Leandra Leal, Marco Pigossi, Yuki Sugimoto: Gabe Klinger ‘Okonomiyaki’

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Brazil’s Raccord Produções, Chile’s Araucaria Cine and France’s Nord-Ouest Films are teaming to produce acclaimed Brazilian filmmaker Gabe Klinger’s feature drama project “Okonomiyaki.”

“Okonomiyaki” will topline celebrated Brazilian actor-helmer Leandra Leal (“A Wolf at the Door,” “The Oyster and the Wind”), Yuki Sugimoto, star of Disney+ series “Mila in the Multiverse,” and Marco Pigossi, of Netflix’s “Invisible City” and “Tidelands.”

The feature-length project has been selected for the San Sebastian Film Festival’s Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum, its industry centerpiece, which runs Sept. 25-27.

The film is produced by Clélia Bessa and Marcos Pieri at Raccord, Araucaria’s Isabel Orellana and Nord-Ouest Films’ Ola Byszuk, who are looking fo further financing and co-production, as well as sales and distribution partners for the project.

Offscreen talent includes longtime Pablo Larraín DP Sergio Armstrong (“No”, “Neruda”, “The Club”) and editor Soledad Salfate, of Sebastián Lelio’s Oscar-winner “A Fantastic Woman.” 

Principal photography on “Okonomiyaki” is scheduled to kick-off second quarter next year in Sao Paulo.

Klinger will direct the film from his original screenplay, a Sao Paulo-set feature drama with two young leads, floundering on the way to adulthood.  

Martim, 19 (Pigossi) is an aspiring priest living in the countryside, who arrives in the big city to search for his missing older sister Jacqueline.

Parallel to him, Yumi (19, Sugimoto), a recent downtown Sao Paulo transplant from the suburbs is trying to land on her feet after breaking up with her boyfriend.

Martim and Yumi converge when they both start working at a coffee shop owned by a lonely woman named Agnes,  in her late 30s, played by Leal, who turns into an uneasy surrogate mother for them.

“Okonomiyaki evolved out of an impulse to reflect honestly and urgently about the messy process of leaving childhood. Becoming introspective about mortality in the face of a global pandemic, I evoked anxious memories from my late teens to add layers to two characters whose respective journeys could symbolize essential challenges of growing up: Martim, an orphan who finds his place in organized religion, and Yumi, a kind of wanderer who hasn’t yet found meaning in her life,” Klinger said.

“Okonomiyaki” will be shot on Super 16 and follow a primary color scheme, with high saturation, Klinger explained.

“This lively palette will go against the cliché that visual stories containing melancholy emotions need to be drained of warmth and variety. The dark inner moods of the characters and the outer world’s vividness and electricity will provide needed tension,” he added.

“Beyond this, the gentleness of the film images — in opposition to the harsh sharpness of digital we associate with most images nowadays — will lend an impressionism to the story, as if it were a memory being revealed by the characters,” Klinger argued.

“For exteriors, the camera will be as unobtrusive as possible. Long lenses will heighten the sense of observation, and subtle movements will help viewers track these aimless characters as they wander around,” he added. 

A São Paulo-born film critic-academic, Klinger directed “Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater” (2013), which won best documentary at Venice. His second feature, the Jim Jarmusch-produced “Porto” (2016), starring  Anton Yelchin, screened at more than 20 festivals and was widely distributed, including in the U.S. by Kino Lorber. 

Klinger’s films have been shown at hundreds of major events and venues worldwide, such as SXSW, Rotterdam, BFI London and CPH:DOX.

Raccord, the Rio de Janeiro-based company, has produced recent festival hits such as “Madalena,” “Family Album” and “Pluft,” a co-production with Brazilian film giant Globo Filmes.

Production credits by Santiago-based Araucaria take in 2014 Berlinale Teddy winner “You’ll Never Be Alone.”

Operating since 1999, Paris-based Nord-Ouest Films have been behind films such as Gaspar Noé’s “Irreversible” (2002), Stephane Brize’s Cannes award-winning “The Measure of a Man” (2015), Thomas Cailley’s “Love at First Fight” (2014) and “The Animal Kingdom,” which opened this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard to acclaim.

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