Chile’s Picardia Films, headed by director-producer Diego Rougier, has boarded “The White Room” (“La Habitación Blanca”), the next feature by Argentina’s Ana Piterbarg who caught international attention with Viggo Mortensen starrer “Everybody Has a Plan,” her 2012 feature debut distributed by Fox Intl. Productions.
Written and to be directed by Piterbarg, “The White Room” is lead produced by Buenos Aires-based Bikini Films, headed by Edson Sidonie. His credits include Siew Gua Yeo’s 2018 Locarno Golden Leopard winner “The Once and the Future” and Toronto world premiere “Karnawal,” which scooped best direction at last year’s Guadalajara fest and best Ibero-American picture at 2021’s Malaga Festival.
“The White Room” is one of the highest profile projects at this year Guadalajara Co-Production Meetings which kick off Oct. 3.
Fiction, but based on the personal experiences of the director, “The White Room” begins with Clara, aged 5, who journeys with her father and her dog to the north of Argentina. They are searching for her mother, who got sick and decided to leave the house. They locate her in a church in Yavi, a small town in Jujuy. From inside the car, Clara watches her parents argue. She tries to get out but she can’t. The dog barks, the dust swirl, in Piterbarg’s description.
The feature project then cuts to Clara, 17, who begins a journey of initiation to the almost lunar landscapes of northern Argentina and takes in the twists and turns of her consciousness, in her quest to understand her mother’s disappearance.
To approach her subject, Piterbarg “borrows the codes of different cinematographic genres. The initial road movie, which explores, among other things, the awakening of a young woman’s sexuality, gradually gives way to a story of introspection with the feel of a psychological thriller as the director blurs the boundaries between the real and the fantastic, between the living and the dead,” producer Sidonie told Variety.
“Since I was little, the theme of madness has been at the center of my preoccupations, it is probably one of my greatest fears. And at the same time, it has a great power of attraction for me,” said Piterbarg.
She added: “I believe that a certain degree of madness is necessary to be free, to grow, to revolutionize one’s own life and hopefully the lives of others. I come from a family of psychiatrists and psychoanalysts, surrealists, Jewish immigrants who risked everything and reinvented themselves a thousand times. None of this could have happened without taking risks, especially the risk of losing one’s mind.”
“The story of ‘The White Room’ is anchored in the north of Argentina, and shows not only deeply cinematographic landscapes of rare beauty, but above all a population and customs that are different from those usually shown in Argentine cinema,” Sidonie added, saying that he was particularly enthusiastic about showing this diversity, which makes this country rich and complex.”
Starring Mortensen as two identical twins and mixing the “premise of a high-concept thriller, but the drifting feel of arthouse realism,” The Guardian commented, 2012’s “Everybody Has a Plan” marked one of Latin America’s biggest feature debuts of the last decade, released in over 20 countries.
Piterbarg followed up with 2017’s “Alptraum,” much more of an art film, shot in black-and-white, and turning on an actor consumed by his obsessions.
“Ana Piterbarg’s atypical film career, with a high-budget first film followed by a more experimental opus, shows a deep attachment to artistic freedom and a great coherence with the story she wants to tell. I appreciate this honest journey where the type of storytelling determines the scope of the production,” Sidonie said.