Colombian director Andrés Beltran has been busy the last few years helming major series for Netflix and local broadcaster Caracol – “Undercover Law,” “Bolivar” and “Wild District” – all the while developing his sophomore horror feature “Tarumama.”
Having put in his time directing other people’s writing, Beltran was able to shoot his long-gestated project and plans were made for a 2020 premiere. But, as was the case for so many filmmakers this year, plans were put on hold as COVID-19 shutdown cinemas and slowed or froze filming. Post-production was put on hold and eventually the film’s premiere pushed back.
Now, although there is still some post-production left to do, Beltran is finally premiering his film, a works in progress cut anyway, at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window. Cine Colombia, who boarded during development, will distribute domestically next year.
In the film, Sara and Oscar look to repair a marriage on life support with a family trip to a remote cabin, where a mysterious woman roams the woods crying for her lost baby. The pain of the ghostly figure proves too much for Sara, suffering her own trauma, and things quickly get out of hand when their way out is blocked by an impeded road.
Dynamo, producers of Netflix hits such as “Narcos,” “The Heist of the Century” and “Wild District,” have a strong working relationship with Beltran, having employed him on several TV series in recent years, and backed the director on “Tarumama.”
The film features a high-profile cast of local Colombian talent, headlined by Andrés Londoño (“Fear the Walking Dead,” “Narcos Mexico”) and Paula Castaño (“Wild District,” “The Heist of the Century”). Joining them are youngsters Alanna de la Rossa and Jerome Baron, as well as Carolina Ribón, who plays the titular phantasm Tarumama.
Variety caught up with Beltran and his Dynamo producer Natalia Echeverri ahead of the film’s Blood Window Works in Progress screening.
How did this partnership come about? And what were development and production like?
Echeverri: We have wanted to work with Andrés for years. I sought him out in 2017 to find out what he was working on and as soon as he told me about “Tarumama” I was hooked. From there it took three years between screenwriting and when we were able to fully finance and shoot.
Beltran: We started talking about this film before “Wild District.” I pitched the script I was writing and they liked it so I started working on it again. We planned to shoot in 2018. But at that time I started filming “Bolivar” for Netflix. That did give me more time to develop the script and dig into the characters I was working with, which was important because this film talks about being a parent and the fear you have of losing a child, and while I was writing my daughter was born. After “Bolivar” Natalia said to me, why don’t we do “Wild District” first, and then shoot this film, and that’s eventually what happened.
You’re screening as a work in progress, so what is left to do? Are you talking to sales agents, distributors?
Beltran: We need to finish sound and there is some stuff there we still want to try out. There are a few things that we want to change in the music, but not big things. Then we have to do some mixing which we want to do in a really good studio. And lastly the opening and closing graphics. We’re almost there. I would say post-production is 80-85% of the way finished.
Echeverri: Our thought was to release this year but with COVID-19 and theaters closing, the processes have been restricted and right now our goal is to finish post-production. The distribution in theaters is already assured in Colombia with Cine Colombia, which has been a partner on the film since before shooting had even started.
Where does this movie fit in with what you’re trying to do at Dynamo? The growth of your company in recent years is impressive, do you see horror, suspense and supernatural films as an area that Dynamo will continue to focus on in the future?
Echeverri: Rather than continue looking for a specific genre, what we want is to continue making films, betting on new talents and good ideas. With Andrés we started with the film and we already have a series produced and another in pre-production. The latter is based on an idea that Andrés and I created.
What do you think about the distribution of this film? Are you planning theater? Platforms? TV?
Echeverri: For now, the objective is to plan a festival route and from there we will see what happens with the theatrical release. Eventually we want to end up on a premium platform.
Beltran: In Colombia we have to premiere in theaters because Cine Colombia backed the film. So that will have to wait until next year. But yeah, we want to do the festivals and we’ll see if being at Blood Window can help us make a connection.
Colombia doesn’t have a horror tradition like some Latin American countries such as Mexico or Argentina. Does that give you more freedom to do what you like? “Tarumama” doesn’t look like what most would expect from a Colombian horror film.
Beltran: Maybe. We shot way up in the mountains, in the cold, which probably contradicts that feeling most get when thinking about Colombia of the tropic sun on the beach. I wanted to do something different, although there have been some other experimental gothic horror films made here in Colombia before mine. Another thing we did was build the cabin where the film takes place. I knew what I wanted for the cabin, but it was hard to find, so instead we found an area in the rainforest that we liked then built the cabin at that spot.