Argentina’s Benjamín Naishtat, writer-director of “Rojo,” is preparing “Pobres Pibes,” a contemporary noir thriller adapting novelist Robert Arlt’s 1929 “The Seven Madmen.”
Also working off “The Flamethrowers,” Arlt’s 1931 sequel to “The Seven Madmen,” Naishtat’s fourth feature marks his first adaptation. Following up “Rojo,” a big prize winner at the 2018 San Sebastian Festival, “Pobres Pibes” weighs in as, on paper, one of the major highlights at the San Sebastian Festival’s Co-Production Forum, which takes place online from Sept. 19-21.
Depicting “contemporary mayhem from the point of view of a young man with nothing to loose,” said Naishtat, “Pobres Pibes” will be an “unnerving, fast-paced, urban tale that could make you both laugh and feel uncomfortable,” he added.
“This somewhat existential noir,” he says in a presentation, “is built on the basis of a fascination for irredeemable losers and their preferred emotion, the one that governs our time: Resent.”
The film will turn on Remo Erdosian, who’s threatened with imprisonment unless he returns money he’s stolen. He seeks out Alberto, a mysterious astrologer, who promises to help Remo if in return the young man joins his organization which, he discovers, aims to overthrow the government. Naishtat explained, “The original novels are structured as feuilletons, which of course include lots and lots of characters and plot twists.”
He added: “Naturally fitting such form into a feature film has led me to simplify a bit, while at the same time replacing some layers and subplots overly related to 1920s’ imaginarium with what I thought would be their best current-day equivalents.”
Set to be shot in Buenos Aires and the desert regions of Vaca Muerta and Nuequén in Patagonia, “Pobres Pibes” is set up at Argentina’s Púcara Cine, founded by Federico Eibuszyc and Bárbara Sarasola-Day. It produced Naishtat’s “The Movement” and “Rojo.”
“Pobres Pibes” “would be pretty much the first film I make in Buenos Aires,” said Naishtat, adding that he intended to use “wide angle lenses to capture the most expressionist side of the city and its characters,” and that there’ll be a “musical build-up working alongside the plot, as I’ve written the script in sequences that work a bit like movements.”
Sweeping three major main competition prizes at 2018’s San Sebastian — director, actor (Darío Grandinetti) and cinematography (Pedro Sotero) — “Rojo” established Naishtat as a leading light in a loose-knit new generation of Spanish-language cineasts (think Mexico’s Alonso Ruizpalacios and Spain’s Rodrigo Sorogoyen) that have a clear sense of film genre and combine bold visuals with a large concern for contemporary social issues.
Sold by Paris-based Luxbox, “Rojo” was released theatrically in major territories such as the U.S. (1844 Entertainment/Distrib Films), U.K., France, Spain and Brazil and sold to Australia, Canada and China. Netflix will release it in Latin America on Sept. 17.
The financing scheme will be similar to the one in “Rojo,” said Eibuszyc and Sarasola-Day. Argentine film-TV agency Incaa “continues to be a valuable support for our cinema, but in the current situation, international support is increasingly necessary to carry out projects such as ‘Pobres Pibes,’” the producers added, calling the film “a disturbing reflection of who we are today and where we humans are heading in the future as a species.”
“Pobres Pibes,” they said, is “an existentialist film noir which, in a very singular tone, is a story of great desperation with original characters and tinged with black humor.”
The San Sebastian Festival runs Sept. 18-26.