On Feb. 15 on Netflix, “Eva Lasting” reached the Top 10 in 14 countries across much of Latin America, scoring a global Top 10 berth and now prompting the platform to launch a second just days after its release. season to order.
A high-end Caracol TV production that fully showcases the benefits of streamer support, the streamlined 13-episode show, directed by Mateo Stivelberg and Maria Gamboa, taps into the comfort Latin American telenovelas are accustomed to their audiences while they solid and sometimes new narrative ground in its running time.
Set in 1976 Bogotá against the backdrop of Colombia’s rampant modernization, the story follows Camilo (Emmanuel Restrepo) and his group of friends at a boys’ public school whose lives are irretrievably changed when Eva (Francisca Estévez) becomes the first female student. Keenly aware of the tropes evoked over the decades by these kinds of premise, the showplaces with them while giving color and depth to the characters. Eva quickly escapes the “manic pixie dream girl” archetype and becomes a full-fledged character whose actions are the catalyst for the evolution of the main characters.
Written by one of Colombia’s most prominent movie TV characters, writer-producer Dago García (“The Ride”, “Memories of My Father”), the series embraces his melodrama beats but gives them a fresh dynamic and modern gender vibe, repackaging the telenovela, creating an entry point for a younger audience whose maturity allows for more sour revisionism.
Variety spoke with García and Carolina Leconte, director of content for Netflix Latin America.
Countries like Brazil and Turkey have created their melodramas and serials that work worldwide, made with technical prowess to international standards. How does Colombia rank in this rapidly changing landscape?
Carolina Leconte: I am lucky enough to say “very good”. Netflix allows us to try other types of stories, broadening the spectrum. That means looking for a different type of content, tackling different types of problems, and having access to all the tools at our disposal to break new ground. It is a matter of technical capacity, with a higher level of production.
Dago Garcia: What happened to Brazil and Turkey has always been owned by the Spanish content. Thanks to the streamers, Latin American content has become universal. There are many cases of Latin American or Colombian products created with these audiences in mind, but which have taken on a global dimension thanks to the streamers. Through this new form of television, the world is discovering melodrama as a narrative paradigm of impressive universality. Turkey, Korea and Brazil have already worked on this. But now many other cultures, including North Americans, lean on a melodrama mode that has very Latin American roots. Of course, it is not a Latin American genre, it is a universal genre, but the world knows it in its telenovela form.
Mateo and Maria are both relatively young filmmakers who, along with most of the cast, are taking their first steps in the industry. What is your take on these emerging talents and what do they mean for giants like Netflix?
Leconte: Bringing together the best talent is essential for Netflix, we thrive on the contributions of very young and talented people like Mateo and María. For us, a story gains weight because of the different visions that underpin it. It’s no mystery that writers are one of the most coveted talents because only a great idea, a great story will make it. But there is a gradual build-up of a huge group of people, to which everyone contributes. One of the show’s assets is having a lot of young talents with great potential who haven’t been on screen that much until now. It is vital to give space to these new talents as they will represent the growing industry that is beginning to shine in Latin America.
The show’s strongest asset is finding a hybrid format between the series and the telenovela, relying on the strengths of both formats. Can you comment?
Leconte: That’s one of the most exciting things. We suddenly have access to more types of melodramas, but “Eva Lasting’s” exercise was to create content that is very much our own yet addresses universal issues. It explores melodramatic conflict, but it speaks through a much closer narrative to who we are today. By framing it through the 70s, with the socio-political, cultural context, we can access other topics like philosophy or literature while tackling our modern topics. Stories can be told as long as one wants to stretch them. I think this type of story takes advantage of melodramatic conflicts and gives a wonderful conclusion so they have much more impact.
Garcia: At one point, there was at least a glimpse of a cannibalistic relationship between broadcasting and streaming, but it turned into an interesting synthesis as both have influenced each other. Neither has come out unscathed, at least in the case of Latin America. Today there is no pure-play melodrama. It has become a repository of many other types of content and has been influenced by it. With 200 episodes, telenovelas are the art of saying little over a long period of time. Now we learn to summarize them as the platforms have seen how melodrama attracts a loyal audience. As a result, at least in Latin America, content has been transformed, achieving a synthesis in which both sides have won.
You could say that we live on a pivot of cultural transformation that has changed the tropes, archetypes and narratives of how we portray both the feminine and the masculine. Your show is very aware of this and modernized elements such as the ‘male gaze’. Can you comment?
Garcia: Our goal was that while the series is set in a school context, it couldn’t be exclusively about school. It focuses on an important moment not only in the lives of the characters, but also that of a nation. Is both coming of age and the transformation of a country. That is why it is told from the present. This is a woman’s story, told by a man, of how she changed him, his group of friends, and that microsystem that was the school. A single woman discovers the feminine and with that she broadens the panorama of all these characters, she matures. A story not only about the 1970s, but about us now. These comparisons are always very revealing, especially for today’s times.
Laconte: I was so excited when I saw that this was a story of an absolutely atypical woman. And I say atypical for the time, but what happens to Eve has always happened to women. What’s interesting is that while it’s told from a man’s point of view, the story only unfolds through the actions of women. I say it in plural because it’s not just Eve. For example, one of the main characters is Susana, Camilo’s mother. She puts a whole different face on the show and deals with so much of the reality a woman has to deal with. So it is a vision of femininity. I’m not saying it’s completely atypical, on the contrary, it’s very much what a woman goes through. An incredibly smart woman, lifted up by the eyes of an adolescent man who sees her as powerful, unattainable and enormous. Imagine how rich! To flip the archetypes of our melodramas and find female characters that are much more real, much closer to today’s audiences.