Presenting to the industry for the first time at Ventana Sur’s Proyecta event, “Puán,” a comedy, is a joint creative venture between Argentine directors María Alché, a 2018 San Sebastián Horizontes winner for “A Family Submerged,” and Benjamín Naishtat, who took three top main competition prizes at the same year’s San Sebastian for his third feature, “Rojo.”
Through the chaotic world of the University of Buenos Aires’ overpopulated, underfunded philosophy and literature department – affectionately known to all as ‘Puán’ – the duo’s script explores the state of their home nation.
The script tells a “coming-of-middle-age” story about a multitasking professor and father who finds himself with little time for abstract thought when a much-coveted philosophy chair arises following the death of a close mentor.
Producers of this Є800,000 budget ($970,000) project are Barbara Francisco’s ten-year old firm Pasto Cine – which made “Familia Sumergida” – and Federico Eibuszyc and Barbara Sarasola-Day’s Buenos Aires-based Pucará Cine (which made “Rojo”).
A second version of the script has just been translated into English and the project is now looking for Latin American and European co-producers, a sales agent and platforms that are looking for co-production partnerships.
A shoot date has been scheduled for late 2021 on location in Argentina and Bolivia.
Variety caught up with the two directors to discuss co-working, future projects and the abstract thoughts that occupy their own past and present projects.
How did “Puán” evolve and why did you decide to co-direct?
Alché: “It started with the desire to talk about Puán, this weirdly amazing place that we both know well and where we are able to find humor and wonder in many details. As we discussed the matter of heritage and transmission among professors, we figured out the structure and characters. Ultimately the writing went so smoothly that we felt natural to go for a co-direction.”
Like “Puán,” Maria, your debut feature “A Submerged Family,” takes place after the death of someone close to the protagonist, what attracts you to this period in a character’s life?
Alché: After someone dies, a new order is born among those closest to them and I find that particularly appealing. From a sentimental, symbolic, metaphysical perspective, everything starts moving. In “Puán,” the loss of a teacher implies a profound sense of drifting for our lead character, who finds himself compelled to re-think what to do, what to teach, and whom to follow.”
Benjamin, “Rojo” explored iniquity in 1970s Argentina during the time of the “disappeared”; what themes do you hope to explore in contemporary society?
Naishtat: Argentine society is built on many contradictions: the compulsive, aspirational desire to think of this country within a European imaginarium; the everlasting denial of any cultural roots beyond the city of Buenos Aires. These are fundamental to the disorienting Argentine identity, and its academia is a central part of this conundrum. Within a human and humorous story we hope to depict a society that may finally be starting to acknowledge its own place in the world.
What other projects are you working on?
Naishtat: Together with Púcara Cine we’re set to do an adaption of Roberto Arlt´s “Seven Madmen” that will go under the title “Pobres Pibes.” And I’m also writing a sort of horror film, which, as a fan of the genre, I’ve wanted to do for a long time.