Salma Hayek Pinault Exec Produced ‘Santa Evita,’ on the Odyssey of Eva Peron’s Corpse, Previewed at Conecta Fiction

Executive produced by Salma Hayek Pinault and directed by Rodrigo García (“Nine Lives”), in its second scene, Star Plus Productions’ “Santa Evita” has Dr. Pedro Aru arriving at Eva Perón’s home to embalm her corpse.

Many directors would dispatch his arrival in brief transition shots. García, however, uses eight – to capture the rain on he fateful day of July 26, 1952 (a shot from above of drenched black umbrellas packing out the screen), glimpse the poverty of the crowd lining the road and frame the first hints of Perón’s near sanctification in death with crowds keeping vigil outside the house’s gates, candles in hand.

Previewed at Conecta Fiction, Episode One of “Santa Evita” weighs in as classic Disney Latin America adult audience fare, an heir to 2018’s “Selena’s Secret” and 2019 “Monzón.”

A passion project of Mariana Pérez at The Walt Disney Company Latin America’s which has been 10 years in the making, “Santa Evita” is caringly crafted, studied in period and social detail, varied and pointed in shot set-ups and impeccably sound designed.

It is also “true life fiction” – a phrase coined by TWDCLA’s Leonardo Aranguibel, an executive producer on the series with Pérez. Here the IP is Latin America’s most famous politician, Eva Perón, a perfect package of glamor, power, charisma and concern for Argentine’s toiling classes, who died at the age of 33.

The seven-part series also carries a modern-day gender agenda, recording the stranger-than-fiction true story of how Eva Perón, even in death, is used and abused, mummified by her husband, President Juan Perón, to bulwark his slipping grasp on power, then sequestered by Argentina’s military regime which overthrew Perón in 1955. Its members desired, vilified and feared her figure in equal measure.

Starring Natalia Oreiro (“Yosi, the Regretful Spy”) as Eva Perón and Dario Grandinetti (“Talk To Her”) as her husband, “Santa Evita” is co-produced by Argentina’s Non Stop Studios. It is written by Marcela Guerty and Pamela Rementaria, inspired by the same-titled best seller of Tomás Eloy Martínez, and co-directed by Argentine Alejandro Maci. Variety talked with Maci just ahead of the series’ exclusive preview at Conecta Fiction on June 22, which proved the TV co-production forum’s glitziest affair. The series will bow on Star Plus on July 26.

How did you approach Eva Perón’s character, given her relevance even nowadays, especially in Argentina?

Her character is shrouded in myth, which makes it so untouchable and resonant. First, we had to defuse these associations, tear down the myths. Tomas Eloy Martinez investigated the period but then wrote a novel, which was our base. So we did a lot of research on the period and its political process.

How did “Santa Evita” come together?

It was a Fox-Disney project, in development for many years. Mariana Pérez held it together, which wasn’t easy. It was a highly complex project, in its telling and production. We handle five different time-frames: 1945, when the story really begins; 1952, when Eva Perón is embalmed; her youth in the 1920s and then 1930s; and 1971, when a kind of alter ego for Martínez, journalist Mariano Vázquez, attempts to find out what happened to her cadaver, and starts getting death threats.

The story’s part of Argentina’s history. How did you shape it for international audiences on Star Plus?

We didn’t try to flood the story with local detail. It targets any audience interested in the story which, yes, is related to Argentine history but also talks about power dynamics and passion, which makes it universal. We drilled down on those issues in narrative terms.

What’s appealing for you about the show?

One thing which is truly arresting is the fetichism sparked by Eva Perón, which is highly contemporary. Rodrigo Garcia wanted to highlight this.

This is a woman who is appropriated in a perverse manner by an infinite number of men, all military. That’s now part of our contemporary conversation, which Martínez couldn’t have anticipated in a novel written in 1995. But the series opens up to this interpretation.

Why do you think “Santa Evita” can work today?

The novel turns on power, appropriation and poverty. Eva Perón was was of humble origins but reached the highest echelon of power and died prematurely, all in the space of seven years. In 1944, she was pretty well anonymous, an actress. By 1947 she was visiting Spain at Franco’s invitation and a legend in Buenos Aires. By 1951, she had terminal cancer. It all happened so fast. It’s an extraordinary story which merits being told – with the caveat that it’s based on a novel. Some elements are fiction, thought up by Martínez.

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