Chile’s Germán Acuña, director of 2020 Annecy standout “Nahuel and the Magic Book,” has set his sophomore effort with “The Devil’s Vein,” a sort of “fantasy Latin American western,” according to the filmmaker.
Set at the height of the mining boom in the Atacama Desert of the 1920s, “The Devil’s Vein” follows Mercedes, a humble 16-year girl who decides to steal a mysterious piece of gold. She hopes to use it to negotiate for the life of her brother who has gotten himself in trouble with the mineral’s true owner: the devil under the desert.
The Atacama Desert was the world’s major natural supply of sodium nitrate (Chile’s “saltpeter”), large-scale mined until the early 1940s. The Atacama border dispute between Chile and Bolivia resulted in the War of the Pacific, aka the Saltpeter War.
“My main interest is to make a better film than ‘Nahuel’ both in terms of story and technique,” Acuña told Variety, adding: “Aesthetically, the story is very much shaped by the historical context. The predominance of the Atacama Desert and its colors are a relevant element; therefore, we expect a strong presence of warm palettes and wide landscapes. On the other hand, we hope to effectively recreate the environment of the ‘nitrate people’ and their idiosyncrasy.”
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The machinery, social conditions and work methods involved in mining will be another crucial aspect, the director explained. The aim is to show unknown aspects of Chile’s northern culture, such as the carnivals and the aesthetics of the Fiesta de la Tirana in the region of Tarapacá. The Fiesta de la Tirana is a popular religious celebration with plenty of singular costumes and symbols referencing pagan motifs and the harsh lives of the miners.
Carburadores is in talks with a Peru’s company to co-produce “The Devil’s Vein” and is looking for an international co-producer. The film’s screenplay is co-written by Acuña, Juan Pablo Sepúlveda (“Nahuel”) and Valentina Villafaena. Acuña and his team expect the feature film to be ready for delivery by 2024.
Acuña’s debut “Nahuel and the Magic Book” world premiered at Annecy last year as one of the few features available to screen in full on the festival’s platform. It went on to receive nominations at Quirino Awards, Chile’s Chilemonos fest and the Tokyo Anime Award Festival.
Internationally sold by Madrid-based Latido Films, “Nahuel” is produced by Chile’s Carburadores – founded by Acuña and Sebastian Ruz in 2007, Chile’s first ever Oscar-winning animation studio Punkrobot (“Bear Story”) and Brazil’s Levante Films. “Nahuel” sold to HBO in Eastern Europe and a U.S. deal is in the works.