San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Moving Pictures

Costa Rican prison drama 'Presos' to hit cinemas May 14

The name Costa Rica usually makes people think of beaches and sloths, but “Presos” has a different story to tell: “We are all prisoners,” its tagline reads. Sometimes that prison is literal, sometimes it’s figurative. But whatever the case, “Presos” (“Prisoners”) promises to be one intense drama – about love, loyalty, and life inside a Costa Rican penitentiary.

“Presos” is the third feature film by acclaimed Costa Rican director Esteban Ramírez, and it will receive a national release on May 14. The film’s trailer went viral last week, and at press time it had received more than 15,000 views. Filmed last year around the Central Valley, “Presos” had a total budget of about $600,000.

Ramírez won international acclaim for his first feature film, “Caribe,” in 2004. “Caribe” told the story of a farmer who must decide whether to cooperate with foreign oil drillers. It was the first Costa Rican film ever to be submitted to the Academy Awards.

Ramírez’s 2009 drama, “Gestación,” explored the societal consequences of teenage pregnancy in an intensely Catholic nation.

Like his other works, “Presos” prods social and political themes. But in many ways this story is more personal: Ramírez’s father produced a documentary about prison conditions in 1973, also called “Presos,” and this dramatized version explores similar motifs.

Movie mavens may recognize Colombian actor Alejandro Aguilar, who has appeared in such TV series as “Rosario Tijeras” and “Déjà Vu.” But the real star of the film is Natalia Arias, who debuted as a loyal sidekick in “Gestación” and has gone on to take the lead in “Presos.”

It is hard to say how “Presos” will perform at the box office. The slapstick comedy “Maikol Yordan de Viaje Perdido” has become the highest-grossing Central American film of all time, while the black-and-white indie dramedy “Viaje” did poorly, despite lots of positive press. Whatever its future, “Presos” may be the most anticipated Costa Rican film of the year, and Ramírez can expect a captive audience.

To find out more about “Presos,” visit the film’s Facebook page.

Contact Robert Isenberg at risenberg@ticotimes.net

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