‘Vurdulak Blood’ Director Santiago Fernandez on Blood Window Homecoming

Jamie Lang

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Written and directed by popular Argentine genre filmmaker Santiago Fernandez Calvete, “Vurdalak Blood,” based on Alexi Tolstoy’s short story “The Family of the Vourdalak,” is screening in works in progress version at this year’s Ventana Sur Blood Window genre sidebar.

“Vurdalak Blood” takes place in the uncertain hours after a vampire hunt when it’s unclear if the hunter has himself been turned into a creature of the night. Will his family find out in time, or will their sentiment make them easy prey for the novice nightwalker? Natalia, his teenage daughter, ends up proving that her father has become a vampire just when her brother is abandoning her to her fate and the night threatens to arrive.

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Fernandez’s film is produced by Aramos Cine, headed by Roxana Ramos and co-produced with Córdoba-based Jaque Content. As a project it received two production awards, one from INCAA and the other from Polo Audiovisual de Córdoba.

There are also advanced talks with a potential third, international co-production partner which has been following the project since it was presented at Bifan’s Naff Market.

The film won at the 2018 Blood Window Pitching Sessions and then, at the Naff market of South Korea’s Bifan Festival, took the Mocha Chai Award to go to Singapore and received several post-production services prizes.

This is Santiago Fernández Calvete’s third feature, the previous two produced by Magma Cine (“The Second Death,” “Intimate Witness”), and one of three the company has participating at this year’s Blood Window. The others are Diego Fried’s “The Silent Party,” a finished film included in this year’s Video Room library, and Federico Finkielstain’s project “Host of Evil” in the lab.

What was your plan to give your own spin to the Vampire genre?

I was very confident that originality can be returned to origin. Alexei Tolstoy’s story had a strong premise and a very particular type of vampire, which feeds on the blood of his own family. This allowed me to create a plot more closely tied to family tragedy and in some way related to intrafamily abuse, to the monster within the family itself. I leaned heavily on my cast, especially in Germán Palacios and Alfonsina Carrocio, a true revelation to whom we will have to pay attention in the future.

“Vurdulak Blood” often feels different from other Vampire fare, particularly in the way you don’t shy from using lots of light and color. Is this intentional?

I think horror movies are very often pushed, visually and in terms of narrative, towards a formula that “sells.” I prefer doing something different. A horror film is first, a film, a story; and horror is a point of view of that story, something that comes after.

What’s left to finish the film?

We are currently closing agreements for VFX and music. For the sound, we are working with Tres Sonido, an Argentine company that I consider the best in its field. Finally, we will be provided with a final copy of the film with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos as a result of an award granted to us by Mocha Chai Lab (Singapore) at the Naff in Bifan.

Do you have a premiere planned or distribution lined up?

We have companies interested in distribution, but we will wait for Ventana Sur to make our final decisions as, at the moment, we are incredibly busy in the post-production and completion stages. Our goal is to finish the film in April in Singapore and start the path of the international festivals then.

You have participated in several of the most important genre film festivals in the world. What makes Blood Window unique?

Blood window has been a real local and regional revolution. It has provided Argentine and Latin American genre cinema with another level of exposure and done it in such a way that every year it surpasses itself, supporting all stages of production and marketing. We are now involved to the work in progress strand of Blood Window to be able to show our progress and continue to internationalize our film. We could say that everything good that’s happening to our movie was born here.

How did participation in these other markets, laboratories and festivals benefit this project?

“Vurdalak Blood” pitched twice as a project, at Fantaspoa festival and at Blood Window 2018, where we won the opportunity to attend the Naff. There, we not only won the Mocha Chai post-production award, but we also managed to start the talks in order to generate a potential co-production with Asia. Without these markets it would be impossible to achieve co-productions between Argentina and Asia. Finally, at the Naff we were selected to show previews of our film in the Coming Soon section of Sitges. I believe that these festivals and markets, in addition to valuable awards, give the film immeasurable prestige and necessary internationalization.