Alex Rodrigo, a director on the acclaimed Netflix drama series “Money Heist,” is making his feature film directorial debut with “The Last Shot,” one of 16 film projects being pitched to prospective buyers this week during Rome’s MIA market.
“The Last Shot” is a biopic about the late Spanish photographer and humanitarian Luis Valtueña (pictured), who was killed in Rwanda in 1997. Recreating the Spaniard’s final days amid a rapidly unraveling humanitarian crisis in the East African nation, it centers on the mysterious final photo that Valtueña took before he was killed alongside two other aid workers.
The film is produced by Miguel Menéndez de Zubillaga of Mono Films and Acid Media’s José Barrio, a close friend of the late photographer, who shares writing credits with Luis Murillo.
Rodrigo said he was drawn to the magnetic character of Valtueña, who he called “idealistic, a little naïve, bold, authentic,” though he added that “none of that is enough if you confront power.” He described the film as “the unfair fight of innocence against supremacy” and “a story of the defeated,” though one that will have a redeeming message in the end.
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Valtueña arrived in Rwanda just over two years after the 1994 genocide that saw more than 800,000 Rwandans—mostly from the minority Tutsi ethnic group—murdered by ethnic Hutu extremists. At the time of his arrival, the country was in the grips of a terrible humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands of refugees who had fled to neighboring countries during the genocide poured back into Rwanda.
While working for the Spanish NGO Medicos del Mundo, Valtueña began to recognize that the country wasn’t yet on the path to reconciliation and stability that many in the international community had come to believe. Rwandan forces were becoming increasingly complicit in revenge killings against Hutu returnees, as well as the plundering of mineral wealth from neighboring Congo.
“The Last Shot” draws on extensive archival research, including a ruling by the Spanish National Court and another by a Belgian judge, which “determined the clear implication of the authorities in the execution of the aid workers,” said the director. “What [the research] proved, after exhaustive investigation, is that in the moments before their execution, Luis, Flors and Manuel were in a place where they saw something terrible. They were unable to tell any more.”
The film will be released in 2022, on the 25th anniversary of Valtueña’s death. For Rodrigo, however, the photographer’s story is no less timely.
“The story is universal and will keep repeating [itself],” he said, pointing to films like Costa-Gavras’ “Missing” and Fernando Meirelles’ “The Constant Gardener” that explored similar themes. “Economic and political powers will always try to quiet inconvenient voices that speak against their interests.”
“I believe, when we have the chance, we should develop content and try to speak up against the abuse of power,” he added. “Those events happened 25 years ago, but the theme is totally relevant today: power will always try to silence inconvenient voices.”