Pachamama Films prepares the debut of Barbazul, a new Bolivian film, for the 11th of October.
Barbazul (Bluebeard) is Amy Hesketh’s second film, the American filmmaker residing in Bolivia, director of the controversial film Sirwiñakuy. This new production made in Bolivia debuts October 11th in the Multicine in La Paz and the Cine Centers of La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.
Barbazul is based on the classic fairytale “La barbe bleue” (Bluebeard, 1697) by Charles Perrault, author of Cinderella, which tells the story of a wealthy and feared aristocrat with a blue beard who has the bad habit of killing his wives. In the original story the sinister aristocrat, with many wives already under his belt and whose fates are a mystery, convinces a neighbor to give Bluebeard his youngest daughter’s hand in marriage. The bearded villain takes his new young and terrified wife to his castle, gives her the keys to all of the rooms and the liberty to open each one, with the exception of one room.
In Amy Hesketh’s version, Barbazul meets Soledad, a young aspiring model trying to financially support her younger student sister. Barbazul proposes marriage and takes her to his faraway plantation. Soledad knows that Barbazul has already been married to a famous model who disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Following the original story, Barbazul gives the keys to the plantation to his young fiance with a warning: for no reason must she use the key to his
private room, “The rest of the house is all yours.”, he says. A short time later Barbazul goes on a business trip, leaving Soledad in the company of Walter, the butler.
Soledad, gripped by her uncontrollable curiosity, taking advantage of Barbazul’s absence and violating his trust, enters the forbidden room where she discovers her future husband’s fearsome secrets. There she learns the fate of Annabelle, the famous model who vanished as if
swallowed by the earth itself. Even worse, that she was not the only one.
“La barbe bleue” has been brought to the big screen in various versions over the years but has remained faithful to its central theme, the bearded brute who kills his women.
The first interpretation arrived with the dawn of cinema, when Georges Méliès made a version 11 minutes long, making its debut May 1902.
In 1944 Edgar G. Ulmer directed a version of the story which made him famous among fans of horror films, with John Carradine in the role of the protagonist: an artist who strangles his models after painting their portraits. This thriller set in Paris in the 1940’s is a good example of “cinema noir”.
The best known version was released in 1972 wth the title of Bluebeard, and directed by Edward Dmytryk with Richard Burton in the leading role and with Raquel Welch, Virna Lisi and Nathalie Delon interpreting three of the unfortunate wives. Dmytryk’s movie is set in the years following the first World War in a fictitious country governed by a totalitarian anti-Semitic regime, a transparent allusion to Germany during the second World War. In this story Bluebeard, a famous pilot, is considered a war hero in his country and is the undisputed leader of a fascist group.
The most recent version, produced in 2009, was directed by French filmmaker Catherine Breillat, known for her intensely erotic films Romance and Anatomy of Hell. Barbe Bleue by Breillat is perhaps the most faithful adaptation of the original story.
Taking into account these predecessors, Amy Hesketh decided to bring this challenging and well known story to the big screen, a dream she carried within her for a long time, without the advantage of the big budgets that aided Dmytryk, Ulmer and Breillat.
A short time after releasing her first movie, Sirwiñakuy, Amy dedicated herself to the feverish task of writing the script for Barbazul.
While Sirwiñakuy continued its success, the controversial director began shooting her own version of the ancient fairytale, set in the 21st century, converting her Barbazul into a wealthy owner of vineyards, fine mannered, absolutely sinister, and a lover of women whom he cannot stop himself from killing.
The principal preoccupation that overwhelmed Amy before beginning production was the location she needed for the shooting. Amy needed a plantation (hacienda). Beto Lopez, associate producer and actor in Sirwiñakuy, knew the perfect place and convinced the owner to convert his hacienda into the primary location for Barbazul.
In November of 2010 the small crew and cast of Barbazul installed themselves in the Hacienda of Chivisivi, once the property of president Ballivian, in the valley of Sapahaqui, near the city of La Paz. They immediately began the shooting of the film, which lasted 12 days.
The small technical crew consisted of Miguel Inti Canedo as the cinematographer and Wilsson Asturizaga as sound and assistant extraordinaire. The rest of the cast and crew members collaborated in all areas of the production, converting themselves into gaffers, assistants, cooks, and whatever else was needed on demand.
At the beginning of 2011 the production finished the shooting in various other locations in the city of La Paz, such as the Museo Nacional de Arte (National Museum of Art) and the Jardín Botánico de Miraflores (Botanical Garden of Miraflores).
The cast of Barbazul was small as well.
For the role of Barbazul Amy had already pegged Jac Avila, who Amy directed in Sirwiñakuy. Jac also has had lead roles in Martyr and El Hombre de la Luna, among others. Jac Avila is also a producer and the editor of Barbazul.
For Jac to convert himself into the sinister criminal was a challenge, as the role had already been played by giants such as Richard Burton and John Carradine, each in their own way and with success. It didn’t promise to be an easy task.
At the same time, the tragic wives were difficult to interpret for their dramatic arcs, the quantity of erotic scenes and the cruelty they would endure. Even with these requisites, the casting was not difficult.
French-Bolivian Veronica Paintoux, who impressed audiences in Sirwiñakuy, was an obvious choice. She had already worked in the heavily discussed and praised movie, interpreting Anouk, a woman daring and vulnerable at the same time.
In Barbazul Veronica plays the part of Annabelle, the first wife of the potential murderer. Before Annabelle, Barbazul had never been possessed of the inclination to kill.
