Los Cabos: Rafael Ley Teams With Beristain, Meyer, Caro, Terrazas, Hernandez Cordon, Mohar (EXCLUSIVE)

John Hopewell
Variety

MEXICO CITY — Woo Films, whose Noc Noc Cinema produces Mexico’s third Netflix series order, has set a 2016-17 production slate of at least five feature projects, plus Natalia Beristain’s buzzed-up “The Goodbyes,” which plays Los Cabos Work in Progress section, and Manuel Caro’s anticipated TV series for Netflix.

New movies link Woo Films to key Mexican new wave figures, ranging from the less conventional – Julio Hernandez Cordon (“I Promise You Anarchy”), Matias Meyer (“The Last Cristeros,” “Yo”), and Kyzza Terrazas (“Manchete Language”) – to directors who have reached out to more female or mainstream audiences: Beristain (“She Doesn’t Want To Sleep Alone”) and Manolo Caro (“Tales of An Inmoral Couple,” “Elvira, I Would Give You My Life, But I’m Using It”).

Directed by Caro and shooting in 4K in Mexico from early 2017, the not-yet-titled Netflix original series is a 13-part half-hour. Described as a dark comedy, it turns on a dysfunctional upper-class family which owns a flower shop. When the patriarch’s lover dies, he decides to bring his illegitimate children into the family fold.  Ley and Stacy Perskie produce for Noc Noc Cinema. Netflix has already commissioned two series out of Mexico: “Club de cuervos” and “Ingobernable.”

Some producers in Mexico are prolific. And then there’s Woo Films. The movie production arm of Mexico City-based Mr Woo, a production and branded content company, Woo Films’ Ley is “first and foremost a film buff. I like to work with directors I admire,” he said.

That’s even when they’re changing direction. Receiving a career tribute at 2016’s Morelia Festival, Meyer, for example, carved out a reputation as wide-ranging auteur, as happy depicting psychological immaturity (“Yo”) as religious faith (“The Last Cristeros”). Woo and Caro are now teaming to produce Meyer’s next, “Los Amores Modernos,” a contemporary coral comedy. “It’s an interesting departure,” says Ley.

Like many young Mexican movie houses, Woo Films has a string of production alliances. Among the most fertile, Noc Noc Cinema, which produces Meyer’s next, is a joint venture with Caro; Woo and producer Stacy Perskie often collaborate.

“Given a relationship which goes back several years, most projects I do I invite Stacy to board and he invites me too on his,” Ley said. Collaboration also pares risk and aids across-the-board flexibility, from financing to physical production.

One case in point: Terrazas’ next, “Bayoneta,” one of three Ley projects to be presented at Los Cabos Meet-Mart for Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund financing, is a boxing movie, produced by Ley and Maria Jose Cordova, his Woo Films partner, and Perskie and Gerardo Gatica.

“Kyzza and I agreed that we didn’t like boxing but did like boxing films. And wondered why nobody had made a film about Mexico’s boxing scene,” said Ley.

Written with Rodrigo Marquez Pizano, “Bayoneta” picks up on the trend in the ‘70s and the ‘80s, when Mexican boxing was at its zenith, of other countries’ nationalising Mexican pugilists. Here, a Mexican boxer attempts to make it in Finland.

Ley also repeats with directors, as well as attaching new ones to his slate – a quick way to swell its production numbers, as other companies – Wild Bunch, for example – have seen.

“Bayoneta” is Ley’s second movie with Terrazas after “Machete Language”; Beristain’s “The Goodbyes” (pictured) which plays Los Cabos Work in Progress post-production competition, marks her follow-up to the Ley-produced “I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone.”

Also selected for Ventana Sur’s Primer Corte pix-in-post showcase in late November, “The Goodbyes” draws a portrait of the romantic vicissitudes and neediness of Mexican poetess Rosario Castellanos, hinting at her deep emotional life and the fragility of her happiness. Beristain’s is also a female gaze.

“It’s the most singular biopic that I’ve seen in many years, while still reflecting the magnitude of Rosario Castellano’s character,” Ley enthused.

Of first-time partnerships, Julio Hernandez Cordon’s “Comprame un revolver,” a second Los Cabos project up for possible Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund finance, is a “pretty complex story,” Ley said. “But it has Julio’s tone,” “between drama, comedy and farce which we end up believing,” he added, saying that “Compráme un revolver” is also a father-daughter set against the background of drug cartels, but not a narco tale.

Woo Films is also backing Caro’s “Extraños que se besan,” which has a completed screenplay and will shoot next year, and “Volcan,” from Santiago Mohar, also at Los Cabos, who caught attention with “Los muertos.” Ley describes it as a “Mexican film noir.”

Ley’s enthusiasm for working with directors he admires is now driving a small but burgeoning slice of Mexico’s film production.

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