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“Chinas,” the third feature from Spanish writer-director Arantxa Echevarria, who won the Goya for best new director in 2018 for her debut, “Carmen & Lola,” has been acquired for international sales by Latido Films (“The Platform,” “Lullaby,” “The Beasts”).
“Arantxa Echevarria is an exceptional filmmaker with a unique sense of capturing the essence of life in minority communities in Spain. As such she has became the voice of a generation, and her movies are eye-openers about realities we seldom know. For us working again with Arantxa is a privilege and a pleasure,” said Latido Films CEO Antonio Saura.
Filmed in Madrid’s Chinatown, the narrative follows two disparate families with ties to China, navigating the weighty segregation of a city that for better or worse, they call home.
“These neighborhoods allow immigrants to weave networks of solidarity and community. They cling to them as part of their own identity away from home, but they also become spaces that distance them from the true reality of where they live” Echevarria told Variety.
Yun is nine, a buoyant second-generation immigrant whose family lives in the neighborhood. She calls herself Lucía and oscillates between a strict and traditional homelife and her assimilated Spanish life at school, while Claudia, her 17-year-old sister, revolts fully, coming into her own while met with prejudice from peers and increasing self-doubt.
“Adolescence is an extremely fragile time. We want to rebel, to find our own place. And in that moment of fragility, we’re also hyper-exposed to the world, to the gaze of friends, the boy we like. At that moment where we’re in a feverish search, life can be cut short,” Echevarria noted.
“Claudia hates what she is, where she comes from, because it makes her different. She hates and loves being Chinese. Being like the others means betraying her own reality. That journey was so interesting to me that her character began to take more shape and presence in the film. After all, Lucía’s light and smile, with time, will morph into the grim and serious disposition of her sister” she added.
Across town, lives a more reserved Xiang, Lucia’s new schoolmate adopted from China and raised by parents who stop at nothing to include her heritage in her upbringing, even when she abhors it, while showering her with the best of their fortunate social status, a life Lucía covets.
Both girls, the products of fragile surroundings, take on their parents’ struggles while longing for a carefree childhood in a world that seems to have pre-determined their fate, a theme that persists throughout the film.
“I’m afraid that the education and love received from our family dictates who we become. School can shape us, help us to escape from the internalized education of childhood, but the customs, the rigor, the good and bad are determined for us by our parents,” Echevarria noted.“Our inner desires, longings, and dreams are easily buried under the incessant trickle of what’s expected of us.”
Produced by Lazona Producciones (“Spanish Affair”), Hojalata Films and TVTEC Servicios Audiovisuales, the film is set for release this year with a cast comprised of non-professional actors who provide richness to the script, a heartfelt rendering of the demoralizing way in which self-imposed and societal prejudice clings to a psyche.
“I usually write about sensations and feelings that I know, even if they take place in a space that’s foreign to me, ” Echevarria said. “The search for identity, the heartbreak of not knowing where you come from and knowing that you’re not the same as the people around you, is a feeling that I’ve experienced and felt in my own skin.”
“Chinas” lends power to an immigrant community at once steeped in identity and being stripped of it, Echevarria, providing a way out of ignorance and into a greater understanding of the hardships these families endure when pulling up roots to settle into a new culture.
As Saura concludes, “Thanks to this film, no person will enter a Chinese-owned supermarket without understanding the hardworking people that sit behind its counters.