The beautiful woman accepts Barbazul’s, proposal of marriage, perhaps dazzled by his fortune and the promise of a tranquil and endlessly comfortable life.
Veronica Paintoux and Jac Avila played a couple in Sirwiñakuy, Martyr and The Specters of Blood Castle making it easy to enter into the roles again.
Barbazul and Maleficarum were shot almost simultaneously, thus Mila’s interpretation of Soledad in Barbazul was, technically, her first role in front of the camera. Only days before beginning the shooting of Barbazul she had shot a couple of scenes for Maleficarum.
The experience of working under the direction of Jac Avila in Maleficaum, a difficult film, aided her in seeing her co-protagonist in Barbazul in a position of authority and power over her.
Interpreted by Mila, Soledad brings an unusual intensity to this unequal relationship with Barbazul, only to later enter, half in shock, into a world of terror when she discovers the horrific secrets of her fiance.
Another fiance of the well to do vintner is Erika Saavedra, who was chosen for the part of Agatha, an art curator, whose foremost aspiration is to be an excellent wife to a successful man and the administrator of a great estate, like that of Barbazul.
Erika contacted Amy after having seen Sirwiñakuy. She came to a casting and was selected for a small role in Maleficarum. But Amy had bigger plans for Erika. In a long conversation, Amy explained to her what the role would require to play one of Barbazul’s ladies. Erika accepted the demanding conditions set out in the script and became a member of the cast. When Erika arrived to the set in Chivisivi, Jac came up to her to say hello, and without breaking character, apologized in advance for the awful things he was about to do to her.
When Amy created the role of Maga, a cabaret singer, aggressive and sensual, another of the fateful fiances of the charismatic monster, she thought of Paola Terán, whom she met on the set of the National Geographic docudrama Outbreak. Paola is a singer in the group Libellula and has a long list of roles in front of and behind the cameras. When Amy proposed she take the role, Paola accepted without hesitation.
For the role of Jane there was no casting to be done, Amy planned to interpret this ill-fated fiance herself. Jane is a writer of erotic novels with a touch of sadomasochism. She’s American, extremely independent, sexually aggressive, and doesn’t have any qualms about expressing her kinky desires and asking for what she wants, when she wants it and how she wants it. For Barbazul, Jane is a challenge he can’t let pass.
During a long tour that ranged from Europe to South America, Amy met Jac in La Paz at the end of 2005 , worked with him in Outbreak and joined in the adventure of making movies, first working in sound in Vientos Negros. After participating in two jobs with Jac, she presented him with her script which not longer after became the movie Sirwiñakuy.
Amy plays the lead role in Maleficarum, acting, also in a principal role, in Dead But Dreaming a new film by Jac Avila which is in post-production, slated for release in 2013. Amy is also the producer of both films.
The part of Walter, Barbazul’s faithful butler, is played by Beto Lopez L, who filled the role of the sinister inquisidor in Maleficarum and had already worked under Amy Hesketh’s direction in Sirwiñakuy.
Beto, who possesses an innate talent for improvisational dialogue of the funniest sort, had to restrain his acting to expressions of veiled threat, cramming a million words into one look.
Beto began working with Jac in the 90’s as an associate producer of documentaries, including Outbreak and Vientos negros. He said his first word in front of the cameras in Sirwiñakuy and since then has acted in 5 feature length films, including Maleficarum and Dead But Dreaming, both by Jac Avila, and also Insurgentes, by Jorge Sanjines.
Erik Antoine, known for his movie Nocturnia and his participation in various musicals such as Rockiem, is Paul, a demanding photographer, ruthless with his assistants, who works with Annabelle, his favorite model, until the day she leaves to marry Barbazul.
Frustrated by Annabelle’s absence, Paul turns his trendy glasses on Soledad, his young and beautiful assistant. Using insults and expletives, Paul tries to covert her into a professional model.
Erik is part of the permanent team of Pachamama Films. He began his acting career at age 16 in the miniseries El Hombre de La Luna, is the director, writer and actor of Nocturnia, played the important role of the famous Dr Merle Kuns in Outbreak, The Curse of the Black Typhus, the docudrama for National Geographic about the hemorrhagic fever that rampaged Beni, Bolivia, played an important part in Sirwiñakuy, and also acted in Martyr, Maleficarum and in Dead But Dreaming. He also worked in the production in all of these movies.
Mariela plays the part of Anna, the younger sister of Soledad.
Mariela began collaborating in Maleficarum, but when Mila was chosen for the part of Soledad, a common appearance between the two made Amy offer the part of the sister to Mariela. Dependent upon her older sister’s kindness, strong and cynical, Anna’s personality borders on sociopathic. Mariela also collaborated in the production, taking still pictures and assisting.
Barbazul debuts only a few months after Pachamama Films debuted the infamous Maleficarum, by Jac Avila, in which Amy Hesketh has the lead role.
Direction: Amy Hesketh
Script: Amy Hesketh
Production: Amy Hesketh, Jac Avila
Associate Producers: Roberto Lopez L., Wilsson Asturizaga
Director of Photography: Miguel Inti Canedo
Sound: Wilsson Asturizaga
Music: Brad Cantor
Theme “Tu Sangre”: La Negra Andrea Figueroa
Image and sound editing: Jac Avila
Barbazul: Jac Avila
Annabelle: Veronica Paintoux
Soledad: Mila Joya
Maga: Paola Terán
Agatha: Erika Saavedra
Jane: Amy Hesketh
Ana: Mariela Salaverry
Walter: Roberto Lopez L.
Paul: Erik Antoine