Following his star turn in “Jauja,” a major hit at the 2014 Cannes Festival, Viggo Mortensen will re-team with Argentine director Lisandro Alonso on “Eureka,” one of the boldest upcoming art films from Latin America.
Mortensen, who takes the lead role in “Eureka’s” first part, will be joined by France’s Chiara Mastroianni, a Cesar Award best actress nominee this year for “On a Magical Night,” and Portugal’s Maria de Medeiros (“Pulp Fiction”).
In a nod towards “Jauja,” Mortensen once more takes the role of a father, here Murphy, searching for a daughter, again played by Denmark’s Viilbjørk Malling Agger, who has been kidnapped in “Eureka” by an outlaw, Randall. Despite the actors reprising similar roles, the film is not a sequel.
In addition, the setting for Part 1 of “Eureka,” entitled “Western,” is no longer Argentina’s Patagonia but a lawless township in 1870 on the U.S.-Mexico border, where Murphy arrives, armed to the teeth, to corner Randall.
Further professional cast includes filmmaker-actor Rafi Pitts (“Soy Nero”) as Randall, and Mexico’s Jose Maria Yaspik (“Mr. Pig”).
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Other roles have yet to be cast, Alonso told Variety in the run-up to Locarno, where “Eureka” weighs in as one of the highest-profile titles competing in The Films After Tomorrow section, featuring movies whose production or preparation were halted by the interruption of COVID-19.
The pandemic caught Alonso in Portugal, where he was forced to close pre-production five days before beginning to shoot.
In industry terms, “Eureka” boasts the multilateral co-production backing that distinguishes the biggest titles from Latin America destined for major festival play.
Fiorella Moretti and Hedi Zardi’s Paris-based Luxbox are producing “Eureka” and will also handle world sales.
Germany’s Komplizen, whose partners include Maren Ade, director of “Toni Erdmann,” co-produces with Portugal Rosa Filmes (“The Death of Louis XIV”), Mexico’s Woo Films (“The Good Girls”) and Alonso’s own 4L label in Argentina. The Netherlands’ Fortuna Films serves as a creative producer.
These days, such backing is necessary for movies of large artistic ambition, such as “Eureka,” a film which weaves a through-line of core concerns through narrative jumps in space and time, film genre and central characters. Such techniques were previously seen in “Jauja,” which switched action, but not the film’s central themes, from the Argentine Patagonia to Denmark.
Set against the background of Argentine General Julio Argentino Roca’s Conquest of the Desert over 1878-84, when he displaced or slaughtered thousands of indigenous Mapuche settlers in Patagonia, “Jauja” finished up as a lamenting indictment of the male mindset, whether of a patriarchal, if loving, father or of men at war.
Alonso says he would have liked to have spent more time in “Jauja” describing the fate of the indigenous population.
“Eureka” allows him to do so, but on a far broader canvas, across the breadth of the Americas, with Part 2, “Pine Ridge,” set on a present-day Native American Reservation in South Dakota and Part 4, “Amazonia,” revolving around Ubirajara, a member of a far happier indigenous settlement in the Amazon who goes off to dig for gold, contracting, literally, gold fever.
“I want to compare the indigenous tribes in North America with those who live in the Amazon, escaping modernity with the hope of keeping their ancestral traditions alive,” Alonso said in a director’s statement.
“Eureka” also looks set to beg far larger questions about how anybody lives on the planet. Though it begins in 1870, “Eureka” is really a present-tense affair, capturing the tragedy of modernity, a sense of disconnect with nature and an ancestral past in a world alienated by its pursuit of wealth, Alonso said.
“I’d like spectators, all of us, and above all South Americans, to think where and how we should live, [and] how we can live better.” he concluded.