Peru’s Vega Brothers, Joanna Lombardi Board ‘Welcome Mr. Hollywood,’ From Mar Coll, Aina Calleja (EXCLUSIVE)

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Creating what looks like one of the undisputed highlights of Ventana Sur’s Spanish Screenings, three of Perú’s foremost filmmakers – Daniel and Diego Vega and Joanna Lombardi –have boarded “Bienvenido Mr. Hollywood,” which promises a complete departure for one of Catalonia’s leading edge cineastes, Mar Coll.

Co-created and directed by Coll (“Three Days With the Family”) and Aina Calleja, an editor on Coll’s first series, “Killing the Father”), “Welcome Mr. Hollywood” is written by Coll, Calleja and Diego Vega, who with brother Daniel broke out with his debut, 2010 Cannes Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winner, “October.” A 2013 Locarno best actor winner for Fernando Bacilio, “El Mudo” consolidated the brothers’ reputation as top young Latin America auteurs.

““Welcome Mr. Hollywood” is lead produced by Barcelona’s Funicular Films and co-produced by Daniel and Diego Vega’s Lima-based Maretazo Cine. Lombardi, a former head of fiction at Telefonica Media Networks Latin America, will serve as executive producer.  

A key figure on Latin America’s film-TV scene, while at Telefonica Media Networks Lombardi produced a brace of Movistar Play original series by up-and-coming creators including Colombia’s Mauricio Leiva Cock (“Capital Noise”); Peruvian actor-director Salvador del Solar (“Magallanes”) and Colombia’s Carlos Moreno (“Dog Eat Dog,” “All Your Dead Ones”), directors of “Los Prisioneros,” seen at September’s Iberseries; and the Vega brothers’ Movistar original series “El Día de Mi Suerte,” about a downtrodden  impersonator of salsa star Hector Lavoe clinging onto the hope that his luck will change. 

Coll burst onto the scene with 2009’s “Three Days With the Family,” her intimate focus, local setting and knowing description of milieu anticipating by nearly a decade the highly-grounded movies of the Newest Catalan Cinema, such as Carla Simón’s “Summer 1993” and 2022 Berlin Golden Bear winner “Alcarràs.” 

“Welcome Mr. Hollywood,” by contrast, is a very different proposition. Set in Iquitos, Perú, in the heart of the Amazon, it turns on two best friends, women whose busy lives are suddenly turned upside down by news that a big director will be coming to shoot a sequel to “Fitzcarraldo.” “The revelation that the lead character is a woman unleashes the wildest version of themselves as they dream of becoming the chosen actress,” the synopsis runs. 

Cast has yet to be confirmed. The project is at an early stage of financing. “With this film, we are looking to move out of our comfort zone and talk about cinema as a factory of dreams; as an epic which reminds us of the delirium in which it coverts everything around it, including people’s destinies,” Coll and Calleja said in a joint statement.

The film’s title echoes “Welcome Mr. Marshall,” Luis Berlanga’s 1953 Cannes competition player which satirises Spain’s desperate desire to escape post-Civil War misery as a dozy Spanish hamlets decks itself out as a typical Andalusian village in an absurd play to attract Marshall Plan aid.

“Welcome Mr. Hollywood” will not have this social satire, said Coll. But it will be a “clear comedy” stocked by characters “whose life is not easy and suddenly see a ticket to paradise.”

“They do not always act out of the noblest of sentiments – but rather vanity, ambition – yet are highly empathetic, allowing us to recognise ourselves in then, and are viewed with a certain tenderness which Berlanga had,” Coll added.

Diego Vega, Joanna Lombardi and Daniel Vega
Courtesy of Funicular Films

Another influence Coll mentioned is Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo.” 

Launched in Spring 2021 by Aina Clotet, Jan Andreu, Marc Clotet and Marta Baldó, Funicular Films is currently developing a first slate of movies and series addressing universal themes – coming of age, fear of death, identity crisis – but made with a darkly comedic viewpoint, said Baldó, who will produce “Welcome Mr. Hollywood” for Funicular.

Though set in Iquitos, from Diego Vega’s incorporation as a co-writer, “Welcome Mr. Hollywood” could take place in many cities of the world, Baldó added.

Coll and Calleja know Latin America, more specifically Mexico, well. Though they met in Barcelona, they shared a flat in Mexico City over 2005-07, Calleja working in Mexico until 2016, serving as editor on first features by directors who have become leading lights of its cinema, such as Julio Hernández Cordón (“Gasolina,” 2008), Nicolas Pereda (“Los Ausentes,” 2014) and Katina Medina Mora (“Sabrás Que Hacer Conmigo,” 2015).

Equally, Baldó worked over 1995-98 at Mexico City’s PCTV, a production house which also negotiated international channels with Mexican cable networks.

Calleja edited – and took a writer’s credit – on Natalia Cabral and Oriol Estrada’s 2021 “A Film About Couples,” part of the Dominican Republic’s growing auteur cinema. She wrote and directed the short “Los días en veranos son más largos,” which received a special mention at Colombia’s Cartagena Film Festival en 2011. Calleja is currently editing “Extinció,” her latest short as a writer-director, 

After Coll’s second feature, 2013’s “We All Want the Best For Her,” Coll, Diego Vega and Valentina Viso co-wrote Movistar+ miniseries “Killing the Father,” which Coll directed and Calleja edited.  

Source: Variety

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