Jac Avila, the co-founder of Pachamama Films, is the director, producer and editor of the critically acclaimed film Krik? Krak! Tales of a Nightmare and director, writer, producer, and actor of the celebrated mini-series El Hombre de La Luna and The Death of St Eulalia, a feature film, released in 2005, for which he also did the principal photography.
He directed Vientos Negros and Misiones, both of which he co-produced, shot and edited. He also produced, did the principal photography and edited the feature film Nocturnia, (directed by Erik Antoinne).
He has worked with international film organizations like The National Film Board of Canada, ICAIC (the Cuban film institute), Magyar Films in Hungary, Ki Films from France, Channel Four of England and most recently with National Geographic in the production of Outbreak: The Machupo Virus, shot on location in Beni, Bolivia.
Born in La Paz, Bolivia, into a family of artists that includes Dutch painter Jan Vermeer and re-known Bolivian poet Antonio Avila Jimenez, Jac left for New York where he studied film and photography while supporting himself working in photography, advertising and a brief stint at CBS. He also hosted and produced radio programs at WHBI y WBAI.
Beginning in 1980, he organized a series of film presentations, festivals and seminars with New York University, and toured the University circuit, lecturing about Latin American cinema and politics at Cornell U., Harvard, Wisconsin U, NYU and others.
In 1981 he joined the independent film group, Mountain Top Films, to work on various productions, starting with its inaugural feature length film, Krik? Krak! Tales of a Nightmare, an internationally award-winning film he and Vanyoska Gee produced, directed and edited. During this time he also produced and edited the experimental short, The Word is Vroom Vroom, a collaboration with Israeli conceptual artist, Uri Katzestein, and Huaqueando, a film dealing with the sacking of archaeological treasures in Peru. From 1988 to 1991, he toured the festival circuit with Krik? Krak!. At the Cannes film festival in 1988 he met and had a series of long conversations with legendary writer Graham Greene, author of The Comedians, amongst many of his already classics of contemporary literature. Mr Greene assisted to the screening of Krik? Krak! Tales of a Nightmare, and later wrote about it saying: “A remarkably insightful, original, … compassionate picture of the eternal Haiti…”
At the Festival International des Films d’Amiens in France, La Gazette Du Festival commented: “…filmmakers like Denis Hooper (Easy Rider), Monti Hellman (The Shooting) or Jac Avila ( Krik? Krak!) are the stars of a festival like Amiens (…) They use the best of film and the power of images with sincerity and simplicity”.
During his journeys Jac wrote a number of scripts he is now developing for production: La Passion de Maricelli (about a Cuban woman confronting the harsh force controlling her world of priests, politicians and back-broken slaves: her father), Pachamama (about a Bolivian wedding that unleashes a family’s suppressed demons) and others.
In Hungary, he produced and directed the documentary Szabadsag Szerelem, shot in Hungary during the fall of Communism.
With the intention of producing one of his scripts on film, he returned to Bolivia where he organized and lead a series of workshops in acting for the camera and film production. Sponsored by the Department of Culture of the Mayor of La Paz, they were considered pivotal to the careers of aspiring actors and filmmakers. Out of his hundreds of students, many went on to win awards and begin professional careers in audiovisual communication.
As a result of the publicity generated by the workshops, he was invited to develop and teach a film program, still running now, at the nation’s most prestigious institute of higher education, the Universidad Catolica Boliviana.
His career then focused on directing and producing the miniseries, El Hombre de la Luna, which was broadcast in Bolivian TV and later on Canal Sur, a Spanish cable network in the US. He also produced the documentaries Incarracay, Biosfera: 10 años de labor, Dia de la Tierra, Aguaratimi, anthropological and ecological documentaries commissioned by organizations such as UNESCO, the Mayor’s Office for the Environment of La Paz and the Bolivian Biosphere Institute, among others.
As a modest way to encourage production in his country, he backed, with equipment, resources and training a series of videos for novice filmmakers. In an unusual turn of events, his student crew of one of them, Maestria Pasional, won the prestigious Amalia Gallardo Awards in Bolivia for Best Actor, Best Cinematography and Best sound.
His new-found life in Bolivia led him to write three additional stories: Kilya, la Hija del Inca (about a man who wakes, after being hit by a truck, in the land of his Inca ancestors, where long-silent gods dwell), Paloma (the story of a vampire that flees 15th century Europe to settle in the largest city of the new world, Potosi) and El Violinista y la Virgen (a story set in the times of Che Guevara in a Macondo-like town where an enigmatic man arrives to unsettle it’s inhabitants).
In 1997 he returned to New York, not only to reconnect to the international world of filmmaking, but to upgrade his skills in the new era of digital technology. His endeavors resulted in the creation of five films, four now in post-production and one recently released. One of the dramas he produced, a feature set in New York, entitled, The Death of St. Eulalia (about a French woman from the 21st century who evokes, in a rather obsessive way, the martyrdom of Saint Eulalia, a young Spanish woman from the 3rd century, – a gruesome, realistic portrayal that drives her boyfriend into an frenzy of fear for her life) bears the distinct novel talents of his writing and directing. The soon-to-be-released dramatic feature, Nocturnia, directed by Erik Antoine, holds Jac’s credits as producer and director of photography.
The bold documentary in the group, Juan Doe.., tells the ignored stories of the families of Latin American workers, who disappeared on 9-11, as they struggle to have them counted among the dead.
The experimental film in the collection, Cross Over, which premiered in Poland and is now part of the Warsaw Museum’s permanent collection, is a short made in collaboration with the award-winning multi-media artist Tadeusz Myslowski. The short is a searing meditation on the events of September 11th.
In addition, Jac recently produced three upcoming films made by his former student and principal actress, Carmen Paintoux, in co-production with KiFilms of Paris. He also interviewed John Sayles for a documentary, commissioned by the Festival International Du Film d’Amiens, about the renowned director’s life and career.
In 2005 he was invited to present- The Death of St Eulalia, and Nocturnia, at the Festival Iberoamericano de Cine de Santa Cruz. Soon after that the organizers of the Festival Internacional de Cine y Video Diablo de Oro, in Oruro, also invited him to show both films.
In October of 2005 he was contacted by producers on behalf of National Geographic to produce Outbreak: The Curse of the Black Typhus a docu-drama about the hemorrhagic fever epidemic of 1963 in Beni, Bolivia.
While in Beni, he produced and directed three more documentaries: Vientos Negros, Misiones and a commissioned film about the work of the Prefectura del Departamento del Beni.
That same year he met Amy Hesketh, who collaborated with him in the documentaries in Beni and joined the film company. In 2008 Jac produced Hesketh’s opera prima Sirwiñakuy. In 2010 they collaborated again, this time in three films that were produced back to back between December of 2010 until March 2011. Maleficarum, directed by Jac Avila, Barbazul and Le Marquis de la Croix, both directed by Amy Hesketh.
In 2012 Jac directed Dead But Dreaming, a vampire feature story set in the 1800’s. In 2013 Jac produced and starred in Amy Hesketh’s Olalla. In 2015 Jac produced and directed his own version of De Sade’s Justine and wrote and produced Amy Hesketh’s Pygmalion.
Jac is presently developing the second part of the miniseries El Hombre de la Luna, to be shot in New York, Paris, and La Paz as well as the feature Aventura, to be directed by Erix Antoine and the sensational television series Pachamama, both to be shot in Bolivia.