Panama’s award-winning Hypatia Films and Guatemala’s Jayro Bustamante, whose most recent film, “La Llorona,” made the Oscar international film shortlist, is partnering with Jonathan Keasey of Mind Riot Entertainment to make WWII drama “Down Wind.”
The film marks a rare collaboration between two major Central American filmmakers and an American writer-producer. Bustamante will direct based on a screenplay by Keasey, who has also boarded as a producer.
The drama’s lead production company, Hypatia Films, run by Pituka Ortega Heilbron and Marcela Heilbron, is an associate producer on Claire Denis’ Cannes competition contender “The Stars at Noon,” which was filmed in Panama and on which Hypatia provided production services.
Inspired by true events, “Down Wind” (a working title) is sourced from an article concerning incidents that transpired in the U.S. Southwest towards the end of World War II.
While details of the story remain under wraps, Ortega Heilbron said: “For years we search for that puzzle piece in life that makes a dream more than a drama, a knock more than a beckon. The characters in our film and the epic events that transform their lives, is one such piece that storytellers dream to come across once in a lifetime.”
This unprecedented alliance first sparked when the Heilbrons, Bustamante and Keasey met in December at Ortega’s International Film Festival of Panama (IFF Panama).
“The chance to tell this story with the Heilbrons and Bustamante hits especially close to home,” said Keasey, whose grandfather won a Silver Medal in WWII’s Pacific theatre, and who grew up in the shadow of the Hanford Nuclear Plant, where the plutonium for the first atomic bomb was sourced.
“I have always been drawn to this tragic era. So, when Pituka approached me about adapting a true tale tangentially related to this subject matter, I was instantly intrigued. And then when she told me Jayro was interested, how could I say no? I’m such a fan of both of their work,” he told Variety.
“I’ve known Jayro ever since his stunning debut film “Ixcanul” and have always admired his work; he has the sensitivity and artistry to make this delicate film,” concurred Ortega Heilbron who hopes to shoot the film on location in New Mexico and tap its robust incentives.
For Bustamante, this would be his first film in English, albeit with some Spanish dialogue. The idea of making “Down Wind” immediately appealed to him. “My career has always been tied to themes of discrimination against indigenous people,” said Bustamante, who’s in post on his fourth film and prepping his fifth.
Sebastian Robertson, who is of Mohawk lineage and the son of Robbie Robertson of The Band, will executive produce the drama. “When Jonathan brought me this story and introduced me to the Heilbrons, it instantly evoked a deep connection to my native roots which my grandmother and father passed down to me,” said Robertson.
“Given the vision of “Down Wind,” it is an honor and, in the best sense of the word, a duty to bring this story to life which impacted so many of my people and the environment,” said Robertson, who has a deal at Universal Music and is also producing a music docuseries with Keasey after his Rolling Stone Magazine exclusive video reimagination of the Led Zeppelin classic, “When The Levee Breaks,” with John Paul Jones.
Keasey recently executive produced the Norman Lear TV series “Gamergate” and just wrapped sci-fi thriller “Parallel Forest, which he co-wrote with brothers Aldis and Edwin Hodge and co-produced with Rumble Riot, Beijing Pu Luo Media Co and Hodge Brothers Productions.
He’s represented by Michael Prevett at Circle of Confusion and lawyers David Matlof and Jacob Shapira at Hirsch Wallerstein.
Hypatia Films is repped by Galindo, Arias & Lopez and Sutin, Thayer & Brown while Bustamante is repped by M88 and CAA. Robertson is currently working with the United Nations in partnership with YouTube on his next global event.