Cristian Ponce is embracing the horror…
Brazil’s Lupa Filmes has released first-look images for the Argentine filmmaker’s upcoming survival horror A Mother’s Embrace ahead of its bow at the Cannes Film Festival’s Fantastic Pavilion, where genre industry professionals will also be treated to the sneak peak of the trailer.
Previously behind the animated web series The Kirlian Frequency, acquired by Netflix, in 2020 Ponce directed the big breakout film History of the Occult, which marked his feature debut.
The film was described as the highest-rated horror movie of 2021 on Letterboxd’s Year in Review roundup, as voted by users of the film rating social platform.
Set in 1996, during one of the biggest storms to ever hit Rio de Janeiro, A Mother’s Embrace will see a team of firefighters trying to evacuate a nursing home at risk of collapsing. But its mysterious residents have other plans.
“Rio is known for its warm weather and beaches, but it also has this history of tropical storms and floods. When it rains, it pours,” says producer André Pereira. In 2017, he earned his horror stripes with The Trace We Leave Behind (O Rastro).
“We wanted this rain to feel different. Different from how it feels, say, in North American films. Here, rain is weird, it’s still hot and humid. For our makeup department, it meant a lot of sweat. Luckily, Cristian was always saying that he didn’t want these characters to be too pristine. In our film, rain is not soothing. It doesn’t make things better – it just makes them worse.”
“One of our biggest influences is John Carpenter, who always tells stories about people stuck in some places they cannot escape,” adds the director. Not just that – apart from the mayhem happening outside, his characters are trying to save strangers that don’t really want to be saved.
“We try to create our own mythology here. You could say that these people, who form a cult, are trying to live a ‘better’ life. But what it means can be very subjective.”
While not necessarily focusing on gore and favoring the growing sense of dread, as well as notions of paranoia, religion and existentialism, things will get dicey in the third act, he adds.
“There is mud… and eventually blood.”
The film, set over the course of one night – “Which translated to six weeks of night shoots. Our actors had to go through just about everything,” laughs Pereira – finished principal photography at the beginning of May. Marjorie Estiano, known for drama series Under Pressure and Locarno winner Good Manners, Chandelly Braz, Javier Drolas, Maria Volpe, Mel Nunes and Reynaldo Machado star.
Ponce and Pereira – who both co-wrote the script with Gabriela Capello – underline that the film represents a “true collaboration in Latin American genre.” Mexican Morbido Group’s Pablo Guisa Koestinger is also on board as co-producer.
“This week, you can see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in every country in Latin America. If we want to find an audience for our local films too, it’s easier to form an alliance,” notes Ponce.
“It’s a good strategy, but what we also got out of it was this sense of brotherhood. Argentina and Brazil, we actually have a lot in common and we didn’t know that before we started to collaborate.”
Pereira agrees: “It’s time to break these borders because ultimately, we are so similar. At first, we were looking at each other, also with [executive producer] Mariana Muniz, thinking: ‘Is this going to work?’ Soon, our official language on set was Portuñol,” he says.
“It was a privilege to have this exchange and we want to do even more in the future. For us, the whole point of making horror films in Latin America is about bringing these different points of view and cultural heritage into our stories.”