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Luxbox Boards Lola Arias San Sebastian WIP, Berlinale Forum Title ‘Reas’  

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Paris-based outfit Luxbox – one of Europe’s biggest sales agents and sometimes producers  – of higher-profile Spanish-language art house fare, has swooped on international rights to “Reas,” a prison musical in which ex female cons process their experiences, which was confirmed last week as one of the first eight films selected for Berlin’s Forum section. 

The second film by Argentine playwright and writer Lola Arias (“Theater of War”), and winner of the HEAD Pitchings du Réel Award at Visions du Réel in 2020, “Reas” was also selected by San Sebastian Film Festival for its 2023 WIP Latam.

It will world premiere at the Forum, a section focusing on boundary-breaking titles that challenge aesthetic and narrative norms.

“We feel extremely honored to represent the second feature by artist and filmmaker Lola Arias, whom we discovered at San Sebastian Work In Progress,” Luxbox CEO Fiorella Moretti told Variety.

An international co-production between Gema Juárez and Clarisa Oliveri, founders of Buenos Aires-based Gema Films (“La Sangre En El Ojo”) alongside Ingmar Trost at Germany’s Sutor Kolonko, which co-produced Maite Alberdi’s endearing Oscar nominated “The Mole Agent” and Vadim Jendreyko at Switzerland’s Mira Film (“Taming The Garden”), “Reas” marks the third collaboration between Luxbox and Gema Films, duly boasting an impressive roster of trailblazing arthouse cinema picks.

“We’re so thrilled to be working with Luxbox for the third time, after the happy experiences of “The Castle” (2023) and “Pornomelancolia” (2022); this feels like family. We’re trying to make a kind of cinema that’s brave and daring and we couldn’t be in better hands than with a brave and daring sales agent like Luxbox,” relayed Juárez and Oliveri.

Adding to a building canon in Latin America of buzzed-up intimate human interest stories crafted by women – think Gabriella A. Moses Tribeca Winner “Boca Chica” and “Lonely Hearts,” the latest from Brazil’s Caru Alves de Souza –  ”Reas” is the second feature from Arias, whose 2018 debut title “Theater of War,” was another Berlinale Forum bow, receiving the CICAE Art Cinema Award and the International Confederation of Art House Cinemas Award.

“Reas” is a heady mix of documentary-style storytelling and make-believe that achieves its bold dynamic via the arts, an infusion of joy pumped into an otherwise bleak scenario through song, dance, movement and, ultimately, the power of imagination. Yoseli Arias and Ignacio “Nacho” Amador Rodriguez serve as protagonists whose nascent friendship coaxes narratives from the entirety of the cast as it blossoms.

“We were very surprised and moved by this unique proposition of a musical documentary set in a prison but which celebrates freedom and imagination in such an original way,” Moretti further relayed.

The project, born of Arias’s own prison-based workshops, shakes and lays bare the structural hardships women and trans inmates face. It touches on a handful of troubling conditions – a discrete yet brutal beating from the guards, dwindling rights for those incarcerated – yet never strays from its focus on kinship, community and bursts of happiness.

The cast, former inmates from local prisons, enjoy large synergy as they recount their lives. A furtive and diverse mix of relationships arise, one bound effortlessly to the next. While the walls of the abandoned prison work as a crumbling and canvas with cracks and crevices exposed, the protagonists shine incandescently, their lives flush with experience.

“The musical genre, which by tradition portrays marginalized worlds and romanticizes them through virtuous dancers, actors, and singers, is reappropriated by actual marginalized and stigmatized cis women and trans people. They dance and sing about their past in prison, relive their life as fiction and through fantasy and imagination invent a possible future for themselves,” Arias explained.

The cast is rounded out by Estefy Harcastle, Carla Canteros, Noelia Perez, Paulita Asturayme, Laura Amato, Pato Aguirre, Cin6a Aguirre, Julieta Fernandez, Silvana Gomez, Daniela Borda, Jade De la Cruz Romero and Betina Otaso.

All-in, the film depicts liberation despite incarceration, and, as Arias concludes, “focuses on the bonds of love and community between cis women and trans people that keep them alive in a space of confinement and violence.”

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