The Games Maker: 3D children’s fantasy filmed in Argentina, spoken in English

By contributing blogger Benjamín Harguindey

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Left to right: actors Joseph Fiennes & David Mazouz, and director Juan Pablo Buscarini.

The Games Maker is a 3D film shot in a co-production between Argentina (Pampa Films, 70% owner), Canada (Sepia Films) and Italy (DAP Italy). Integrally shot in Argentina over the course of 11 weeks during the winter season of 2013, it was based on an Argentinian novel, helmed by Argentine director Juan Pablo Buscarini and 80% of the working crew featured local talent – but the film was shot in English with mostly foreign actors to facilitate international distribution.

Actor David Mazouz as Ivan.

David Mazouz as the hero Ivan.

The movie stars David Mazouz (from the TV series Touch, as well as Gotham’s future Bruce Wayne) as Ivan, a 10-year-old kid with a passion for crafting board games that enters a competition by mail to become the titular games maker. Orphaned in a freak ballooning accident, he starts on a Narnia-style journey through a creepy boarding school, across the fantasy land of Zyl where board games are the city’s bread and butter, and ultimately into the maws of the Profound Games Company run by an evil Willy Wonka knock-off called Modorian (Joseph Fiennes).

Joseph Fiennes as the villain 'Morodian'.

Joseph Fiennes as the villain ‘Morodian’.

Mazouz does his best to hold the lead of his epic journey though in truth it’s his nemesis played by Fiennes that steals the show. Even as a late arrival his presence dominates the story, often referenced and spoken of and spotted in flashbacks that build up the world’s lore. Fiennes is probably the movie’s strongest selling point, doing more for his character than the script does and evidently enjoying it. Also enjoyable in a supporting role is Edward Asner as Ivan’s granddad and gaming mentor. The only off addition is Tom Cavanagh (from TV’s Scrubs, Trust Me and The Following), who feels both miscast and underused as Ivan’s dad.

The Games Maker’s other big selling point is in its production design and artistic direction, both of which excel in creating a fantasy world from scratch while keeping the 3D experience enjoyable and CGI at a minimum. But when it comes to expounding on that fantasy world, the movie somewhat flattens. Ivan’s world oftentimes feels linear and strictly at the immediate service of the script, leaving very little time for wonder or curiosity. The script doesn’t really develop any character besides Morodian’s, and is wasted on urgent explanations and plot expositions that keep the pace up but ultimately render the experience a tad too shallow.

As a children’s fantasy adventure with a touch of darkness here and there, The Games Maker is a perfectly good  movie, if a little mainstream in light of its uncanny origins.

The movie will receive an official commercial release in Argentina on July 3. Despite being shot in English, a dubbed Spanish version will be screened in most theaters in Argentina.

On a side note, our own Lauren Pringle who used to be a blogger for Filming in Argentina and originally from the UK, has a small role in the film–congrats to her big screen debut!

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