MADRID — Upcoming trans-Atlantic dark comedy “Villa Santa” will pitch at this year’s first edition of the FICG TV Pitchbox at the Guadalajara Intl Film Festival, a pitching and networking event hosted by Spain’s Filmarket Hub where promising TV projects can seek out co-producers, distribution or sales.
“Villa Santa” was created and is lead-written by Sergio Siruela, a Spanish ex-pat living in Mexico, who is also tentatively set to direct an as-yet undecided number of Season 1’s 13 episodes. Currently he is directing Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Mexican adaptation of the Spanish series “Los Protegidos,” which will be called “Los Elegidos” in Mexico. Writing with him on “Villa Santa” are screenwriters Jesús Prieto and Gabriela Ivette Sandoval, who wrote and directed “Okay, It’s Fine” which scored two awards at last year’s FICG Construye.
The series is produced by Alex Balassa’s Mexico-city based production outlet Balassa Films and is headed to Guadalajara with a Season 1 bible and finished pilot script looking for distribution, financing and an international sales agent, as well as a Spanish co-producer to solidify the trans-Atlantic nature of the show.
Much like the Pitchbox itself, the proposed series kicks off in Spain before expanding into Mexico. “Villa Santa” takes place during the Spain’s recent double-dip recession which sees the Rodríguez family down and out in their Iberian homeland. After news that the family’s youngest sibling Ramón has passed away, the European Rodríguezes learn they’ve been named the collective inheritors of Ramón’s Mexican estate. With domestic options dwindling, the normally sedentary family decides to pack up and ship out across the Atlantic to claim what’s been left to them in the rural Mexican town of Villa Santa.
The grass isn’t always greener however. The family takes a hit when they find that Ramón’s estate is nothing more than a funeral home on its last leg. To make matters worse, the business is in holding and can’t be sold for at least a year. Having used every resource just to get to Mexico, confident the wealth that awaited them would get them home, the expats have no choice but to take up the reigns at the funeral home. But the mortuary business will be the least of the family’s problems however, as secrets and pre-Hispanic treasures buried beneath the funeral home by brother Ramón begin to pop up and haunt them.
The idea of Spaniards coming into Mexico and staking claim on ancient treasure is hardly novel, and something that persists in Mexican culture today.
“What really caught my attention is that despite the fact that more than five centuries have passed, the theme of the Spanish conquest, and of how ‘the treasure was stolen’ is still very much alive in Latin American culture as a latent joke,” Siruela explained to Variety ahead of Guadalajara.
Modern-day Mexican and Spanish sensibilities towards culture shock and immigration will be at the heart of the series, and provide a depth that a standard fish-out-of-water sitcom could struggle to achieve.
“With ‘Villa Santa’ we try to address deep and controversial issues in a comical, satirical way where we laugh more about ourselves than our neighbor,” said Siruela.
He added: “We present some 21st Century ‘Conquistadores’ who are precisely the antithesis of the idea we have in our minds of conquerors. It’s a story where we see the absurdity of clichés, and where the clash and then mixing of cultures is seen as something positive leading to learning and self-discovery.”
“Much of Mexican society is criticized as being malinchistas (they back the foreigner rather than the local),” he went on. “It’s also true that many foreigners who come from Europe or the U.S. think they are somehow more prepared or adept as they come from a ‘First World’ culture. The reality is that Mexico and the rest of Latin America are overflowing with bright, talented individuals.”