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Argentine film biz flourishes

47 local pics preem, best in half-century

Despite an ongoing recession and the economic difficulties of the national film institute, INCAA, 2000 was a vintage year for Argentine cinema.

For starters, 47 local films premiered, a level of activity not seen for almost 50 years. Four of them also made the top 10 in B.O., led by “Papa Es un Idolo,” which came in second with almost 1.4 million tickets sold. The film, produced by Sonofilm, is a lightweight vehicle for local star Guillermo Francella, but farther down the list there were some more edifying spectacles.

“Nueve Reinas,” from debut helmer Fabian Bielinsky for leading local studio Patagonik, was the fourth most popular pic on the local circuit, with almost 1.3 million tickets sold. “Plata Quemada,” by vet helmer Marcelo Pineyro, attracted a respectable 620,000 viewers and picked up Spain’s Goya for best foreign Spanish-language film.

Jorge Sabate, head of development at INCAA, says 20% of local B.O. went to home-produced films, one of the highest proportions outside the U.S. and France. The upturn in the local industry is partly due to the replacement of the institute’s much maligned former administration at the end of 1999.

Although the outgoing officials left a deficit of $31 million, Sabate says the new directors have managed to pay outstanding grants to finish films stranded in post-production and begin others.

The new troupe has also concentrated on promoting Argentine films abroad and have been rewarded with prizes at fests including Madrid, Toulouse, Cartagena, Valladolid, Biarritz and Vina del Mar.

The health of the local industry is being assisted by a batch of young helmers who are producing films on diverse topics and in wide-ranging styles, Sabate says.

The latest hit is Lucrecia Martel’s “La Cienaga,” which will premiere locally this month, after winning the prize for best debut at the Berlin Intl. Film Festival. Pic was partly funded by winning best script in a Sundance Institute contest, a feat repeated this year by another Argentine, Daniel Burman.

As further evidence of the vibrancy of the local scene, three other leading lights from Argentina’s new wave of directors, Pablo Trapero, Pablo Reyero and Adrian Caetano, were also among the 22 finalists.

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