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“La Fortuna”: Alejandro Amenábar’s Series on the “Las Mercedes” Sunken Treasure

Soraya Fernández

Oscar winning Spanish-Chilean film director Alejandro Amenábar has begun filming the 6-part Movistar+ series “La Fortuna” in the Campo de Gibraltar.

The film revolves around the treasure aboard the Spanish warship “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes”, which was sunk in 1804, its subsequent salvage by Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. and its return to Spain.

La Fortuna Alejandro Amenabar La Linea de la Concepcion Gibraltar
Filming for La Fortuna, Directed by Alejandeo Amenábar, La Línea Gibraltar Frontier| ©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

Filming has already commenced in the Campo de Gibraltar for Alejandro Amenábar’s latest film (expected to be released in 2021), which revolves around the following premise: A lost trove of silver and gold coins aboard a sunken Spanish warship, treasure hunters, a deep-sea diving operation conducted from the Port of Gibraltar and then the treasure’s forced return to Spain.

This is for the “La Fortuna” (“The Fortune”) series, based on the graphic novel “El Tesoro del Cisne Negro” (“The Black Swan’s Treasure”) which was illustrated by Paco Roca and written by Spanish diplomat Guillermo Corral, which was inspired by the story of the Spanish frigate “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes”. The Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc company named this mission the “Black Swan Project”.

Cinse Negro

The vessel contained no less than half a million silver and gold coins which was highly sought after for over two centuries, and this is the focal point for Amenábar’s debut series. The treasure is currently valued at $500 million, and it was recovered by Spain a few years ago after an intense legal battle.

Amenábar began filming in the Campo de Gibraltar; Algeciras and at the customs area of La Línea de la Concepción where the filming took place in the early morning of the 2nd of September, which saw film extras from all over the Campo de Gibraltar participating.

La Fortuna Alejandro Amenabar La Linea de la Concepcion Gibraltar
Filming for La Fortuna, Directed by Alejandeo Amenábar, La Línea Gibraltar Frontier| ©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

The Spanish filmmaker was drawn to the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes story, and its treasure, to which he has deployed his formidable qualities as a film maker to create this miniseries that combines adventure and investigation. Amenábar’s talent precedes him, winning an Oscar in 2005 for “Mar Adentro”, nine Goya awards and has won many other honours in recognition for his work, which is another reason not to miss out on this film.

The Upcoming Series: “La Fortuna”

La Fortuna Alejandro Amenabar La Linea de la Concepcion Gibraltar
Extras attend filming for La Fortuna, Directed by Alejandeo Amenábar, La Línea Gibraltar Frontier | ©Fran Montes, ReachExtra

“La Fortuna” (“The Fortune”), is a six-part series lasting 45 minutes per episode and stars Álvaro Mel and Ana Polvorosa. The cast includes two Americans, Stanley Tucci and Clarke Peters, along with Karra Elejalde, Blanca Portillo and Pedro Casablanc, Manolo Soro from Algeciras, and the Cadiz-born actress Ana López Segovia. Ana Jiménez Beatty, from La Línea, is in charge of location hunting in the South.

The protagonist of the film is Alex Ventura, a young diplomat who leads an elite mission to recover the sunken treasure from a treasure hunter named Frank Wild. Lucia, a highly assertive civil servant, and lawyer Jonas Pierce, help the protagonist on his adventure.

Alejandro Amenabar
MADRID, SPAIN – January 11, 2020: Red Carpet – Jose Maria Forque Awards 2020. Alejandro Amenábar | By Luis Javier Villalba

Produced by Movistar+ and the North American AMC Studios, in collaboration with MOD Pictures, it will be released exclusively in Spain and then the United Kingdom, the United States and Latin America.

After touring several locations in Cádiz and other parts of Spain, the filming will end in the United States.

But it is the story that undoubtedly has all the ingredients for captivating an audience: a plot filled with intrigue, diplomacy and court battles revolving around the greatest sunken treasure in history.

Diving Deep into the History

La Fortuna Alejandro Amenabar La Linea de la Concepcion Gibraltar
Four British frigates attack the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes 1804 | Francis Sartorius jr. – National Maritime Museum

The Spanish warship “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes” was sunk in 1804 at Cape Santa María during a confrontation which saw four British ships attempting to capture its valuable cargo.

According to the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology of the Spanish Ministry of Culture, which is the designated depositary of the ship’s cargo by virtue of a Ministerial Order of the Spanish Government, in August 1804 the ships La Clara, La Fama, La Medea and Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes left for Cádiz from Montevideo.

“After a smooth voyage, with only a few issues such as the crew suffering from fevers, the Spanish ship was overtaken by a British squadron made up of the ships called Indefatigable, Lively, Amphion and Medusa, led by Commodore Graham Moor – with only one day of sailing left. After a brief exchange, the British squad attacked the Spanish ship for refusing to surrender, the English had no right to attack since they were in a time of peace. Within five minutes of the battle, a cannon ball hit the Mercedes magazine, where the gunpowder was stored, resulting in an explosion which sank the ship. After this loss, and despite the fact that the battle continued for a while longer, the rest of the Spanish warships were captured and taken to Plymouth port, where the cargo was requisitioned by England”, states the Spanish museum website.

La Fortuna Alejandro Amenabar La Linea de la Concepcion Gibraltar

As a direct consequence of the encounter, the peace treaty between England and Spain ended; this was a prelude to the Battle of Trafalgar.

Two centuries later, on May 18, 2007, the American “Odyssey Marine Exploration” company announced that it had obtained and transported a shipment of coins to the United States, some 500,000 gold and silver coins, although they had not released details about which ship they had recovered them from.

The Odyssey’s base of operations for the search and recovery of the treasure was in the Port of Gibraltar as well as in Spain. Due to the location where the treasure was found, a legal battle in the US courts ensued, where the company was found to have extracted the cargo from a Spanish shipwreck.

On February 14, 2012, the US courts held that the shipment would be returned to Spain. It weighed 14 tones and was shipped from Florida back to Spain via two Hercules planes, and then deposited at the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

Several other items which were recovered from the warship which the Odyssey had left in Gibraltar were also returned that year in compliance with the judge’s ruling which forced the Odyssey to return all materials which had been salvaged. As reported by the Spanish Ministry of Culture, these items included fragments of ceramic and glass vases, lenses, textile purses, metal buckles, lead bullets, gold cufflinks and other personal belongings.

The items were of little market value but bear great archaeological importance.

But Odyssey had also left coins in Gibraltar, which had been embargoed by the Gibraltar Courts following a claim filed by five of the heirs of the La Mercedes passengers, a cache which was returned to Spain a year later.

The Ship’s Cargo

Greg Stemm and a project manager exploring a shipwreck site | Oddie26

Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes transported products and effects registered by the accountants of the Royal Customs of Lima, among which are about two million pesos in coins, silver and gold (972,480 pesos in coins, of which 5,809 were gold coins; 950,621 in silver and 415 Castilian gold).

From Royal Customs of Lima’s records, the rest of the products and merchandise that were transported on the Spanish frigate consisted of a triplicate box of gold and silver consignments minted at the Royal Mint of Lima in 1803; 403 bars of copper and 1964 of tin, and two decommissioned bronze cannons, among the findings.

Without a doubt, this is a film to watch.

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