Brooklyn-based Zero Chill has boarded “Off the Road,” joining Mexican producer Daniela Silva at Mexico’s production collective Tardígrada on a title which will bow from April 25 at the now totally online Visions du Réel Nyon Intl. Film Festival.
Primed by financing from Mexico’s Imcine film agency, tapped from its Foprocine investment fund, “Off the Road” represents the second collaboration between Tardígrada and Zero Chill, owned by Guillermo Zouain, Wendy V. Muñiz, Marissa Rodriguez and Oz Rodriguez, the latter’s directorial credits taking in “Saturday Night Live” and the Emmy-winning “The Making of Saturday Night Live.”
The first link-up, and Silva’s first feature as a director, “Where Things Remain,” was a docu-portrait of Jalisco fossil-collector Federico Solorzano, her grandfather.
Set in Baja California Sur, halfway down the peninsula and one of the least populated parts of Mexico with huge tracts of scrub desert, “Off the Road” takes place 357, 206, 37 and four days
before the next Baja 1000 all-terrain car race, the biggest of its kind in the world, charting initially how its builds expectation and feeds a culture of local car races.
But it soon settles into the story of three men who see the possibility of changing their personal narratives through the road race. A hardware store owner, Rigo races with his family truck, which he transforms into a Toyotin, was a local champion a year earlier in the Sportsman Truck 14 category, and hopes local preeminence will give him a shot at racing in the Baja 1000. Davis was a dashing race pilot decades before, yearns for time when his community was a boom town, with a cinema and restaurants, thanks to the “white gold,” the cotton trade, before the rise of synthetics destroyed all that.
A photo sports journalist, Paco’s best friend was killed in a race accident. He launches a near lone campaign to stop stupid accidents during Baja 1000.
“Off the Road” director José Permar won an Ariel for 2016 documentary short “Aurelia y Pedro,” which was also nominated for a Student Academy Award and won a special mention at the 2016 Berlinale. He calls “Off the Road” a “documentary-Western-musical,” a Western in its setting, sometimes score, and sense of how “underestimated anonymous heroes prepare to face a strange ferocious enemy,” in this case Baja 1000; and a musical in the sudden appearance of three local musicians, decked out in eye-popping toned suits, whose Corrido songs sing of Rigo, Davis and Paco, establishing them as heroes, commenting their motivation, anticipating challenges.
Yet, in different ways, all three fail. The crux of the feature, from a director who not by chance was born in South Baja California, is how, far from this spelling tragedy, they come to accept this in a larger recognition of identity and self and their links to their homeland in Baja California Sur.
Co-production with the U.S. can offer financing. In the case of “Off the Road,” it also brings burgeoning film experience.
With Zouain, Wendy V. Muñiz co-founded Viewfinder, a Santo Domingo production company, in 2012, and produced and co-wrote Zouain’s feature debut “On the Road, Somewhere” which frames the tale of three Domincan high-school best friends on a summer road-trip, their last together before college, in a bigger take on a eminently – so realistically – muddled journey into young adulthood. Zouain went on to produce Muñiz’s “We Waited until Nightfall,” which won the Centro León Bienal Grand Jury Prize. Oz Rodriguez is currently finishing up post on his second feature, “Vampire vs. the Bronx.”