Karla Souza, co-star of “How to Get Away With Murder” and star of two of the three highest-grossing Mexican films of all time – “¿Qué Culpa Tiene el Niño?” and “Nosotros los Nobles” – is bringing her marquee clout to “La Hiedra” (“The Ivy”), the third feature from on-the-rise Ecuatorian writer-director Ana Cristina Barragán.
Now at second draft re-write, “The Ivy” will be presented by Barragán and Souza at the 2021 Rotterdam Festival CineMart co-production market.
Born in Quito, Barragán broke out with her debut feature, “Alba.” Ecuador’s Oscar submission, it was selected as one of five titles at the 2015 BAL Goes to Cannes showcase, world premiered at the 2016 Rotterdam Festival, winning the Lions Film Award, and subsequently snagged a special mention at San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos.
“The Ivy” is set up at Ecuador’s Botón Films, headed by producer-director Joe Houlberg, director of “Thirst,” a groundbreaking psychological thriller for Ecuador, and at Mexico’s BHD Films, run by sound designer Alejandro de Icaza and Gabriela Maldonado, whose production credits include Matías Meyer’s “Modern Loves.”
“Alba” turned on the halting mutual acceptance between an adolescent daughter and on-the-margins father. “The Ivy” focuses on a mother, Azucena, 31, who, gravely ill, attempts to rekindle a relationship with her son, Julio, whom she abandoned after giving birth at the age of 13.
Julio, now 18, is about to abandon the orphanage where he’s lived and is a near adult without having experienced a child’s joy of proximity to parents.
Azucena invites Julio and the other orphans to her home. Julio doesn’t know at first that he’s her son. When he finds out the truth, he feels furious while having to look after his fast deteriorating mother as he best he can.
“The tension between mother and son who physically seem almost the same age opens up a space to explore instinct, the Oedipus Complex and anger,” said Barragán.
“When I direct, I concentrate on bodies, clumsiness, silence and blood,” she wrote in a statement of intent, saying that she’s interested in characters who “live on the margins, because of their social incapacity, their strangeness, or social condition.”
Barragán is looking for a non-pro actor to play Julio. Barragán and Souza worked together on the project for 10 days at an actor-director workshop at the Arte Careyes Film Festival.
“One of the advantages in having a ‘commercial career’ is helping elevate or enable projects that have more auteur-type storylines and giving visibility to different cultures and voices that haven’t been adulterated by the Hollywood structures per se,” said Souza.
“That’s why I connected so deeply to the purity and freshness of Ana Cristina’s work in her first film ‘Alba,’” she added, comparing Barragán to Lynne Ramsay and Lucrecia Martel.
“I think Ana Cristina’s work will continue to add to the human understanding and elevate our appreciation for relationships and their complexities,” Souza concluded, calling “The Ivy” “one of the greatest challenges I face as an actor and a mother.”
Barragán put the screenplay through to completed first draft at San Sebastián’s Elíaz Querejeta Zine Skola where she’s studied from last September. She’s also editing “La Piel Pulpo,” her second feature which was developed at a Sundance Morelia workshop. At CineMart, she will be looking for one or two European co-producers to board the project.
Taking place during IFFR Pro Days, the CineMart project forum runs Feb. 1-5.