Andreas Fontana’s “Azor,” the latest production between Switzerland’s Alina Film and Argentina’s Ruda Cine, partners on Locarno Golden Leopard winner “Back to Stay,” has scored a world sales deal from Brussels-based Be For Films.
A scathing take on Swiss banks’ shady dealings during Argentina’s Junta dictatorship, “Azor” is one of the 10 Swiss titles featured in Locarno’s The Films After Tomorrow, a competition for movies whose preparation or production has been halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Written by Fontana, with the collaboration of Mariano Llinás, director of cult Argentine film “Extraordinary Stories,” “Azor” follows Yvan de Wiel, heir to his family bank, who flies to Argentina in late 1980, during its military dictatorship, to track down his banking partner Keys who’s gone missing overnight. He gradually discovers his own bank’s collusion with tax fraud and far more damning financial operations.
“Azor” was inspired by Fontana’s discovery of a diary belonging to his grandfather, an eminent Swiss banker, recording appointments in Argentina during a business trip there under the Junta.
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Set at poolsides, cocktail bars and parties, on horseback rides through the countryside and meetings held in closed doors smoking rooms, “Azor” lifts the lid, director Fontana argues, on the history of banking at large.
“From a paternalistic system proudly based on ‘protecting people’s privacy,’ the banking system has gradually drifted towards its inevitable end: a system without limits where finance is king, profits are disproportionate, and tax evasion and money laundering are purely administrative issues,” Fontana writes in a director’s statement.
“Azor” first caught Be For Films’ attention when selected as a project for the San Sebastian Festival’s 2017 Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum in Spain.
“We discovered ‘Azor’ as a project via the French co-producer at script stage during a random chat in front of the San Telmo Cloister in San Sebastian,” recalled Be For Films founder Pamela Leu.
She added: “I found the story smart and ambitious; knowing Fabrizio Rongione accepted the main role was a positive point to come on board. We are very enthusiastic to bring Fontana’s first feature film onto the international market in 2021.”
Starring Rongone — a regular in early Dardenne brothers films, such as “Rosetta” and “The Child” — as Yvan and Stephanie Cléau (“The Blue Room,” “Comme un avion”) as his supportive wife Inés, “Azor” went into production in Argentina on Nov. 11. It wrapped shooting on Dec. 20, aiming to begin editing in March.
That was pushed back by COVID-19 restrictions on travel between Paris, where editor Nicolas Desmaison is based, and Switzerland’s Lausanne, where Fontana lives. Production now faces the challenge of post-synchronization and foley recording in Argentina, which is still under lockdown.
Lead-produced by Argentine-born Eugenia Mumenthaler and David Epiney at Geneva-based Alina Film, “Azor” is co-produced by Violeta Bava and Rosa Martínez Rivero at Buenos Aires’ Ruda Cine and Nicolas Brevière at France’s Local Films. Swiss public broadcaster Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS) also co-produces.
The Locarno Festival runs Aug. 5-15.