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‘Before I Disappear’ gets N. American distribution Venezuelan hero Bolivar gets blockbuster treatment

CARACAS, Venezuela, Aug 6, (Agencies): Latin America’s greatest hero is finally getting a big-budget, Hollywood-style epic befitting his towering stature. Simon Bolivar, who led the liberation of much of South America from the Spanish in the early 19th century, is the subject of “The Liberator,” a two-hour epic that is among the costliest movies ever produced in Latin America. The biopic, which was filmed in four Venezuelan and 12 Spanish cities, tells the tale of the high-born aristocrat turned revolutionary who helped free much of the continent from colonialism. The film debuted in Venezuela on the anniversary of Bolivar’s birthday and has sparked widespread excitement despite quibbles from historians over its accuracy. It is expected to premiere in the US this fall.

The trade publication Variety says the movie cost $50 million, a budget unheard of in South American cinema. It is packed with stars, including hunky up-and-coming Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez as Bolivar. Ramirez won some international fame playing another Venezuelan figure, the terrorist Carlos the Jackal, in the 2010 French miniseries “Carlos.” The score is by charismatic music director Gustavo Dudamel, the director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the most famous product of Venezuela’s system of youth orchestras.

After just two weeks in theaters in Venezuela, the film is already on track to be the most watched movie of the year, according to the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal. An informal poll at the Caracas premier suggested great enthusiasm for the film among attendees, if a limited historical understanding of its subject. Only a third of attendees knew that the film was debuting on Bolivar’s birthday, for example.
“I fell in love with Bolivar again, and not just because Edgar Ramirez is so handsome,” said Margarita Hernandez, a 34-year-old sculptor.  Already a major fixture in the firmament of Latin American history, Bolivar’s star has risen even higher in Venezuela in recent years, thanks to the late President Hugo Chavez’s determination to link his socialist revolution with Bolivar’s historical project.
Other dramatizations of Bolivar’s life have received financing from the Venezuelan government, but “The Liberator” was financed entirely independently, according to its Spanish and Venezuelan producers.
The film traces the life of South America’s George Washington from his early years up until his death, with a few biographical liberties taken here and there.
Most jarring for historians is a scene that strongly suggests Bolivar died at the height of his powers, murdered by traitors and enemies. The accepted historical truth is that he died of tuberculosis at 47, isolated from power and with his dream of a united South America in shambles.
LOS ANGELES: Shawn Chris-tensen’s “Before I Disappear” has been picked up by IFC Films for North American distribution, the company announced Tuesday. The film, which stars Christensen, Fatima Ptacek, Emmy Rossum and Paul Wesley (“The Vampire Diaries”), will have its international premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in the Venice Days sidebar and will be released in the US in November 2014. It had its world premiere at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. Based on the 2013 Academy Award-winning short film “Curfew,” the feature follows Richie (Christensen) who, at the lowest point in his life, receives a call from his estranged sister, asking him to look after his 11-year old niece Sophia (Ptacek) for the evening.
“‘Curfew’ was only a glimpse at Shawn’s incredible talent, and we cannot wait to bring his fully realized vision to audiences nationwide,” Jonathan Sehring, president of Sundance Selects/IFC Films, said. “‘Before I Disappear’ marks an amazing feature directorial debut.” The deal for the film was negotiated by Arianna Bocco, senior vice president of acquisitions and productions and Sean Berney, manager of acquisitions for Sundance Selects/IFC Films with ICM Partners on behalf of the filmmakers. IFC Films is a sister label to IFC Midnight and Sundance Selects, and is owned and operated by AMC Networks Inc.

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