“Forsaken is a story of survival,” says director Jonas Cuaron of his Mexico-France thriller that recently wrapped in Baja, California.

“It is a cat-and-mouse chase between a Mexican immigrant, Moises [Gael Garcia Bernal], and an American vigilante, Sam [Jeffrey Dean Morgan] guarding the border.

“The idea was to create a story that had many layers of reading. It is a nail-biting [thriller], but at the same time it juggles various themes. It is a story of survival, but it is set against a very political backdrop.”

Cuaron, whose first feature Year Of The Nail came out in 2007, arrived in Cannes to attend with his father Alfonso a buyer presentation on Saturday arranged by IM Global.

Father and son are producing Forsaken (formerly titled Desierto) on the back of their triumphant writing partnership on Gravity that delivered a global smash and a best director Oscar for Alfonso.

This time, however, the script was mostly Jonas’ baby. He developed the screenplay with his cousin Mateo Garcia, though the advice and insights of his father were critical.

“I have a very close creative relationship with my dad and I always [asked] for his input [during] the process of writing the script. I raised the project on my own, since he was very busy with Gravity, and later he became involved as a producer.”

Mexican financier-producer Alex Garcia of AG Studios produces with the Cuarons, Alfonso’s brother Carlos Cuaron and France’s Charles Gillibert. Lava Bear chief David Linde is an executive producer. Latam Distribution holds Latin American rights.

Speaking from Italy, where he was visiting family prior to the Croisette trip, Alfonso Cuaron said his son showed him the first draft in 2008 or 2009 and they began to put together financing on the final year of production on Gravity.

“Jonas is driving the boat as a producer,” says Cuaron. “The story is very contained… In many ways the [Sonoran Desert] is a metaphor for their circumstances. It’s an action movie in many ways, and there’s an implicit political commentary about immigration.

“When we’re working together I forget we’re father and son. We’re collaborators who happen to work very comfortably together. When he was shooting I was away in London, but I would see the dailies and talk to him every week.

“He is such an amazing director that I realise I have lost a writer for my films, because now he is going to be busy doing his own projects. But of course I am also very happy about that.”

What is Cuaron Sr doing next? “It took me four-and-a-half years to do Gravity and another six months in post and then I went back to the biggest pile of dishes you’ve seen on earth. I have been washing dishes ever since. I hope to have a clearer head in the summer.”