Inspired by John Cassavetes & Wes Craven, These Chilean Producers Are Making Arthouse Horror Films

A still from 'Las Plantas.' Courtesy of Niña Niño Producciones.

Rocío Romero and Roberto Doveris are on a mission to help make auteur-driven genre films (think The Babadook and Let the Right One In) a part of the growing boom in Latin American cinema. After working together on the dark teen sex thriller Las plantas (Plants) they are embarking on a new, similarly intriguing film called The SequelThe project follows a young film producer who decides to make a sequel of his favorite movie, a horror flick filmed in Chile 30 years ago. He gets the original director and his female star back together but, as they describe in their working synopsis, a strange and inexplicable phenomenon interrupts their first press conference, at which point her life “becomes a living nightmare.”

With The Sequel, Romero and Doveris are part of the 2017 Latino Media Market program. During this month’s NALIP Media Summit, they’ll meet one-on-one for scheduled pitch meetings with industry representatives who provide sound advice on how to advance their project to the next level. It’s a great opportunity for Latino mediamakers on the rise, and this pair of Chileans couldn’t be better suited for it. Both Romero and Doveris have their own production companies — Mimbre Producciones and Niña Niño Films, respectively. And they’re clearly intent on supporting great Latin American fare. In addition to developing Doveris’ second feature, she’s working on Camila José Donoso’s (Casa Roshell) third film Nona, while he’s hard at work producing a film called The Prince.

Ahead of the NALIP Media Summit, Remezcla chatted with the producing pair about where the idea behind The Sequel came from, their cinematic inspirations, and why sometimes it’s better not to think about genres as constricting labels. Check it out below.

The NALIP Media Summit takes place in Los Angeles on June 22-25, 2017. Get your Summit pass here.

How did you two start working together?

Rocío: We met in 2012 when doing the distribution strategy of Naomi Campbel. One day he said he had a script of a feature and that he had won an award for production, but needed a producer who can make it with little budget. So I stepped into the project, completely in love with the script. We started working together and managed to make a very high quality film with a very low budget. Las Plantas finally won Best Feature in Generation 14+ at Berlinale and we decided our work together wasn’t going to stop there.

Tell us about The Sequel. The logline certainly makes it sound fascinating. Where did the idea for it come from?

Roberto: The idea came into my head while I was in South Korea. It was the Asian premiere of my first film Plants, at the Jeonju Film Festival, and right after the screening a German actress came to me and told me that Plants was her favorite film in the competition. She was Nike Maria Vassil, and through that week in Korea we became really good friends. At some point she told me a beautiful story about how she was having a relationship for the second time with the very first boyfriend she had when she was young. I was pretty moved by this, because they didn’t see each other for a very long time and after all those years it seems that the attraction and the affection between them remains the same. From the idea of this love over time and distance, I moved to the thing I love the most which is cinema… and very quickly I got the story of this actress and director shooting a sequel of a horror film that they made 30 years ago, dealing with the creepy stuff that inspired the first film back then.

Are there any particular films you guys have in mind for what both the film within the film looks like and what you want The Sequel to feel like?

Rocío: Well yes, we have several films in mind. Not all of them correspond to genre films. We see as a reference Opening Night by John Cassavetes, Irma Vep by Olivier Assayas and Let the Right One In by Thomas Alfredson. We want to make a film that scares you but at the same time that speaks about the film industry, about love, relationships. I would say that Olivier Assayas’ cinematography is a very strong reference for Roberto.

Often when we talk about the increased boom of Latin American cinema, we don’t talk much about genres like thrillers and horrors. Coming off Las plantas, I was curious whether it feels like that – on your guys’ end – especially when it comes to funding and later distributing these more genre-heavy films in today’s international market.

Rocío: We think author-genre films are a thing now. We think about The Witch or The Babadook, very good examples of this knowledge we have, that fans that will go see genre films even if they don’t have a star in them. We believe author-driven films in this world are very much appreciated and that they have a special place in the viewer’s hearts. For example, Mother, an indie thriller film, had 22,154 viewers in 15 theaters in its first week, those are very high numbers for indie films in Chile.

Roberto: I never think about genre when I write my films but somehow my approach to filmmaking is through genre and pop culture. I consider Wes Craven as a real inspiration as much as Antonioni, so I guess it’s just part of me, of my cinephile education. Different from the regular opinion of arthouse filmmakers, I don’t feel genre as a jail, quite the opposite: it is a chance to explore new boundaries for the cinematic language.

How did you first hear of NALIP, and what do guys hope to get out of the NALIP Media Summit?

Rocío: We heard about NALIP for the first time at the Santiago Lab in SANFIC, Chile. We were selected at this project laboratory and learned about NALIP and the Media Summit. After working very hard on the lab and pitching the project in front of a variety of people, we won the NALIP award that consisted in going to the Media Summit in June, and we are very excited!