The director of the Quirino Awards-nominated “Cranston Academy: Monster Zone,” Mexico’s Leopoldo Aguilar, will direct “Bem & I.”

It will be produced by Mexico’s Espíritu Santo Cine and Pēek Paax animation studio, both of whom backed this year’s Quirino best feature winner, “A Costume for Nicholas.”

Mexico’s Espíritu Santo is a recently-founded company devoted to producing family-targeting cinema content. The company is run by Dariela Pérez. Aguilar and Heriberto Manzanares are also founding partners.

“Bem & I” also draws down financing from Mexico’s biggest public-sector fund for movies, Fidecine, and benefits from the country’s Eficine tax break system.

Aguilar’s fourth animated feature, “Bem & I” depicts the friendship between a lemur, illegally brought from the Madagascar forests to Mexico’s Sonora market, and Irene, a girl “allergic to everything,” who has been forced to live for years trapped between four walls.

“We need to make movies in which Mexican girls can recognize themselves and feel inspired by strong characters breaking the paradigms that society has imposed on them,” Aguilar told Variety, underlining the extremely low ratio of Mexican movies which feature female protagonists. He emphasized “the importance of bringing female main characters to cinema who can break conventions and challenge stereotypes.”

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“Bem & I” concept art Credit: Espiritu Santo

“Bem & I” will be the first animated movie penned by producer Pérez, a writer on Netflix’ “The House of Flowers” and Disney/BTF Media’s “Selena’s Secret.”

According to the director, visually, “Bem & I” will be inspired by Mexican collage, abstract arts and popular graphic arts. The settings will be brought to life through simple strokes, shapes and colors. The aim is to respect the nature of each environment.

The director explained that character design will be inspired by real people who live and work at the Sonora market. The ambient sounds of the marketplace and the humble Mexican neighborhoods will be incorporated into the film to bring a realistic feel to the setting.

Most animation will be 2D; some locations will be recreated in 3D.

Aguilar took best film at Argentina’s Mar del Plata Festival with “The Secret of the Jade Medallion,” which was also awarded at the 2012 Guadalajara Festival.

After three features with a marked mainstream goal, “’Ben & I’ is giving me the chance to explore certain perspectives and creative aspects as an autueur, through which I aim to dig deeper into human emotions not explored in my previous films,” the director said.

“Bem & I” is in pre-production. It is scheduled to open in Mexico on April 30, 2023, coinciding with Mexico’s Children’s Day.

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“Bem & I” concept art Credit: Espiritu Santo