NEW YORK — After a decade of belt-tightening measures, Venezuelan filmmakers are enjoying a miniboom in production.
Seven films are either finishing post-production or are slated for exhibition , while 10 new features are set to go before the camera.
In 1993, the government hiked the annual budget for Venezuela’s film institute, Foncine (Fondo de Fomento Cinematografico de Venezuela), from its previous 90 million bolivars ($ 810,000) to 500 million ($ 4.5 million), while new funds — from a 1992 tax applied to homevideo sales — are also destined to increased national production.
Last year, the federal government also passed a new film law, which creates a Film Center (Centro de Cinematografia) as part of the National Council on Culture, CONAC. Besides grouping together all cinema-related activities, this new entity will eventually incorporate and replace Foncine.
During the decade since Venezuela established Foncine in 1982, the institute produced 107 features and 125 shorts, participated in approximately 230 international festivals and received more than 100 awards internationally.
The new presidential administration of Rafael Caldera, which took office last month, has yet to name a head to the Film Center and so filmmakers are waiting to see which direction the new entity will take.
In the meantime, Foncine has given the green light to production funds for a half dozen new projects for this year.
Foncine has also been working to resolve an impasse with local exhibitors over back payments for its productions. For over two years, exhibitors have withheld domestic remittances and Foncine has pursued this matter in the courts.
The debt stands at around $ 1 million and Foncine director Ildemaro Torres has tendered an offer for exhibitors to reinvest these funds with 50% of the debt destined to updating and renovating cinemas and the other 50% for national production.
Foncine has also been attempting to open foreign markets by training personnel and preparing marketing material.
In addition, through the National Cinematheque, the institute has also organized Venezuelan film weeks in Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Mexico and Argentina to showcase product, and is currently preparing a major survey of films from the past four decades to tour the United States this year, which will include about 15 features and 15 shorts.
According to MoMA film curator Larry Kardish, the series will open at the Museum of Modern Art in October-November.
Foncine has greenlighted the following six projects for 1994:
“Tokyo Paraguaypoa,” by Leonardo Henriquez
“Despedida de Soltera” (“Bachelorette Party”), by Antonio Llerandi
“El Callejon de los Hombres” (“The Alley of Men”), by Luis Armando Roche
“Tosca, la Pelicula” (“Tosca, the Film”), by Ivan Feo
“El Tiro en la Espalda” (“A Bullet in the Back”), by Alfredo Lugo
“Antes de Morir” (“Before Dying”), by Pablo de la Barra.
In addition, the following indie projects are in pre-production: “Equivocacion Fatal” (“Fatal Mistake”), by Philippe Toledana; “Kontemporario” (“Contemporary”), by Diego Risquez, and “Radio Vencermos,” by Manuel de Pedro, about the guerrilla media group in El Salvador.
In post-production or awaiting exhibition are: “Mecanicas Celestes” (“Celestial Clockwork”), written and directed by Fina Torres and produced by Pandorados in co-production with France, Belgium and Spain; “El Movil Pasional” (“Passionate Inducement”), helmed by Mauricio Walerstein; and the Venezuelan-Colombian co-production “Sicario,” by Jose Novoa, dealing with young paid killers.
Currently in exhibition are: “En Territorio Extranjero” (“On a Foreign Field”), by Jacobo Penzo; “Montana de Cristal” (“Crystal Mountain”), by Joaquin Cortez, filmed in Venezuela’s Guyana jungles; “Roraima,” written and directed by Carlos Oteyza, and “Los Platos del Diablo” (“The Devil’s Plates”), by Thaelman Urgelles, co-written by Edelio Pena.