Feature debuts from Latin America earn kudos

Madrid– Two promising Latin American feature debuts, Marcel Rasquin’s “Brother” and Ruben Mendoza’s “The Stoplight Society” topped a busy 36th Huelva Ibero-American Fest.

Soccer drama “Brother” scored twice, taking fest’s top Golden Colombus and best pic at a parallel showcase unspooling at the Huelva Provincial Penitentiary.

The top Colombus can been regarded as a thumbs-up for the social issue entertainment pics favored by many new Latin American directors, here an aspirational tale of two bros’ soccer dreams set – fatefully – on Caracas’ mean streets.

Already Venezuela’s Foreign-Language Oscar submission, and a pic and audience award winner at June’s Moscow Fest, “Brother”‘s new kudos will stand it in good stead as its producers negotiate a foreign sales agents deal.

“Stoplight,” about the shenanigans of a streetwise peasant, scooped Huelva’s special jury and first feature plaudits.

“Huelva isn’t about only screening established directors. ‘Stoplight’

is a lower-profile but magnificent risk-taking film, the kind of title we really like,” Huelva fest director Eduardo Trias told Daily Variety.

Matias Bize and Julio Rojas won screenplay for the best received Competition player in fest’s second half, the Bize-helmed b.f/g.f reencounter drama “The Life of Fish” – recognition for the craft behind Bize’s often seemingly real-time and improvised relationship dramas.

Otherwise, Huelva’s biggest winner was the Spanish movie collection “Libertadores,” turning on Latin American freedom fighters. Produced by Spain’s Wanda, Lusan and pubcaster TVE, “Libertadores” firmed up its theatrical credentials with director Cuba’s Fernando Perez – and cinematography – Raul Perez Ureta – for “Jose Marti: El ojo del canario,” the life drama of the Cuban poet, revolutionary and martyr, and actor for Demian Bichir for his polemical turn in “Hidalgo, la historia jamas contada” as a sensuous, art-loving priest, Miguel Hidalgo, the father of Mexican independence. “Hidalgo” received a standing ovation at its gala screening in Huelva.

New government regs curb Spanish subsidies on international co-productions to box office hits or projects which source at least

Euros1.5 million ($2.0 million) of private-sector investment from Spain. That discourages usually low-budget Spain-Latin American co-productions.

That said, Huelva’s 11th Co-Production Forum, which ran Thursday through Saturday, saw one of the biggest turnouts in years of higher-profile Latin American directors and producers.

On an anecdotal level, among projects fielding most meetings were Colombia’s “Los funerales,” produced by Diego Ramirez’s 64ª Films, Mexico’s “El Anima,” moved by director Rafael Luna (“La milagrosa”) and Spain’s “La senda,” produced by Victoria Alberca.

Also creating interest: “El vientre,” with Peru’s Daniel Rodriguez set to helm, Argentine Matias Bertilotti’s “El hombre inconcluso,”

“Bendita calamidad” from Spain’s Imval Producciones, and Chilean Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’ “Sentados frente al fuego.”

Screening films from Spain, Portugal and Latin America, fest ran Nov. 13 to 20.

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