After enduring endless months of COVID-19 lockdown, Chile’s film and TV industry is revving up production once more. And several women are leading the charge.
Various high-profile titles are either in production or setting up dates, such as season two of Lucía Puenzo’s hit series “La Jauria” and, starting this month, Francisca Alegria’s debut feature, “The Cow Who Sang a Song About the Future.” Fernando Guzzoni’s “Blanquita” aims to start principal photography by July, says producer Giancarlo Nasi of Quijote Films, who also presides over Chile’s Film Arts Academy, founded in 2018.
For the first time, the 200-plus member Academy selected Chile’s submission to the 93rd Academy Awards, Maite Alberdi’s “The Mole Agent,” which was happily shortlisted in both international feature and documentary categories. Alberdi is hopefully indicative of the growing diversity and inclusion in Chile’s society on the whole.
“We are proud to have selected a documentary film, directed and produced by female filmmakers, which has had a successful international journey, starting with Sundance,” says Nasi.
Rocio Jadue, head of Latin American film at Fabula, lead producer of the Chilean Berlinale Co-Producers Market title “Land of Savages,” (pictured) by Guzzoni, has up to nine projects in development and expects to film at least three this year, including Christopher Murray’s “Brujeria,” which shoots on the remote island of Chiloe.
“Aside from the ease of shooting outside of the capital, we’re hoping to decentralize our operations and discover new talent in other regions,” Jadue says.
Filming of the second season of Fabula TV’s “La Jauría” in Chile has been underway for some months.
“Fortunately, we were able to start production last year; our talented team is crafting a highly interesting new season and has learned to adapt to the safety protocols,” says Fabula TV’s Angela Poblete, who points out that more than a million people have already been vaccinated in a country of 18 million.
“With Chile’s most vulnerable population receiving protection, things can only get easier,” she says, although Mexico, where Fabula opened an office and is producing film and TV projects, poses a greater challenge given the more chaotic response to the pandemic there.
Restrictions vary in each city and a 10 p.m. curfew is still in place, says Alegria. She’s been location-scouting for “The Cow Who Sang a Song About the Future” in the southern Chile town of Valdivia and its environs for her magic realist tale starring Leonor Varela, Alfredo Castro and Mia Maestro. Casting is still underway for an actor to play a 17-year-old with sex-change aspirations.
“Up to 27 production shoots were suspended last year,” says Gabriela Sandoval, producer and Santiago Intl. Film Festival co-founder. She was recently named president of the Chilean Film and TV producers association APCT, the first woman to be elected in the guild’s 40-plus years of existence.
Nearly 20 audiovisual projects are expected to start principal photography during the first half of this year, but production costs have jumped 30% to 40% because of the safety protocols and guidelines, Sandoval says. To address this, APCT has forged an unprecedented pact with the 80 municipality-run pharmacies across the country to offer discounts of up to 70% in medicines, optical services, radiology and kinesiology to all productions complying with COVID-19 protocols, including crews and their families.
“For a sector that’s been so successful, it would be a shame for it to vanish,” says Constanza Arena CinemaChile executive director. She notes that promising new features from Academy Award winner Sebastian Lelio (“A Fantastic Woman”) and Oscar nominee Pablo Larrain (“No”) are brewing, with A-list casts and a panoply of international backers. Scarlett Johansson will produce and star in Lelio’s upcoming “Bride,” described as a genre-bending film that he is co-writing with Lauren Shuker Blum and Rebecca Angelo. The film is the latest in the Apple TV Plus and A24 first-look partnership.
Larrain has been filming “Spencer” in Germany since late January with Kristen Stewart playing the late Princess Diana in the story of a Christmas weekend with Diana and the royal family when she decides to give up on her troubled marriage to Prince Charles. “Spencer” is produced by the Larrain brothers’ Fabula Films, Germany’s Komplizen Film (“A Fantastic Woman,” “Toni Erdmann”) and U.K.-based Shoebox Films (“Atonement”).
Aside from ramping up production on Guzzoni’s urban drama “Blanquita,” a co-production with Luxembourg, Poland and France, and closing financing and cast for Felipe Galvez’s feature debut, “Los Colonos,” Nasi is in post on Matias Rojas’ “Un Lugar Llamado Dignidad” a harrowing fact-based account of the abuses committed in a boarding school run by a German sect. “Some of the former victims took part in the film that was shot in the same building. “It was a cathartic experience for us all,” says Nasi.
Poblete concurs: “Hopefully it’s not just an effect of the pandemic, but an established phenomenon: that the richness of our differences and the joys and pains that unite us, allow us to bring our Latin stories to the world with truth.”