crime stories, dramedies or even comedies. It’s what we like to call True Life Fiction.
At Conecta Fiction, you also suggested that Buena Vista Production had a moral responsibility to make this series. Could you explain?
We understand and acknowledge the importance to our society of delicate and complex subjects like domestic violence, so we take and treat them seriously, with utmost respect and responsibility.
“Monzón” was admired at Conecta Fiction for its across-the-board production values. One which was readily obvious at the big screen screening at Conecta Fiction was the tremendous sound-design. Do you feel Buena Vista Production in Latin America and indeed Latin American premium series in general are still experimenting with what can be achieved in terms of production values?
I firmly believe that premium series in our region are achieving a top quality level – soon to match, or already matching, any content in the international TV market. We are proud to be a significant and leading player in it.
Equally, there’s a tremendous contrast at times in “Monzón” between sound and image, which points up a bigger picture of the disparity between Monzón as a public figure, the world champion, and Monzón, the reality.
The series intends to express that disparity, or contradiction, in every possible way. Using the soundtrack, music and effect accents is an invaluable resource in thriller and suspense narratives.
The series begins with the crime, heard but not seen, and then flashes back to Santa Fe in 1959. The first shot we have of Monzón is of a young man being taught to use a gun. There’s a sense that Mónzón is a tragic figure, a product of a culture of violence of which he is both symbol and victim. Can you comment?
“Monzón” is a Shakespearean tragedy in and of itself. He was loved and admired by millions, but was chased and ultimately beaten by his inner demons, like Othello. We felt the need to show that path from the very beginning.
“Monzón” has been made with the support of Argentina’s INCAA, its state film-TV agency. What was that support, and was it one factor in deciding to shoot in Argentina?
In fact, “Monzón” was always meant to be shot in Argentina. INCAA awarded our series with an Industry Advancement Award, which promotes the Argentinian audiovisual sector and creation of jobs in the field. We feel very proud of this distinction.
What’s up next for BVPG?
We’d love to think that what lies ahead is always the best. So, stay tuned!