SAN SEBASTIAN — Paris-based Luxbox has clinched major territory pre-sales on anticipated San Sebastian competition title “Puan,” an original attempt by its writer-directors, María Alche (“A Family Submerged”) and Benjamín Naishtat (“Rojo”) to deliver a state of the nation take on Argentina – and any country in thrall of European ideas – but in a notably lighter tone than most Latin American arthouse fare.
Key first major territory buyers take in Condor for France, whose release lineup has featured major auteurs such as Kelly Reichardt, Casey Affleck, Agnieszka Holland, Paul Schrader, Denis Villeneuve, Michel Franco and Ira Sachs.
With a strong line in Spanish-language titles – “The Permanent Picture” this year, “The Rite of Spring” in 2022 – Barcelona-based La Aventura Cine has closed rights for Spain.
Releasing films by star auteurs in Brazil since 2010 and Spain from 2020, Vitrine has clinched rights for Brazil.
“Puan” – affectionate shorthand for Buenos Aires U’s Faculty of Philosophy and Literature – kicks off with a middle-aged man jogging in a leafy park outside Puan, and dropping dead from a heart attack. Ramshackle philosophy lecturer Marcelo (Marcelo Subiotto, “Incident Light”) has lost his mentor, Professor Caselli, and with him, his life anchor. He expects to inherit Caselli’s chair, until challenged by a charismatic, seductive contender, Rafael Sujarchuk (Leonardo Sbaraglio), just back from a high post at a university in Europe, who stuns onlookers at a homage to Caselli, quoting Kant in German.
As the two battle for the professorship, triggering what is described as a “hilarious philosophical duel,” Marcelo’s life – and Argentina – spiral into chaos.
“Although he feels lost, [Marcelo] makes a choice, a vital choice: to start over in every aspect of his life while, at the same time, questioning for the very first time, his identity as a thinker/intellectual,” Alche and Naishtat wrote in a statement.
“To which tradition does he remain loyal? Are European ideas and philosophy the ideas that he is meant to reproduce, to teach? Is there room for agency and a genuine sense of freedom in returning to Americanist ideas and philosophy? Where is Argentina heading and how does this relate to decolonization?” they ask.
“‘Puan” is a great film, a pleasant surprise!” said Vitrine director Silvia Cruz.
“We greatly enjoyed supporting Benjamin’s previous film ‘Rojo,’ and are delighted to be working together again with him – and also Maria Alché,” says Alexis Mas, founder & CEO of Condor Distribution.
“‘Puan’ is a sophisticated comedy, in itself a genre that arthouse audiences adore and are hungry for. Few films like this come to market and the insights ‘Puan’ offers into the world that is academia are similarly rare. We fell in particular for the lead character, Marcelo. He is wonderfully relatable: touching and at times even charmingly awkward,” he added.
For La Aventura’s Ferran Herranz, “‘Puan’ combines what we are looking for as distributors and also as viewers, and it is hard to resist when the balance is so well achieved. It is on one hand an intelligent, humanistic and reflective film. On the other hand, it is generous, light in the best sense, pleasant and exciting. We hope to see the reaction of the Spanish public very soon.”
“Puan” is produced by Barbara Sarasola-Day and Federico Eibuszyc’s Pucará Cine, which also backed Naishtat’s “The Movement” and “Rojo,” and Barbara Francisco’s 13-year old firm Pasto Cine, behind “A Family Submerged” and the “The Student,” the debut of “Argentina, 1985” director Santiago Mitre.
Co-producers take in Infinity Hill, behind “Argentina, 1985,” Germany’s Pandora Filmproduktion (“The Moneychanger”), a frequent co-producer with Latin America, France’s Atelier de Production (“Playlist”), Italy’s Kino Produzioni (“Delta”) and Brazil’s Bubbles Project (“Loveling”). Pandora and Bubbles also co-produced “A Family Submerged.”