Launched by “El Chapo” producer Camila Jiménez and its creator Silvana Aguirre, L.A.-based The Immigrant is developing drama series with Guatemala’s Jayro Bustamante (“Ixacanul,” “La Lorona”) and Spain’s Javier Ruíz Caldera (“Superlópez”).
The news comes after The Immigrant made a large splash in October 2019 when Fremantle bought into the production house, acquiring a 25% stake, marking its first major investment in a Latinx company.
Jiménez has spent COVID-19 lockdown building talent relations across the Latinx community in U.S., Latin America and Spain. Development on the drama series with Bustamante and Ruíz Caldera are just some of the results.
Bustamante has made three features to date, which have established him as one of the most consistently acclaimed of Latin American arthouse auteurs. His first, 2015’s “Ixcanul,” described by Variety as a “powerful modern fable” about the clash of civilizations in a Mayan farming community, won the Alfred Bauer Prize at Berlin, and sold fulsomely abroad.
In 2019, Bustamante delivered two “stunners,” as Variety puts it: Gay drama “Tremors” and Guatemalan Oscar submission “La Llorona,” a recasting of the Latin American legend in a recent Guatemala attempting to call the perpetrators of genocide to account.
Bustamante has been brought on to partner with a Panamanian-American storyteller on a large canvas TV alt-history project, said Jiménez. “Jayro excels at blending magical realism with genre. He can create a reality that is deeply beautiful, and deeply universal from truths that might otherwise remain obscured,” she commented.
She added: “We think his work embodies one of the core truths of the Latinx experience, that while our cultures vary, and our histories differ, there are common threads that unite us. And telling stories in these common spaces we share can bring the community together. That’s important to us.”
A director of big Spanish movie parodies – 2015’s “Spy Time” and 2018’s “Superlópez” – Ruíz Caldera and The Immigrant are working on a “high-concept series that lives at the frontier between comedy and fantasy, breaking with preconceived ideas about genre,” Jiménez said.
Jiménez is in constant conversation with Fremantle and other companies in the Fremantle group, having, for example, recurrent calls with Nathalie García, CEO of Fremantle Spain, talking about how to approach stories as a team to make them bigger from a content and commercial standpoint.
The Immigrant develops series in both Spanish and English. “A story’s authenticity can be inextricably tied to language. If English is your first language that doesn’t diminish your Latinx experience in the least,” Jiménez noted.
“We need to see those stories. They’re an important part of our communal experience. We want to increase the number of those English- language stories. In that same vein, we also want to up the stakes in our Spanish-language narratives.”
The Immigrant doesn’t want to be limited by the pigeon-holing that is often imposed on Latinx storytelling. “Our slate is focused on stories that have been all but ignored. Not because they’re niche, but because the fullness of our experiences hasn’t been explored. They’ve barely scratched the surface,” said Jiménez.
“Also, there is a big opportunity,” she added. “There are so many fresh voices out there with wonderful stories to tell. And audiences will be excited to hear them, because make no mistake, these are American stories. The stories of one fifth our population.”