Showcase fast tracks foreign talents

Encuentros seeks new Ibero-American voices

When Nicole Guillemet and Diana Sanchez founded the Encuentros Program in 2003, it was based on a simple idea: “I wanted to create a place where Spanish and Latin American filmmakers could meet and network,” Sanchez says. “I saw how successful Cinemart at the Rotterdam Festival was, and I realized that we obviously needed something similar.”

Six years later, the vibrant Encuentros program has become a key event, giving emerging Ibero-American filmmakers the opportunity to present projects to U.S. and international industry professionals. But while it’s grown rapidly in popularity, the program has also never lost sight of its initial goal and focus.

“We showcase just nine projects each year, so it’s not too big and too crazy,” notes Madrid-based Sanchez, who also programs Toronto’s Latin American films. “I travel all over the world — and spent four months in South America alone last year — looking for great projects.”

The result? An eclectic lineup that includes projects from Spain, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile and the U.S.

“Agua y sal” (Water and Salt) “is about doppelgangers,” says Argentinean director Alejo Taube, while Spanish director Rafa Cortes calls his “Dakota Dream” “an absurd comedy, sometimes light, sometimes dark and sometimes surrealistic.”

“We even have two animated features, which is a first,” Sanchez notes.

“Nacidos bajo el fuego” (Born Under Fire) grew out of Colombian director Jairo Eduardo Carrillo’s 2003 short animated documentary “Little Voices,” while American Richard Goldgewicht’s “Pablo” uses animation, comic art, motion graphics and narration by Jeff Bridges.

Successful alumni include Bogota-based filmmaker Andi Baiz, who brought his script for “Satanas” to Encuentros in ’06.

“It was very helpful as we met producers and distributors who gave us great advice on the U.S. market,” he recalls.

Baiz then went off to shoot the film, bringing the result to MIFF last year.

“All the networking also really helped grow Dynamo Capital, our company,” adds Baiz, who’s currently in L.A. casting his next project, “Babylon,” an English-language indie set in Jamaica.

Chilean director Gonzalo Justiniano is also returning to the festival with the world premiere of his new film, “Lokas,” “a humorous look at intolerance in macho Latin society,” he says. “I took 10 minutes of the unfinished film to Encuentros last year, did a lot of meetings. Three were so important as they got us the financing to finish it, and other contacts helped us actually make the film.”

Justiniano sold the U.S. and French rights to London-based Lucky Monkey Prods. while at Encuentros. “Then we signed contracts at Cannes.”

And last year Colombian director Carlos Moreno and producer Diego Ramirez showed a two-minute trailer of their project “Perro come perro” (Dog Eat Dog), getting “great feedback and advice, which really helped us as we were in the middle of editing,” Ramirez reports. “We then took our finished film to Sundance ’08, got a great reception and sold it to (French company) Celluloid Dreams. Now we’re in the main competition at Miami.”

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