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Jirafa Films, Sutor Kolonko Team on ‘Vaterland,’ ‘The Best We Can’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 12/6/2016 John Hopewell
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BUENOS AIRES — Chile’s Jirafa Films and Ingmar Trost’s Cologne-based Sutor Kolonko are teaming on two co-productions: “Vaterland,” to be co-directed by Francisco Hervé and Tom Schreiber and starring August Diehl (“Inglourious Basterds”), the lead in Terrence Malick’s upcoming “Radegund”; and “The Best We Can,” a bittersweet dramedy to be shot in Czech in the Czech Republic by Chilean Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Alejandro Fernandez Almendras (“To Kill a Man”).

Co-written and co-directed by directors from the producing partners’ countries, and co-developed by Jirafa and Sutor, “Vaterland” is an attempt to construct a true co-production, said Jirafa’s Augusto Matte. It also continues Jirafa’s drive into Europe-based film alliances which offset risk and sole dependency on Chilean state-funding. That is making a virtue out off necessity, as Chile, like other countries in Latin America, suffers a growth paradox. The more state funding stimulates production levels, the less moneys are available for individual projects.

Tagged by its directors as a “Quixotic conspiracy adventure,” “Vaterland” follows a German enfant terrible painter, Otto who flees from scandal at home to Chile’s Patagonia to track down his aged grand-mother’s first lover, Erhard, with whom she had a wild love affair in her youth in Chile.

In Patagonia, he contacts with Federico, a crazed conspiracy theorist and expert on the Nazi diaspora to Patagonia who, scrutinising a photo of Erhard, identifies him as Adolf Hitler. Following Erhard’s trail to a lonely farmhouse in the imposing wilds of Patagonia, Otto and Federico appear to stumble on an attempt to create a Fourth Reich, aiming at world domination.

“Vaterland” explores a modern-day mental landscape, according to Herve and Schreiber: “Where once volcanic eruptions, wind and rain were seen as expressions of evil, now it is economic groups and political authorities.”

In a film where “every character has their own conspiracy theory” and in a world where “we are radically isolated in our experience of life,” “Vaterland” demonstrates “how moving it is to feel  or even just imagine, that we share our lives and fears with others.”

A “Cohen brothers-style comedy,” according to Matte, “Vaterland” is a comedic and critical take on a country, Chile, which “has not resolved its past. There is still a lot of darkness surrounding the flight of Nazis to Chile.”

Written by Almendras, “The Best We Can” (aka “A Work of Love”) turns on Petr, a small-town Czech theater director who, estranged from his wife, determines to stage Georges Perec’s “Life: A User’s Manual” to make his name, maybe score a job in Prague. The work is said to be unstageable, his company is losing money, the play is hardly understood on its first night. But its staging wins praise from his father-in-law, a hallowed actor whom he respects, and brings him closer again to his baby son and wife, who may be in the process of forgiving him.

To shoot in black and white and, as Almendras puts it, “a great gamut of greys,” “The Best We Can” channels Almendras’ own doubts when trying to make a film – not only as to whether the film will ever get made but also as to whether it is “any good, worth making, and will connect with audiences.”

It also reflects the revolution in men’s role as a father, part of a couple and worker, Almendras added. 30 or 40 years ago, men regarded themselves as “breadwinners,” he observed. Now they have to be “complete parents,” responsible for bringing up their children, and concerned about how they express their sentiments and respect and react to those of their partner.

For Almendras, “‘The Best We Can’ is a sentimental movie aims to reflect a contradictory, intense, disordered and confused sentimentality, that of contemporary men.”

Jirafa Films will produce “The Best We Can” with Sutor Kolonko, Guillaume de Seille’s Paris-based Arizona Films, a producer on “To Kill a Man” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” and Veronica Vitkova’s Film & Roll in the Czech Republic.

“Vaterland” is a co-production between Jirafa, Sutor and France’s Good Fortune Films, headed by Clement Dubois and Florence Cohen.

“The films are in their themes or set-ups both European and Latin America. Co-production is in the creative essence of both of them,” Matte said at Ventana Sur.

Jirafa and partners are beginning financing on both projects, he added saying that as a company Jirafa, in order to achieve a level of sustainable financing, needs to produce more than one film a year. In such a context, “Chilean soft money is crucial to reduce risk but it is also limited which means Jirafa has also to look abroad to diversifying funding, which again ratchets down risk.”

“Much Ado About Nothing” was financed via crowd-funding and a sales agent’s minimum guarantee. Jirafa’s latest film, “Attitude Test,” which screened at Ventana Sur, taps its financing  via private investment, including from Jirafa.

Chile’s Herve directed two doc-features, IDFA-screened “El Poder de la Palabra” and “La Ciudad Perdida,” seen at Switzerland’s Visions du Reel; “Doctor Aleman,” the second fiction feature from Germany’s Schreiber, world premiered in Karlovy Vary competition in 2008.

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