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Lucia Puenzo’s Fremantle-Fabula Thriller ‘Miss Mexico’ Sets Writers, Dates (EXCLUSIVE)

Lucía Puenzo
Credit: Lucía Puenzo

Showrun by Lucía Puenzo and produced by Fremantle and Fabula, “Señorita México” (“Miss Mexico”) – a working title – has added two writers, María Renée Prudencio and Tatiana Merenuk, as it advances towards production, which is scheduled for the first half of 2021.

The new series will be produced for Starzplay and Pantaya in Latin America and Spain, in a deal brokered by Fremantle’s international distribution arm, Fremantle and Fabula confirmed Tuesday, as they also unveiled more details of one of Latin America’s banner productions for 2021, which will be the first at Fabula’s new Mexican production beach-head.

Star of Fernando Eimbke’s “Club Sandwich,” actress-writer Mexico-based Prudencio scooped a Mexican Academy Ariel for co-adapting ensemble comedy “Last Call,” which also won its female cast a collective prize at the Guadalajara Festival. Her second major movie screenplay, for Natalia Beristain’s “The Eternal Feminine,” exhibited a distinctive female sensibility in its portrait of Mexican writer Rosario Castellanos.

Argentina’s Merenuk made her film debut co-writing and co-directing with Hernán Belón the short “Aluap” in 1997 feature anthology “Historias Breves 2,” a new talent showcase.

She went on to make her feature debut, writing and directing “Yo soy sola” in 2008, while working as a director of content and screenwriter for Promofilm and Tandem and for TV channels such as Encuentro, Caracol, Discovery and RTV.

A period thriller set in Mexico in 1989, the golden age of network TV and beauty pageants which also marked the apogee of plastic surgery, “Miss Mexico” chronicles the arrival of 32 Mexican state beauty queens at La Encantada, an estate in a paradisiacal setting where they will go through three months of brutal grooming to become Miss Mexico.

As the series gradually peels away the glamour of beauty pageants to expose its reality, and the ever more sinister levels of abuse to which the candidates are subjected, the beauty queens begin to learn that their only chance of survival is mutual support….

The series will be told from the point of view of five very young women, four Misses from different states in Mexico. The fifth is a teacher of culture in general, hired to train them, although she’s only a few years older, Puenzo told Variety.

“These are women who hardly look at each other and if they do, do so with suspicion and envy,” she said.

But “facing the worst of patriarchy,” the women begin to realize that the only way forward is to join forces. This will be their transformation: Stopping being victims and regarding each other with distrust and understanding the force of collective action,” she added, calling “Miss Mexico” “a story of slavery and liberation.”

“’Miss Mexico’ will be a very important and challenging project, our first collaboration with Starz and Pantaya, but also Fabula’s first series in Mexico,” said Fabula CEO, Juan de Dios Larraín.

Having launched an office in Los Angeles, Fabula’s operation in Mexico will be headed up by Fabula’s Juan Ignacio Correa.

“Our goal is to produce primarily television, but also film, which is the DNA of Fabula,” said Angela Poblete, Fabula regional head of TV. “Mexico is today the heart of Latin America in terms of audiovisual production,” Poblete added, calling it “a huge and highly competitive market, so very challenging to set up there. We want to learn, grow, and contribute, and we are convinced that the union of Latin American talents will make our voices, culture, and experiences increasingly relevant.”

Fabula aims for “Talitha Kum,” announced at Natpe, to become its second series in Mexico.

Showrun and directed by Puenzo (“La Jauria,” “The German Doctor,” “XXY”), “Miss Mexico” is produced by by Fabula (“El Presidente,”Academy Award winner “A Fantastic Woman”) and Fremantle (“My Brilliant Friend,” “The Young Pope,” “American Gods”). Fremantle’s Christian Vesper and Fabula’s Juan de Dios and Pablo Larraín, Ángela Poblete and Juan Ignacio Correa executive produce the series. Fremantle handles the global distribution for the drama series.

Christian Vesper, EVP, creative director, global drama at Fremantle commented: “After the phenomenal success of ‘La Jauría’ and with a second season on the way, we’re excited to be collaborating again with Fabula on our newest Latin American drama, ‘Señorita Mexico,’ with Lucía Puenzo onboard as our incredible showrunner.”

Fremantle is looking to introduce the series in the new year, depending on schedules. “It would be great to secure a global premiere for the series at a major international festival,” Vesper said, observing that there is a through-line between “La Jauría” and “Miss Mexico.” “This project might appear more mainstream given the setting, but even with the period glamour, there are big ideas about women’s role in Mexican society, the beauty industry and the confluence of politics and entertainment.”

“When we heard Lucía and the team’s pitch and vision for ‘Señorita Mexico,’ we were immediately transfixed,” said Mario Almeida, Pantaya’s VP of programming, development, and acquisitions. “Lucia is a world class storyteller and with the pedigree of Fabula and Fremantle we knew this was the perfect project for Pantaya. This is a series we are confident will become part of the cultural conversation.”