Buenos Aires mart has Cannes connection

BUENOS AIRES Never have so many high-caliber film players gathered in Latin America as for the first edition of Ventana Sur, the Nov. 27-30 film mart that marked a kind of coming of age for region’s film biz.

Co-exec directors Bernardo Bergeret and Jerome Paillard originally forecast 500-600 participants, and saw attendance grow to more than 1,400.

Ventana Sur got a lot of things right. A key drawing card was having the Cannes imprimatur in the mix: The Cannes market was a co-organizer along with Argentina’s Incaa Film Institute. Cannes topper Thierry Fremaux programmed and hosted a parallel European Film Week.

It also didn’t hurt that in these tough economic times, Ventana Sur covered all travel costs.

And even better, plenty of business got done.

While Incaa prexy Liliana Mazure maintained that only a small percentage of Latin American films screen at major fests, Mark Adams of London’s ICA films noted that Ventana Sur offered the opportunity to take the time to properly delve into a wide selection of contemporary Latin American cinema.

Multiple deals were done, announced or, more often, initiated.

Sales traction came on a range of titles from specialty Latin American film sales agents: Latido’s “The Secret in Their Eyes,” Latinofusion’s “Nora’s Will,” FilmShark’s “A Boyfriend For My Wife,” Primer Plano’s “Paco,” Ondamax’s “Deseo.”

Of brand new titles, only one really lit a fire: Michael Rowe’s rough-cut “Leap Year,” judged to be a highly marketable sex drama-romance. By market close, four sales agents were circling.

Other titles played to applause or buyer interest: “To the Sea,” “Undertow,” “Leo’s Room,” “A Bad Day to Go Fishing,” “Vaho,” and rough-cuts “Lean and Mean Cows,” “Aballay,” “Roman” and “Los viejos.”

Ventana Sur’s larger, longterm achievement, however, will probably be to encourage strategic initiatives and partnerships addressing the challenges of Latin America’s international distribution.

“You automatically get more strategic cooperation by bringing like-minded people interested in doing business with Latin America to one place,” producer Jason Resnick said.

The mart highlighted specific initiatives.

Teaming with Celluloid Dream’s Hengameh Panahi, the E.U. Media Program is now supporting the distribution of European films outside Europe as well as the distribution of non-European titles — including Latin American pics — within Europe. First-year funding runs at E700,000 ($1.05 million).

A bevy of Argentinean producers announced co-productions: Eduardo Costantini’s Costa Films with Italy’s Produzione Straordinaria on Luis Ortega’s “Esto tambien pasara,” adapting a Yukio Mishima short story; Maiz Producciones with Mexico’s Producciones Corazon on two pics, the first Carlos Bolado’s “Tlatelolco.”

“If there’s more collaboration between Latin America and those countries where people are more cynical but have stronger industries, you’d be surprised what people will come up with,” Panahi said.

“This is only the first year,” said Paillard, signaling Ventana Sur will try to attract more U.S. execs in 2010.

Nearly all buyers polled by Variety said they’d like to come back. The Cannes market’s Cinando website will stream Ventana Sur movies through January to buyers.

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