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Cannes: Helmer Pablo Fendrik Talks About Turning the Western on Its Head

Cannes: Helmer Pablo Fendrik Talks About Turning the Western on Its Head

John Hopewell

Pablo Fendrik’s “El Ardor,” an Amazon-set Western action adventure and Participant Media’s first investment under its Participant PanAmerica initiative, will play as a Special Screening at this year’s Cannes Festival.

The third feature from Fendrik, whose “Blood Appears” played Cannes’ Critics’ Week, “El Ardor” starsGael Garcia Bernal as an Amazon rainforest settler, Kai, who befriends a tobacco farmer and his beautiful daughter (Alice Braga). When a band of brutal mercenaries slaughter the father and kidnap the daughter, Kai sets out to rescue her.

In both Fendrik’s move into more mainstream filmmaking and the film’s financing structure, which takes in regional co-production plus funding from the U.S. and Europe, “El Ardor” reps a step up in scale and ambition for Latin America. Variety talked with Fendrik in the run-up to Cannes.

Variety: “El Ardor” is a Western, and classic Hollywood Westerns often had a theme of civilizing the wild. But in your Western this process of civilization has become more negative.

PABLO FENDRIK: That’s the whole point of using the genre. Respectfully turning it on its head. We are pretty much signing our own death sentences in this environment. Kai (Garcia Bernal), says that men should not be in the jungle. He means it. It’s O.K. to have a little farm where you can be self-sustainable, live from the land, without invading everything else. That’s certain point of balance. But when you have to feed seven billion people, no one’s thinking about anything except land for planting, what the world’s supposed to eat. We can’t make an actual Western these days about colonization of the West, because it’s completely anachronistic. The reality is the other way around. We’re not supposed to colonize everything.

Variety: Like Pablo Larrain’s “No,” Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria” and Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’ “To Kill A Man,” in contrast to your first two features, 2007’s “The Mugger” and 2008’s “Blood Appears, “El Ardor” is a step-up in scale, budget, ambition and the use of stars. What did that stem from?

PABLO FENDRIK: From a personal need to make a film of a different scale and dimension. When I finished “Blood Appears” and after taking it to string of festivals, I felt the need to work with something bigger aimed at a much larger audience, a more pleasant experience for the viewers.

Variety: “El Ardor” is lead produced by Magma Cine’s Juan-Pablo Gugliotta and Nathalia Videla Pena. It is also a pioneering pan Latin America-U.S.-Europe co-production. How did you manage to put that together?

PABLO FENDRIK: The first partners interested in being in the project were Latin American — first of all Brazil, Bananeira Films, then Canana, the production company of Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna and Pablo Cruz. “El Ardor’s” sales agent Bac Films boarded later, bringing in the French co-producerManny Films. Then, at the end Participant PanAmerica came in.

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