Finally, someone has grabbed up actor Diego Luna’s directorial debut “Abel.” Pantelion Films of Lionsgate announced today that they will be distributing the Spanish-language film in partnership with Grupo Televisa, a Mexican media company.
The film centers on a young boy who must take over as the head of the family after his father goes missing. Reminiscent of Debra Granik’s critically popular “Winter’s Bone,” this film should have made waves in the film community after debuting at Sundance, but it’s flown under the radar until now.
Mainstream Spanish films have had a hard time finding a place with modern American audiences recently. Javier Bardem’s powerful performance in “Biutiful” this year has gone widely unnoticed, even with the help of folks like Julia Roberts (who, like Sean Penn, hosted a screening of the film to give it some much-needed love), due to lack of exposure. After a boom of highly acclaimed Spanish language films last decade (“Maria Full of Grace,” “City of God,” “Y Tu Mama Tambien” starring Luna), the trend has dropped off with many people failing to take notice of even great Spanish directors’ work.
Pantelion Films looks to reinvigorate the Spanish film movement and remedy the dearth of Spanish films in American society by releasing 8-10 films a year for the Spanish-speaking population, the fastest growing movie demographic in the country. Though their first release, “From Prada to Nada,” looks to play on the desires of young girls, “Abel” will be a more serious release for an older audience, perhaps putting Pantelion on the map as a foreign film distributor to watch.
Luna, a prolific and underrated actor, seems to have made a film worth watching, as most of the reviews are positive. Not only does the film sound heartbreaking, those who have seen it describe it as part fable, part psychological drama about the repercussions of having an absent father. Anne Thompson even went so far as to call him the “director discovery of the festival [Sundance]” after she first saw the film.
“Abel,” will come out on March 4, over a year after it was shot. To hear Luna talk about his first feature film, check out Anne Thompson’s video interview with him at the premiere at Sundance. [TOH] — Cat Scott