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‘Narcos,’ ‘El Presidente’ Producer Gaumont USA Preps New Series From Armando Bo, Manuel Martín Cuenca and Others, Drives into Movies (EXCLUSIVE)

MIAMI– Gaumont USA, producer of “Narcos,” is powering up new series from both Oscar-winning “Birdman” co-writer Armando Bó and also Spain’s Manuel Martin Cuenca, director of Toronto winner “The Motive,” as well as multiple other talents. It is also readying it first movie slate.

Gaumont USA already co-produced the Bó showrun Amazon Original “El Presidente,” with Pablo and Juan de Dios Larraín’s Fabula and Argentine powerhouse Kapow, both partners on “La Jauría.”

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News of new series projects comes as Gaumont USA is advancing on Lucía Puenzo’s near future android family saga “Futuro Desierto” (“Desolate Future”), part of a 2020 multi-project development pact with the Argentine writer-director.

Gaumont USA is currently developing titles with Jimena Montemayor (“Wind Traces”), Pedro Amorim (“The Dognapper”), Sebastian and Emiliano Zurita (“How to Survive Being Single”), Katina Medina Mora (“Latido,” “Emily in Paris”), Belen Macias (“Verano en Rojo”), among other top-level filmmakers. Other projects are from screenwriters Ruth García and Mariana Levy and director Jonathan Jakubowicz.

In the movie space, “We’re very focused on feature film development-production in the TV space in the regions where we operate out of the Los Angeles office: Latin America, U.S. Hispanic and Spain,” said producer Christian Gabela, SVP & head of LatAm, Spain, and U.S. Latinx content, at L.A. based Gaumont USA, whose territories of focus are Mexico, Brazil, Spain and, naturally, the U.S.

“After having produced six seasons of ‘Narcos’ at Netflix, two of ‘El Presidente’ for Prime Video) and soon to be producing ‘Futuro Desierto ‘(Paramount+), Gaumont has secured its footprint in the region as a high-quality producer,” said Gabela.

Gaumont USA’s aim is to produce both film and scripted television projects, which may be adaptations from Gaumont’s vast film and TV catalog, as well as original ideas from creators, Gabela commented.

Gaumont USA has a number of projects set up at platforms. One feature will go into production shortly.

It is also focusing ever more on English-language titles which have Hispanic ingredients but target broad English-speaking audiences, Gabela said, citing an announced series adaptation of Sandra Cisneros’ 1984 novel “The House on Mango Street,” hailed as a classic of Chicana literature.

Other projects in this vein are being developed with creators the likes of Armando Bó and Jonathan Jakubowicz (“Hands of Stone,” “Resistance”), Gabela noted.

Manuel Martín Cuenca, Armando Bó and Lucía Puenzo
Manuel Martín Cuenca, Armando Bó and Lucía Puenzo

“O Rei dos Bichos”: Next for Armando Bó

Soon to be taken out to market, and executive produced by Armando Bo, the fiction series is inspired by the colorful figure of Castor de Andrade (1926-1977), the head of Rio’s decades-old Jogo do bicho (“Animal Game”), an illegal lottery cartel from the 1980s.

“O Rei dos Bichos” reinvents the saga of Castor de Andrade, who is forced to veer from his straight-arrow path when his beloved grandmother, the matriarch, suffers an assassination attempt by her rivals.

The series is being written by Teodoro Poppovic (“El Presidente: The Corruption Game”) and Maíra Bühler (“El Presidente: The Corruption Game”).

“A period gangster story set against Río’s Carnival,” the series turns on a betting game which is prohibited by federal law but culturally accepted, “which is very interesting and very indicative of how certain things function in Brazil,” said Gabela.

Set in a very colorful universe, it turns on a peculiar type of gangster we don’t see very much in mafia series and movies,” he added.

“D-Lux”

A second Brazilian series, also part bio and in development, turns on Brazil’s charismatic high-fashion icon Eliana Maria Piva de Albuquerque Tranchesi. Inheriting her mother’s boutique luxury department store Daslu in 1983, importing the best of brands from France and Italy, Tranchesi turned it into a byword for luxury, the “personal fiefdom of a woman of total certainty of taste and an intimate knowledge of the social lives of her customers,” journalist Colin McDowell has written.

“At show time, Eliana resembled an exotic tropical fish surrounded by shoals of buyers from other world-famous stores who were nothing more than minnows compared with her magnificence.”

Her ambitions, however, finally got the best of her. A limited series, “This is an epic rise and fall story of a figure who, as a woman in Brazil, went against the grain, and an incredibly powerful story to tell where people are enamored with high-end brands that are clearly outside their reach,” Gabela said.

The story is penned by Giuliano Cedroni (“Girls from Ipanema”) and Mariana Trench (“Joint Venture”).

