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The Arriagas’ ‘A Cielo Abierto’: Revenge Is Indeed a Dish Best Served Cold

In the debut feature of Mexican filmmaker-siblings Mariana and Santiago Arriaga, revenge is indeed a dish best served cold. Competing at the Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti sidebar, the coming-of-age road movie “A Cielo Abierto” turns on two teen brothers who are bent on avenging the death of their father in a road accident. They are joined by their new stepsister who, unaware of their intentions at first, later becomes a willing accomplice. As they pause and deliberate on what to do with their prey, what follows helps the brothers come to terms with the deep pain of their loss.

Based on the first original screenplay by their Oscar-nominated father, Guillermo Arriaga (“Amores Perros,” “Babel,” “21 Grams”), “A Cielo Abierto” (“Upon Open Sky”) takes place in the arid region of Northern Mexico, specifically in the Coahuila desert, where, as children, the siblings would go on many hunting trips with their father. “Much more than the films we’ve seen, these trips we took with our father, the people we met and places we discovered, are what have influenced our work,” the siblings note.

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For their father, he wrote the story to process a car accident he had experienced. “I’ve always been obsessed with accidents and their aftermath,” says Arriaga, pointing out that his films and even his multiple prize-winning novels have accidents in them. After losing and then recovering the rights to his script, he asked his children to direct it. “It couldn’t have been in better hands,” observes Arriaga, who co-produced and also worked as the second unit director on the drama. The shoot faced multiple challenges, including the extreme temperatures of the desert, a slew of locations on the road and working with young non-pro actors: Federica García, Theo Goldin and Máximo Hollander, although Hollander had worked in one film years ago.

Full of praise for their entire cast, they see Garcia, a magnetic presence with her piercing blue eyes, as a rising star. Hollander has already been recognized for his perf in his first film, “Los Herederos.” Goldin, who plays the younger brother, was a revelation.

Asked what’s next on the horizon, Mariana says: “We’re discussing ideas but at the moment, we’re taking some time to reflect on the experience.” Santiago concurs: “We haven’t had much time to take a breather.”

‘A Cielo Abierto’ is the first Mexican production of the preeminent Argentine outfit K&S Films, run by Hugo Sigman, Matias Mosteirin and Leticia Cristi (“Wild Tales,” “The Clan”) in co-production with Spain’s Clave Intelectual and Arriaga’s Salvaje Films. Film Factory handles international sales.

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