Having just pitched at the Sanfic-Morbido Lab, Chilean slasher flick project “Matria” will head to South Korea’s Bucheon (Bifan) in June on behalf of Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, where the project pitched to great success in late 2020. In the midst of its pandemic online market run, “Matria” has added two new key castings in award-winning Chilean actor Benjamin Vicuña (“Fuga,” “Locked Up”) and Argentina’s Gabriel Schultz (“Kryptonite,” “La Suerte en Tus Manos”). They join the already top-line casting of “Locked Up” standout Itziar Castro and “A Fantastic Woman’s” Daniela Vega.

“How much harm can a man do to a woman? Enough for his head to have a price on it,” starts the promotional material for the upcoming project from Chile’s Sandra Arriagada. An over-the-top, blood-soaked black comedy, “Matria” sees seven awful men held to task for their previous transgressions against women by being unwittingly entered in a battle-royal, seven-men-enter-one-man leaves-style event sponsored by the women they’ve wronged and hosted by shrewd entrepreneur Erinia (Castro), a former Spanish Military Intelligence officer who hosts the games as both her vocation and her passion.

One of Latin America’s busiest filmmakers pre-, during- and sure to be post-pandemic, Arriagada shot a zombie splatter film called “Living Dead” in 2020 with a combined cast and crew of 60 people. Having learned the tricks and tips to shooting under the most stringent COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, she’s confident that “Matria” can go into production soon, and has backup plans to account for all COVID contingencies.

“With ’Living Dead’ the COVID protocols were solvable thanks to the fact that from page 30 of the script, although it was obviously choral due the size of the cast, it became strategically modular, with pairs or trios of characters fleeing or fighting separately, which allowed us more control over production,” she explained to Variety during this year’s Sanfic Industria.

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Sandra Arriagada on set Credit: Femtástica

“The pandemic isn’t going anywhere in the short term, but the need for audiovisual work will persist because the industry is composed of human teams which must work to survive,” she pointed out. “We cannot be paralyzed by the pandemic but be smart and create work that looks like it was made under normal circumstances in a controllable environment. To that end, our intention is to kick off ‘Matria’ this year, next year at the latest. The script is ready, we’re storyboarding and we are ready for whatever circumstances arise.”

With the demand for genre cinema never higher, it can still be hard to find box office success in Chile, particularly since COVID-19 shut down cinemas. Those closures, rather than marking some major sea change in the difficulties facing domestic releases, acted as a catalyst in the emergence of streaming platforms, already a preferred means of consumption for many audiences in the region.

“Chile is a small market for all kinds of films, so unfortunately if you want to make a career of filmmaking you must always be thinking about Latin America and hopefully Ibero-America in terms of distribution,” said Arriagada. “You release in Chile out of love for your country, not for economic reasons. Even if your film is a blockbuster here, you’re lucky to just recoup your investment. That said, a theatrical release is nice, but not the heart of the business, which is now undoubtedly streaming,”

“So, what is more important, brain or heart? My brain tells me that streaming reaches everyone, but my heart reminds me of the incomparable emotion of a positive reaction from the public in a movie theater. I think I’ll have to let Doña Pandemia decide this time,” she said, leaving all distribution avenues open.

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Matria Credit: Alex Hurtado