A few years ago, Mexican star Diego Luna’s assured directorial debut Abel, about a troubled young boy who returns home from a hospital stint to take on the role of the family’s missing father, would have been scooped up by a specialty distrib. But in today’s market, a small-scale Spanish-language art film faces tougher going (see Biutful).
A year after its debut at Sundance, Abel will finally go out March 4, the second release of Lionsgate’s Pantelion Films partnership with Mexican media company Grupo Televisa. Pantelion Films aims to release 8-10 films a year aimed at the fastest-growing movie demo, Hispanics. Some of the releases will be in English, some Spanish. Their first release is From Prada to Nada, starring Camille Belle (January 28). In 2006, Spanish-language My Brother’s Wife grossed $
5 2.8 million for Lionsgate; in 2007, Ladron Que Roba a Ladron grossed $4 million. Cinema chains AMC and Cinemark have committed to book and promote the films in their Hispanic-neighborhood theaters.
A child of the theater who was raised by his single father, an art director, Luna grew up young, and has made some 30 films in his 30 years, notably Y Tu Mama Tambien. Directors Alfonso Cuaron and Luis Mandoki both helped Luna with his film, as well as his long-time acting cohort and producing partner, Gael Garcia Bernal (Rudo y Cursi). Here’s my Sundance flip cam interview with Luna.