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Michel Franco’s Lucia Films Boards Manufactura de Películas’ ‘El Gol Mas Triste’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 3/20/2017 John Hopewell
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Michel Franco’s Lucia Films has boarded “El Gol Mas Triste,” a fiction feature account of Chile’s World Cup qualifying matches against the Soviet Union in 1973. Based on true events, the film will be directed by Sergio Castro (“The Mud Woman”) and lead-produced by Macarena Lopez at Santiago de Chile-based Manufactura de Películas (“Rara”).

Lucia Films will co-develop and co-produce “El Gol Mas Triste,” a chronicle which lifts the lid on one of the most damning episodes in World Cup soccer history and indeed that of its governing body, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).

With negotiations beginning at last week’s Guadalajara Co-Production Meeting, the deal marks one of the highest-profile accords to come out of this year’s festival, linking a burgeoning Chilean production house with one of the most labeled in Latin America.

Manufactura’s first feature, Pepa San Martin’s “Rara,” won the 2016 Grand Jury Award at last year’s Berlinale Generation as well as San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos award. It is the most-nominated of movies on the current longest list of candidates for 2017’s Platino Ibero-American Film Awards.

In 2015, Lucia Films produced Gabriel Ripstein’s “600 Miles,” which scooped Best First Feature at the Berlin Festival, and Franco’s own “Chronic,” which took Best Screenplay at Cannes. It also co-produced Venezuelan Lorenzo Vigas’ Venice Golden Lion winner “From Afar.”

Two factors were key to Lucia Films coming on board, Franco said: The affinity between the two companies; the fact that Manufacturas sought a creative collaboration, not just a financial contribution.

“I would like with much respect and distance to give my point of view and help as much as I can as a director given the experience we have,” Franco added.

Currently being penned by Luis Barrales, an award-winning Chilean dramatist (“The Root of Silence,” “Niña Araña”), “El Gol Más Triste” turns on the two-leg knock-out match between Chile and the Soviet Union which would decide which national team got through to the finals of the 1974 soccer World Cup. The first game of which was played just two weeks after Augusto Pinochet’s coup’d’état on Sept. 26 1973, made with the complicity of the CIA, which ousted communist Salvador Allende who died in a final attack on the presidential palace by the Chilean military.

By the time the Chilean national team was dispatched to Moscow to play the first game of the tie, in a maneuver to bolster the international status of the new dictatorship by suggesting that life went on as normal in Chile, the Soviet Union had turned from an ally of Chile to a Cold War enemy which had broken off diplomatic relations.

“In a climate of uncertainty and confusion, a group of 22 players led by a threatened trainer travels to the Soviet capital to try to play the match that will change their lives forever,” the film’s synopsis reads.

The return match is scheduled to take place in Chile’s National Stadium that was being used at the time as a detention and torture center by Pinochet’s regime, which would execute thousands of the detainees. Despite that, a FIFA delegation ruled the Stadium fit for the return game.

The coproduction deal was negotiated by Lopez, Castro, Franco and Rodolfo Cova, producer of “From Afar” and now based out of Lucia Films.

Castro said his focus would be on the Chilean team, allowing him to make “a physical film, one of male intimacy: Interior shots of dressing rooms, hotel rooms, planes, waiting for flights in airports.” The film would be a drama, like “The Mud Woman,” but laced with black humor, he added.

“El Gol Más Triste,” like “Rara,” has a “high, clear concept,” Lopez said. That is “very liberating for a director, allowing him to focus on and take risks with language and mise-en-scène,” she added.

Both Lopez and Franco coincide in the attractiveness of a project which “has the two worlds, it’s not made just for a market or just for festivals. It’s for a large audience but an intelligent audience,” as Franco put it.

“The film has the capacity to reach audiences while displaying Sergio Castro’s force and directorial voice,” Lopez concurred.

Franco is currently in post on his third feature, “April’s Daughter,” a mother-daughters relationship drama starring Spain’s Emma Suarez, co-star of Pedro Almodovar’s “Julieta.”

Manufactura de Películas is producing the next documentary feature by award-winning Ignacio Aguero (“El Diario de Agustín”) and a fiction feature by Miriam Heard (“Wastelands”).

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