“Salvador”: Manuel Martín Cuenca’s Showrunning Debut

A film festival favorite, selected four times for Toronto – 2011’s “Half of Oscar,” 2013’s “Cannibal,” “The Motive” in 2017 and 2021’s “The Daughter,” winning a Special Presentations Fipresci Critics Prize from a Jonathan Rosenbaum-headed jury for “The Motive” – Spain’s Manuel Martin Cuenca have moved ever closer towards the mainstream mixing in many of these titles broad genre set-ups and the psychological complexity of an art film. He takes a step further towards broader audience fare with Gaumont TV and “Salvador,” his first series as a creator.

A story about brotherly rivalry set in the backdrop of the illegal sports gambling world in Madrid, “Salvador” follows a former tennis prodigy turned trainer who applies unorthodox, psycho-magic techniques to motivate his clients into reaching their full potential. After struggling for years, he finally finds the tennis player that will take him back to glory. Unfortunately, the incredible ascension of his star pupil piques his estranged twin brother’s interest. Despite promising himself to remain pure to the game, he is thrust into the nebulous world of sports gambling where his brother reigns king.

“It’s a powerful story, and we’re big fans of having deep-seated family traumas at the center of our characters,” Gabela commented.

“Salvador” is co-written with Santiago Dulce and Leandro Custo. It will be taken out to market shortly.

“The Barefoot Queen”

Based on the novel by prominent Spanish author Ildefonso Falcones, adapted in two Netflix series, “Cathedral of the Sea” and “Heirs to the Land,” “The Barefoot Queen” is a “captivating historical epic set-in 18th-century Spain, intertwining bravery, romance, and the struggles faced by two women,” Gabela said. The story follows Caridad, a recently freed Cuban slave wandering the streets of Seville, and Milagros Carmona, a young and rebellious gypsy. Their paths converge unexpectedly whereby they quickly find themselves on a quest for survival, passion, love, and freedom, the synopsis runs The novel is being adapted by Ruth García (“Los Protegidos,” “Paraíso”). 

“Close Friends”

Fran, a respected maternity-focused journalist and influencer from Mexico City, sees her world crumble when she accidentally publishes highly erotic excerpts from her personal diary. Fired, socially ostracized, and with her marriage hanging by a thread, Fran unexpectedly meets Olivia, a dazzling heiress who admires Fran’s erotic boldness. Olivia persuades her to join her successful OnlyFans business. Fran quickly plunges into the lucrative and dark world of online sex work. The project is being developed by Mariana Levy (“El Presidente,” “Isla Brava”) and Federico Levín (“El Presidente”).

Powering Into Film

“As TV production declines in volume, movies offer a great opportunity for us to diversify our offering,” Gabela argued.

“We have the privilege of having at our disposal an enormous catalog built over nearly 130 years of Gaumont’s existence. Over the last year and a half, we have mined the library in search of adaptations that make sense to pursue in the territories we focus on,” Gabela continued. Many adapted titles lie in the comedic space, be it rom-coms, buddy-comedies, family-comedies. Others are dramas, including thrillers and feel-good dramas.

“The strategy has worked out well, very quickly,” Gabela added. Reasons for success cut several ways, he posited. Gaumont has a long history of making quality features in all genres; Gabela’s team is well attuned to Latin America’s creative community knowing which voices could adapt titles in an original and tailored way; the fact that the titles are in French and therefore were not as widely distributed globally as English-language films allow for the adaptations to feel like new movies; thematically, French movies touch on subject matters that are less explored in Latin American cinema and therefore feel more original and fresh to filmmakers and audiences.

“Futuro Desierto”

“Our strategy is a talent-first approach that supports top-level creators’ bold passion projects. In other words, they strive to work with the best talent possible on stories that will have a wide-spanning impact on audiences,” Gabela said. “We are not in the business of developing volume. Our approach is much more bespoke, boutique, and hands-on. We want to ensure we provide tangible creative value-add to the talent we work with,” he added.

That strategy, he argued,  is currently on display on “Futuro Desierto,” co-showrun by Lucía and Nicolás Puenzo (“Señorita 89,” “La Jauría”).

“A big bet from an editorial standpoint, ‘Futuro Desierto’ talks about a subject matter that in an incredibly short time has become very much part of the zeitgeist: Artificial intelligence,” said Gabela.

A combination of family drama and near-future, dystopian thriller set in rural Mexico, “Futuro Desierto” follows a robotics engineer who moves with his family to a rural part of Mexico to carry out in secret the first tests on androids which can’t be distinguished from human beings. The tests affect the way humans, sensing the androids as a threat, interact not only with them but also with one another.

“Futuro Desierto doesn’t play out as robots vs. humans,” Gabela clarified. It does, however, ask a lot of big questions which are currently being asked in the public sphere but in an accessible way, grounded in family dynamics,” he added.

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