A leading light of Latin America’s new generation of female cineastes – think Michelle Garza Cervera, Valentina Mourel – “To Kill the Beast” director Agustina San Martín is teaming with Buenos Aires-based Vega Cine and Cordoba Argentina’s Gualicho Cine for a new feature, “Todo el Mundo.”
Selected for San Sebastian’s 2022 Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum in September, “Todo el Mundo” unspools in a world not so distant from “To Kill the Beast” (“Matar a la Bestia”) or the sensibilities of San Martín.
A ’90s-set coming-of-age tale, it turns on the burgeoning relationship between Serena, 15, whose face is deformed after an accident, and Enzo, 17, a “dark” goth boy attracted by Serena’s scar.
Serena begins to skip school, get home late and lie her mother. Her high-school friendships aren’t what they were before. With Enzo, however, a whole new world seems to open up before her.
“Todo el Mundo” points up the women-led alliances which are springing up over Latin America and the larger market appeal of women-led projects compared with just 5-10 years ago.
The screenplay was originally written by Sofía Castells, the founder of Vega Cine with filmmaker Veronica Chen, whose “High Tide” was selected for 2020’s Sundance, as well as Inés Barrionuevo, now a fully-fledged director (“Camila Comes Out at Night”) and co-creator of Gualicho Cine and Gabriela Vidal, director with Barrionuevo of 2020’s “Little Bikes.”
Though winning a prize nearly a decade ago from the Córdoba Town Hall for best project in development at least a first time round “Todo el Mundo” failed to complete its financing.
During the pandemic, however, “I got a call from Inés asking if I’d agree to our sending the screenplay to Agustina. Inés said she was the ideal director: She was a goth in her teens, so understood and knew this world, and shared the characters’ ideas about animals,” Castells told Variety.
San Martín read the screenplay and agreed to direct, an immense honor, said Castells. “She’s one of Latin America’s women directors with the most radical aesthetic point of view, pushing the envelope on film language to tell stories of complexity and visual intelligence. I admire how she manages to combine in a fresh new way elements like a sense of strangeness and the ominous with a touch of humor. ‘Todo el mundo’ will grow with everything Agustina has to complement it.”
The project has applied for a $350,000 incentive from Argentina’s INCAA film-TV agency. Results will be known in September. The producers are now looking for a co-producer or sales agent to close the gap.
As many of Latin America’s youngest generation of filmmakers, San Martin first came to notice at the Cannes Festival, winning a special mention – an effective runners -up prize – in 2019 for “Monster God,” which pictures God as an electricity power plant, a work which “comes across like a part horror film where the audience is invited to think about what’s the real horror,” Variety wrote at the time.
In like vein, “To Kill the Beast,” which is currently screening at Chile’s Sanfic, follows Emilia, 17, who travels to an off-kilter township shrouded in mist, ignorance and religious fervor on the Argentine-Brazil border whose inhabitants believe a beast in on the loose. A coming-of-age and queer sexual awakening tale, the beast that Emilia herself has to kill is her own fear and trauma, sparked in part by an unspecified abuse related to her now missing brother.
Consolidating San Martín’s aesthetics – “the gloomy darkness, the moving lights, the mirrors, the different angles on the bodies in the same shot,” by way of her own enumeration – “To Kill the Beast” world premiered at last year’s Toronto Festival and has been attracting heat ever since.
Castells’ writing credits take in the Córdoba-based Moroco Colman’s “Weekend” and his upcoming “Reina Animal.” She has produced shorts and features by Chen, Barrionuevo and Colman.
Directing “Atlantida” in 2014, one of the foundation stones of a modern Córdoba cinema, Barrionuevo has carved out an ever higher profile, focusing on queer (“Atlántida,” “Camila Comes Out at Night,” 2021) and feminist (“The Little Bikes,” 2020) themes or feminine protagonists (“Julia and the Fox,” 2018). Underscoring her progression, “Julia” played San Sebastian’s New Directors’ strand, while ”Camila” screened in its main competition.