Argentina’s Compañia de Cine Swoops on Hot Docs Title ‘Wild Gleaming Space,’ Helmed by Mauro Colombo, Produced by Oscar-Shortlisted Abner Benaim (EXCLUSIVE)

Buenos Aires-based boutique sales outfit Compañía de Cine has acquired international rights to Mauro Colombo’s contemplative second feature, “Wild Gleaming Space,” (“Luminoso Espacio Salvaje”) ahead of its global bow on Wednesday at Toronto’s Hot Docs, which runs April 25 to May 5.

Shot in Panama, Chile, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and Belgium, the film weaves together intimate and resounding first-person accounts from its subjects and dynamic natural backdrops in an ambitious attempt to reach out and document the abstract confluence of life and death.

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Parents in mourning, children with terminal illness, doctors and scientists and those who’ve experienced near death experiences are plumbed for their roving and mind-bending wisdom.

“‘Wild Gleaming Space’ explores uncharted territories in an intimate journey, delving into the complexities of death with a unique approach. Compañía de Cine was extremely impressed by the film’s visual treatment and Mauro’s handling of such a difficult subject matter. We firmly believe that this film will resonate with audiences worldwide, offering a touching and memorable experience,” Compañía de Cine’s Paulina Portela told Variety.

Two events anchor Colombo’s journey – the loss of his father and his discovery of a dying man on the roadside as he returned home to Panama, still grieving. Having brushed-up against death twice in short succession, he decided to explore the ways we convene with the notion. Through science, experiment, contemplation and ritual, the subjects reveal thought-provoking hypotheses, while concrete answers remain at arm’s length.

Produced by renowned filmmaker Abner Benaim at Panama’s Apertura Films (“Plaza Catedral,” “Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”), Panama’s Isabella Galvez and Arturo Mendiz of Barcelona’s Bastian Films (“La Pared”), the project stands as the first Panamanian-Spanish co-production to garner support from the Catalan minority co-production fund, enjoying additional backing from Ibermedia and Panama’s Dicine.

“I see Mauro’s work becoming more ambitious, bigger, bolder. ‘Wild Gleaming Space’ has an epic quality about it and at the same time maintains that human scale which makes it connect at a very powerful level. I think Mauro, more and more, is following his instincts – both in the themes he’s exploring and in the way he shoots and edits,” Benaim relayed.

“From the very first moment, I was charmed by the film’s approach. I believe that death is an essential part of life. Listening to people from all over the world and from such different cultures, who’ve somehow got close to that border and who can enlighten us about what lies beyond seemed fascinating to me. Now that the film’s finished, as a producer I feel very lucky to premiere it at the largest documentary festival in America, and I’m curious to see how it is perceived by its audience,” Mendiz added.

Ahead of the film’s premiere, the Italian-born and Panama-based Colombo spoke to Variety about his unique cinematic approach to oft-chartered, ever-murky mortal waters.

Do you feel that creating this film helped you open up a conversation about death in a way that satiated your own inquiries? Did centering death and inviting others’ experiences into your life better frame the answers you’d set out in search of?

I think of a film, especially a non-fiction film, as an exploration of something unknown, like in a wild land. An exploration that begins with personal questions. The film never answers these questions but rather creates more, increasingly personal ones. This inevitably sparks a conversation with reality that becomes more authentic and curious.

The question posed by death is often resolved through an acceptance of dogmatic answers or through a simple, skeptical and enigmatic attitude towards what it represents for us. However, using a personal tool, such as the cinematic language for me helps to open, if only briefly, the boundaries of our visions, helping us to step out of a known but never truly authentic territory.

Wild Gleaming Space
Wild Gleaming Space

I noticed the film’s natural discussions equate human lives with the nature that surrounds us. An obvious journey of death and rebirth. Was it intentional to include striking images of landscapes – using them to mirror our own life cycle? Or did that thought come to mind as you were speaking to your subjects?

From the beginning of the project I thought of including nature as a fundamental element of the film. Each character is somehow associated with a defined natural environment. My intention was to shift the question about death to a present reality and not to something abstract.

The natural space aims to represent the idea of an almost territorial exploration, as if this undefined space, suggested in the title as wild and luminous, were a real space. The space of death can be explored in every field only with what we know as concrete. Only by starting from the limits of our existence can we begin to understand what may lay beyond these limits. And, as you say, nature shows us this cycle every day, where there seems to be no separation.

The film lightly suggests that those that face death in life are more fully able to enjoy the present and that others untouched by mourning or tragedy may well be able to languish in life, thinking they have all the time in the world. Can you speak to that theme briefly?

I believe that death connects us with what is fundamental in our existence. Death leads us to question life itself: How am I living? Who’s living this life? It’s by no means guaranteed that humans can lead a complete and fulfilling life because, often, we fail to notice how we’re swept up in the daily grind, losing touch with an authentic and true feeling.

Of course, deaths come in many forms and types, from physical to psychological, but death always leads us to thin out the daily routine from what life is not. As Wolfgang, one character in the film, says: psychological death is the death of who we thought we were and the encounter with a much broader and greater ‘us.’ This doesn’t negate that death is an extremely tough, difficult and often painful event. However, unfortunately or fortunately in this case, the acceptance of the extreme concreteness of life comes into play.

As you mention, the task at hand was nearly impossible – to record those obscure spaces where life crosses over to death, beyond. What personal and professional challenges did this film pose for you?

The main challenge, both professionally and personally, was to remain simple, to open up human processes with the characters as honestly as possible, and to maintain a spontaneous curiosity. One of my dynamics was to open up the theme to different realities and not focus solely on one character or specific reality. This, of course, required particular attention in how to unite these different realities and make them part of the same narrative. The connection between them happened naturally but certainly required a lot of work in the editing phase.

Every element of the film is extremely delicate due to the complexity of the theme. I tried to balance all elements, from the narrative line, to the voiceover, to the music, so as not to influence the audience with my own vision but to try and bring them along with me on this exploration.

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