'Elite Squad' Director, 'Gran Torino' Writer Tackle South America's 'Tri-Border' (Exclusive)

Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha is teaming up with scribe Nick Schenk for the political action film, which will be in English.
Jose Padilha
Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha is teaming up with scribe Nick Schenk for the political action film, which will be in English.

With his critically and commercially successful Elite Squad movies, Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha took on police corruption and crime in his native Rio de Janeiro while showing he can pull off multi-layered yet accessible political action-thrillers.

Now he’s setting his sights on the infamous lawless South American zone trisected by Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, where competing crime organizations and law enforcement agencies fight for the upper hand.

Padilha has teamed up with Gran Torino scribe Nick Schenk for Tri-Border, a political action film that will be in English. Padilha is self-financing development.
Tri-Border centers on a Boston-based DEA agent who is unwillingly sent to Paraguay for having busted the son of an US senator during a drug raid. The script will explore the ins-and-outs of the different crime organizations and law enforcement agencies in the tri-border zone, as the agent strives to understand how the place works in order to capture his ticket back home, a leading drug dealer.

“The idea is to have a political film hidden inside an action film, a film that can entertain and teach people about the tri-border and the international crime in general,” Padilha writes in an email to THR from the region, where he and Schenk are conducting research.

“How can you write about something like the tri-border area without ever seeing it first hand?” Schenk writes in between rides on boats, planes and helicopters. “I've learned that landlocked Paraguay has a Navy. I've also learned that the Brazilian Federal Police and the Paraguayan Navy commonly exchange gunfire on the river that separates the two countries.”

Padilha says he considers Elite Squad to be a more local story, while Tri-Border will be a tale of international consequence. “It’s a different reality, in a totally different environment: the frontier of three countries, in which one finds many different players operating, ranging from Italian, Chinese and Serbian mafias, to Bolivian, Colombian and Brazilian drug dealers, including Lebanese smugglers suspected of helping Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as corrupted police and politicians from Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina,” he writes.

The tri-border region is the subject of another high-profile film project, Triple Frontier, which is in development with Hurt Locker filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal. But that project is now on hold as the duo concentrate on their film chronicling the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.   

The duo, both repped by CAA, plan to have a script finished by the end of August.