Paraguay’s Marcelo Martinessi, director of “The Heiresses,” a 2018 double Berlin Silver Bear winner, is re-teaming with the film’s sales agent, Paris-based Luxbox Films, as well as two of its key producers — Germany’s Pandora Filmproduktions and France’s La Fábrica Nocturna Prods. — for Martinessi’s second feature, film noir “Who Killed Narciso?”
As was the case with “The Heiresses” (“Las Herederas”), “Who Killed Narciso?” will be lead produced by producer-director Sebastian Peña Escobar at Asunción-based La Babosa Cine, the company he and Martinessi set up in 2009, initially called Mira, to produce Martinessi’s shorts.
Written by Martinessi, “Who Killed Narciso?” weighs in as one of the most anticipated Latin American art-film titles to be presented at the San Sebastian Festival’s Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum, which runs online Sept. 19-21.
A slice of Paraguayan period noir, “Who Killed Narciso?” is based on the novel and historical research of Paraguayan writer Guido Rodríguez Alcalá, and inspired by true events unspooling in Asunción from 1958-1959.
“He was an Adonis: young, handsome, daring. A wild child in a city controlled by a military regime,” the film’s longline runs. “Desired by both men and women, whilst his only love was rock & roll. One night, his body appears tied to his bed, completely burnt.”
“The exquisite catalog of films Luxbox have accrued in its short lifetime and the enormous dedication they have put into each and every project, endow us with confidence that they are the ideal partners on our new adventure of rediscovering the noir spirit of Asunción in the late 1950s,” Martinessi said.
The darkness of film noir, its characteristic sexual tension and representative force of its characters are ideal tools to approach 1950s Asunción, to guess how it was it — given the paucity of archive footage — and reinvent it, Martinessi noted on La Babosa Cine’s website.
“The Heiresses’” art director Carlo Spatuzza is currently looking for the best way to portray the city during the mid-20th century — not only its architecture and urbanism but also the art and fashion of the period.
“Who Killed Narciso?” marks a change of register from “The Heiresses,” the story of a middle-aged lesbian woman’s halting but affecting emancipation from the constrictions — sexual, social and economic — of conservative Paraguayan society.
Shaping up as another probing portrait of Paraguayan society, “Who Killed Narciso?” is of a piece, however, with the aims of Martinessi and Peña Escobar to question their country’s identity and seemingly atavistic failings while galvanizing its culture: Martinessi, a London Film School alum, was a co-founder and first director of TV Publica Paraguay from 2010-2012, while creating stable international alliances to maximize their films’ audience reach.
“This project will be crucial for us, not only because it’s our second feature per se, but also because it will mark the continuation of our broader, long-term goals as a production team,” said Peña Escobar.
He added: “Indeed, the relationship — developed and nurtured during the production of the ‘The Heiresses’ — with Pandora and La Fábrica Nocturna is already translating into concrete strategies in terms of financing and distribution.”
In international sales, “The Heiresses” closed more than 25 distribution deals accounting for over 35 territories, including with Netflix for Latin-America, Lucky Red in Italy, Thunderbird for the U.K. and with BTeam in Spain.
The film “was one of those kinds of miracles that gathered amazing memories throughout its international career,” recalled Fiorella Moretti, Luxbox co-head and founder.
“From the two Berlinale Silver Bears to each theater, cinema, city, country and region the film reached, it was the demonstration to all of us, every screening and release, of what cinema can do: Bringing to life the stories of nameless people who dreamed, fell in love, lost, and dreamed again and again. Exhuming everyone’s desire for life.”