Huelva Ibero-American film fest kicks off

Not far from where Christopher Columbus set off for the Indies, Huelva hosts Europe’s oldest confab dedicated to movies from Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

The 36th Huelva Ibero-American film fest offers a bountiful bevy of first-timers and second works in its fifth installment under director Eduardo Trias.

First works include Daniel and Diego Vega’s dramedy “Octubre,” Marcel Rasquin’s “Hermano” (depicting two sibs’ soccer dreams) and Ruben Mendoza’s “The Stoplight Society,” about the shenanigans of a street-savvy peasant.

“Hermano” has become Venezuela’s hit of the year, grossing $1.5 million. As for “Octubre,” sales agent U Media reports 11 territory sales so far, including the U.S., France, Germany, Canada and Brazil.

Huelva world-preems two features in the “Libertadores” movie collection: Fernando Perez’s “El ojo del canario,” on Cuban revolutionary poet Jose Marti, and Antonio Serrano’s “Hidalgo,” about priest Miguel Hidalgo, who lead Mexico’s struggle for independence.

Fest also unspools latest works from established helmers: Matias Bize’s second-chance drama “The Life of Fish,” Maria Novarro’s Alzheimer family drama “The Good Herbs,” and Diego Lerman’s secondary school-set repression allegory “The Invisible Eye,” a Directors’ Fortnight player.

The 36th Huelva rolls off Latin America’s rapidly expanding film industry, says Trias.

Several factors are in play, he adds: New technologies that are making it easier and cheaper to make movies, young helmers who are now trained all around the world and governments — in Colombia, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, for instance — that have stepped up regulatory support for local filmmaking.

The net result, Trias claims, is “an unprecedented production boom.”

Stats bear him out. In Colombia, 12 local pics opened theatrically last year vs. just four in 2002.

In Argentina, domestic films increased their market share at the box office from 11.9% in 2008 to 16% last year, thanks in part to “The Secret in Their Eyes.” In Mexico meanwhile, the local industry is benefiting from the strengthened Article 226 tax incentive program.

The outlook for distribution and exhibition is less certain, however.

“In Europe, if you have a good feature, you’ll always find a theater,” says Jose Maria Morales at Wanda, which produced “Libertadores” with Lusa Films and pubcaster TVE. He stresses, however, that support from TV is essential for success.

“Every competition movie this year is a standout, a high point in their national production,” Trias concludes.

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