Sheen, Madsen star in Mexican independent

Story of hope and redemption takes stars Martin Sheen and Michael Madsen from Malibu to Mexico City.

By Michael Aushenker / Special to The Malibu Times

An American doctor, running a medical clinic in Mexico, overcomes differences with his son, a burned-out former boxer, as they help a teen off of Mexico City’s mean streets realize his pugilist dreams.

That is the premise of “The Kid: Chamaco,” a new film rolling out in limited release starring two of Malibu’s high-profile residents, actors Martin Sheen and Michael Madsen. “The Kid” kicks off its Los Angeles run on Saturday as part of the 14th annual Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival in Hollywood.

The independent film, a Mexico co-production between Harris’ company Rogue Arts and Miguel Necoechea’s Ivania Films, also stars Gustavo Sanchez Parra (“Amores Perros”) and Raul Mendez (“The Legend of Zorro”), and world boxing champion Marco Antonio Barrera, who plays himself.

The film’s producer, Don Franken, is also the executive director of the annual Method Fest, which just celebrated its 13th year in Calabasas as a thespian-centric film festival.

Franken admitted there was some concern regarding the violent crime plaguing Mexico in recent years as “The Kid” began shooting in Mexico City in late 2008.

“A lot of people told us, ‘You’re going to get kidnapped, you’re going to get robbed,’” Franken said. “We never encountered one major problem on the set or problems with crime.”

What the film crew did find on the streets of Mexico City was “the excitement, the buzz, the energy” of a restless metropolis.

“The biggest challenge,” Franken continued, regarding the five-week shoot, “was traffic going on in every direction. There’s always so much happening in Mexico City, but we got great cooperation from the police.”

Franken, who for 25 years has run World Class Sports, a sports talent and marketing firm, enjoyed his first foray as a film producer with 2009’s “The Violent Kind,” made for less than $200,000.

“Kid”’s budget is just shy of $2 million.

“What you have in Mexico is great government support for the film industry. We were able to tap into that. They probably gave close to $900,000 [of the budget],” Franken said.

Other investors include Radio One, Zetta Pictures (Justin Kim, owner of the Koreatown-based Modern Art Gallery) and Franken’s attorney, Bob Aronoff. Maya Entertainment (“Selena” producer Moctesuma Esparza’s company) became the film’s U.S. distribution and foreign sales agent.

“The Kid”’s premise has its origins with the amateur boxing experiences of its screenwriter/actor/ filmmaker Kirk Harris (“Loser”). Sheen (“The Departed”) plays the lead role of the father, Dr. Frank Irwin, while Madsen (“Kill Bill”) plays a boxing trainer.

“I tried to make the boxing scenes as realistic as possible, without jeopardizing the cinematic language,” director Miguel Necoechea told The Malibu Times from his native Mexico.

“The Kid” marks the directorial debut of Necoechea, an award-winning producer whose recent “Innocent Voices” was produced with Lawrence Bender (Quentin Tarantino’s producing partner) and whose “Profundo Carmesi” won the Mexican Ariel for best picture.

Necoechea recalled the day his producing partners approached him to helm “Kid.”

“I asked them for a few days to think about it,” he said. “I did do a very thoughtful examination of my capabilities and I found out I was ready to be a director … after nearly 30 years of being a filmmaker!”

Necoechea starts shooting another Harris screenplay, the Western “Here Lies Miguel Cervantes,” in November.

Both the film’s producer and director enjoyed collaborating with the Malibu-based actors.

“Martin liked the script immediately,” Franken said of the “Apocalypse Now” star. “On set, Martin is one of the most gracious people. He’s just a fascinating storyteller. He was on the set in Mexico City for three solid weeks.

“Michael was there for a short period, he had a smaller part. He’s somebody who can turn on the intensity like a light bulb.”

“Michael is a great actor, so it was not a difficult task to have him develop his trainer character after a few hours of conversation between the two of us,” Necoechea said, and “Martin was such an easy person to work with. He helped…get beautiful and strong performances from all of the actors, especially with the up-and-coming Mexican actors.”

Even Franken caught the acting bug: “I had a little role as a boxing announcer. Michael said, ‘Yeah, you did fine, Don, but don’t give up your day job!’ I mean, for me to act in front of Michael Madsen!”

For more information on the movie’s premiere at the L.A. Latino International Film Festival, visit

“The Kid: Chamaco” runs Aug. 27-Sept. 2 at Mann Chinese 6 Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Contact: 323.464.6266; A second run follows Sept. 3-9 at MPARK 4 Multiplex Cinemas, 3240 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Contact: 213.384.7080;

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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