Ecuador-based producer Daniela Fuentes Moncada of Epopeya is introducing the introspective queer feature, “Ñusta,” as part of three regional films on her development slate at Locarno’s Producer’s Lab, an Open Doors initiative spotlighting Latin America and Caribbean talent.

Epopeya teams Moncada with founder María de los Ángeles Palacio.

Underscoring the project’s industry pulling power, co-producing the project are Director Papu Corotto at Argentina’s HAIN Cine (“Esteros”) alongside Lady Vinces(“Checoslovaquia”) and Silvia Arellano (“En Medio Del Laberinto”) of Peru’sCasa Aguaflorida.

The pair bring poignant narratives to life, with Moncada previously backing “La Mala Noche” directed by Gabriela Calvache, a raw portrait of human trafficking that premiered at SXSW and was selected by festivals worldwide, receiving 15 awards and nominations. Epopeya produces animation, documentary and fiction with a focus on forward-thinking narratives.

“We believe we have a powerful tool to transform the world one viewer at a time, that’s why we produce films which showcase diversity and become an opportunity to develop new talents. Our audience is the one that allows art to stimulate their lives and reflect on the purpose of community,” Moncada opined.

Written and directed by Ecuador’s Christian Rojas (“Chigualo”), Ñusta” delves into the complexities of coming out to a less than hospitable community.

The film follows Kallpa, a 12-year-old indigenous boy from the Ecuadorian highlands, as he slowly realizes his urge to transition. In tandem with community winter solstice celebrations of Inti Raymi, Kallpa must navigate those desires around seemingly closed and prejudiced minds and abuse to honor self-truth and inner peace.

“Kallpa’s desire to become a woman reflects my experience and desire to recognize and show my homosexuality and the necessary and courageous daily realization that there is nothing wrong with being who you are,” said Rojas, who founded Oso Rojo Films to focus on LGBTQ film projects and gender rights.

He went on: “Ñusta explores Kallpa’s gender transition, from instinct, the body, and sexual abuse, but above all, reflecting on indigenous roots.”

In 2021, the film won the Punto Género section at Ventana Sur’s Latin American industry market in Buenos Aires after picking up the market award at the co-production meetings of Chile’s Bio Bio Lab event.

The principal cast includes Ecuador’s Camilo Burneo as protagonist Kallpa/Ñusta in his first feature effort after appearing in Rojas’ short film “Phuyu.” Activist and Peruvian theater actress Pamela Mendoza will play Toa, while Romel Vargas, who recently starred in the Bolivian short film, “Übermensch,” by Pablo Bustamante, has been cast as Nebraska. Peruvian actor, plastic artist and playwright Amiel Cayo (“Samichay”) will also star.

“Ñusta” is a very intimate film, born from the need to make visible the reality that certain minorities live in our country, Latin America, and the world,” Moncada stated.

Rojas added, “The real warriors are those who fight every day, every defeat will be a victory tomorrow. That’s what being Ñusta in the indigenous worldview is.”

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Daniela Fuentes Moncada Credit: Popeya SA