The Argentine wunderkind behind Carancho, White Elephant and Lion’s Den sat down with Jeremy Kay to discuss his latest film four weeks into production in Buenos Aires.

The Clan (El Clan) is a noir thriller based on the extraordinary case of the wealthy Puccio family, who ran a clandestine kidnapping and murder ring from their San Isidro home in the early 1980s during the final years of the dictatorship and the dawn of democracy.

Argentina’s K & S Films and Trapero’s Matanza Cine are producing with Spain’s El Deseo, Fox International Productions and Argentine broadcaster Telefe produce. 

20th Century Fox will distribute in Latin America.

Celebrated Argentine comic actor Guillermo Francella plays the patrician Arquimedes Puccio and is pictured in character with Peter Lanzani as Alejandro Puccio.

What is El Clan about?
It is a true story about the wealthy Puccio clan from the San Isidro neighbourhood. They kidnapped people, demanded ransoms and then killed them. They kidnapped people from their own environment – the boating club, the neighbourhood. Once you were kidnapped you were dead.

You say the family killed dozens of people. How do you condense that into a movie?
In the movie we talk about four cases: one in 1982, one in 1983, 1984 and 1985. That means the last two years of the dictatorship and the two first years of democracy.

Who were the family?
The father Arquimedes Puccio had worked in intelligence and came from the right wing. He took all this way of working into a private way. The eldest son was Alejandro Puccio, the famous rugby player for the Pumas [Argentina’s national team.]

Did Puccio’s immediate family know what was going on?
They lived above their surf shop and had a basement where they kept the victims. The mother cooked meals for the victims. She was an accomplice. They were a family of seven: the parents and five kids. The three sons were rugby players and two of them at different times were living away from home and didn’t go back to avoid this situation. Once all of them lived for three years in exile but decided to go back to work with daddy.

Did people think the junta was responsible for the crimes?
The family left notes claiming to be a guerilla group.

What was the public reaction once the family was arrested?
It was a famous case but the reaction of the people from [San Isidro] was a bit unexpected. All [the family’s] friends were resisting to believe it – asking the press not to talk about it. They were in denial.

Why does this movie matter so much to you?
It’s an important case and amazing for a movie. I have been trying to make this for years. I was supposed to make it right after White Elephant but I was involved in a project in India [Six Suspects, Trapero’s English-language debut for Working Title that eventually got put on hold.]

It says a lot about society in general – not high society, but society in general. There’s this idea of two faces: the things you are out of home and in the privacy [of your own home.]

This double life is the core of the story. Outside the house they were nice. Alejandro was famous. The family was respected. Inside the house it was a nightmare.

The story spans four tumultuous years.

The movie also talks about this transition and privatisation. At the time of the junta it wasn’t easy for the victims to go to the police and ask for help because they were worried about being kidnapped by [the police.] The people felt defenceless – you didn’t want to ask for help.

It takes a little bit longer than an election to solve [dictatorship.] When I was 13 or 14, democracy was something weak. We were expecting a new junta would take back power, but luckily for us we are done with that. But those two years (1984-85) were tough because there were attempts by elements of the Army to return to power.

In a general way these cases talk about this idea of how people have to deal with things on their own. There’s a noir feel to the movie.