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Cannes Directors’ Fortnight Title ‘1976’ Swooped on by Dulac Distribution for France (EXCLUSIVE)

1976
Courtesy Luxbox Films

Prestige French distribution house Dulac Distribution has closed rights to France on “1976,” one of the most awaited of films to come out of Chile this year, which will world premiere next month at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. 

The buzzed up title represents the first feature from young Chilean actor-turned-director Manuela Martelli, star of Andrés Wood’s “Machuca” and Alicia Scherson’s “Il Futuro.”  

Worldwide sales rights on “1976” are represented by Paris-based Luxbox, adding to its lengthening list of high profile pick-ups from Latin America which include Nathalie Alvarez Mesén’s “Clara Sola,” Alejandra Márquez’s “The Good Girls,” Marcelo Martinessi’s “The Heiresses” and Benjamín Naishtat’s “Rojo.”

The acquisition in a key territory for non English-language art films comes just weeks after “1976” walked off with three of the biggest awards at the Toulouse Latin American Festival’s Films in Progress, including the pix-in-post competition’s Grand Prix and Cine Plus Award from French pay TV giant Canal Plus.   

In a statement, producer Michel Zana, head of distribution for Dulac relayed he was “very proud to distribute Manuela Martelli’s first film! Through its main character’s intimate evolution, in an impressionistic way, ‘1976’ offers a subtle and contemporary look on one of the darkest times of Chile’s recent history.”

The film mixes humanity, radical empathy and reinvention as our protagonist Carmen, played by Aline Kuppenheim (“Fugitives”), cares for a young man branded a political extremist, harbored by the priest of a small beachside town. While she’s supervising the renovation of her home and hosting family, her good nature is pushed to the brink as she stands planted firmly between a world in which she’s merely ornamental and one in which she’s undeniably valued.

Co-written by Alejandra Moffat (“The Wolf House”), the cast is rounded out by Nicolás Sepúlveda, Hugo Medina and Alejandro Goic (Pablo Larraín’s “The Club”).

Produced by Omar Zúñiga (“The Strong Ones”) and Sotomayor at auteur-focused Chile-based Cinestación (“Too Late to Die Young”) and Alejandra Garcia and Andrés Wood at Wood Productions (“Spider”), and co-produced by Nathalia Videla Peña and Juan Pablo Gugliotta of Argentina’s Magma Cine (“The Ardor”), “1976” touches on perplexing themes of self amidst an era of a profoundly entrenched militarized government.

“Carmen becomes aware of herself through her troubles. She was used to asserting herself through negation, absence, and will finally feel alive. In our eyes, Manuela Martelli points to the porosity of a violent political environment and the malaise of women who have never been given a place. The film is located at the intersection of the history of the country and the history of this woman,” commented Fiorella Moretti, CEO of acquisitions at Luxbox.

Hédi Zardi, CEO of Luxbox, went on: “Manuela Martelli touched us with her desire to bring to the fore the intimate domestic and family space totally contaminated by what happened outside. In our eyes, she intelligently works on the idea of the border, a diffuse line between the private and the public. She starts from her own private space to go towards the other, the space of History. This duo of women, actress and director brings our attention to other stories of women who had neither name nor voice.”

Having acted in 15 films, Martelli went on to write and direct acclaimed shorts after earning a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue a Master’s in Film at Temple University. Her first short, “Apnea,” produced by Sotomayor for Cinestación, anticipates in some ways “1976,” picturing a small girl who washes her maid’s hair in a household somewhere in the U.S. It’s a lovely intimate scene, but shot through by questions of class, ethnic origin, and economic subjugation.

Selected by Cannes Directors’ Fortnight program Chile Factory, Martelli co-directed the short film “Land Tides” with Amirah Tajdin, which premiered at the Fortnight in 2015.

Hailing what they consider the film’s immense appeal, Moretti and Zardi concluded: “Our director and producer friend Dominga Sotomayor surprised us by introducing us to the young director Manuela Martella, who came with a proposal that was both original and personal: Treat this period under a new prism. The actress has already confirmed that this first feature film completes the promise of her debut as a filmmaker of several short films. We’ve been following this project since the beginning as the rigorous and proactive work of the director confirmed our desire to accompany her.”

John Hopewell contributed to this article.