Latin American film market predicts regional boom

Is there still a Latin American word for crisis?

If so, it was hard to find it uttered at the panels, meetings or tango evenings at Buenos Aires’ second Ventana Sur market.

While November’s American Film Market augured a contraction in the international indie film biz at large, a month later at Ventana Sur, a dedicated Latin American film mart organized by Cannes’ Marche and Argentina’s Incaa, the key question was not if, but when and how Latin America’s film industry would grow.

“Like ’70s Hong Kong, ’90s Korea (and) Nordic cinema early last decade, Latin American cinema now rates as the most creative and varied out there,” San Sebastian Fest director Jose Luis Rebordinos said at the market.

Added FilmSharks’ Guido Rud: Compared with 2009, “the international market has partly woken up again.”

A clutch of Latin America titles in 2010 — “Leap Year,” “We Are What We Are,” “The Silent House” — sold in numerous foreign territories, often to high-caliber buyers.

And Latin American industries are bulking up, in production levels, distribution structures, directors’ profiles, budgets and production of more accessible mainstream titles:

nKey Latin America pic vendors are becoming “micro-majors” and opening up domestic distribution arms, such as Ondamax Stateside, FiGa and Latinofusion in Mexico, UMedia in France.

nWith Mexico, Argentina and Brazil already on the radar, sales orgs are scouring other emerging cinemas: At Ventana Sur, the Match Factory made just one pick-up — Tania Hermida’s “En el nombre de la hija,” from Ecuador.

nRegional film hubs are consolidating — in Brazil’s Minas Gerais and Recife, and in Argentina’s second city, Cordoba, all energetically present at Ventana Sur.

nBrazil is burgeoning: At least 20 new films from the nation will make a splash, FiGa’s Sandro Fiorin said.

Mid-market, Brazil and Argentina launched an $800,000 fund for four co-productions a year: Argentina can benefit from Brazilian incentives of up to $5.5 million per pic; Brazil needs Spanish-language pics to reach wider Latin American auds.

Export agency Cinema do Brasil alone brought 53 execs to Ventana Sur, CinemaChile featured a 47-attendee delegation.

Non-Argentine Latin America participants were “way up” compared with 2009, at around 150, Ventana Sur co-director Bernardo Bergeret said.

With so many producers in town, sales agents moved swiftly on choice titles: FiGa, especially active, inked world rights to Brasilia Fest winner “The Sky Above,” as well as Vinicius Reis’ family loss drama “Resurgence” and docu-fiction hybrid “Yatasto”; Rendez-Vous closed on Marco Berger’s brooding sexual repression drama “Absent”; Ondamax acquired magical-realist immigration tale “A Stone’s Throw Away” and Fina Torres’ sassy Cuba allegory “Habana Eva.”

Argentina’s Americine repped Alvaro Curiel’s comedy “Acorazado,” the Morelia Audience Award winner.

The biggest Latin American pic deals announced at Ventana Sur were Funny Balloons’ multiple-territory sales on Pablo Larrain’s “Post Mortem,” including

the U.K. (to Network) and France (Memento).

Some of the most interesting business looked to be off-market between sales agents/producers and sought-after young Latin American producers — potentially the first steps in tentative, project-by-project, talent-driven alliances. “It’s very likely we’ll acquire one or two projects we discussed in Ventana Sur,” Wild Bunch’s Gael Nouaille said.

The event also suggested Latin American filmmaking is diversifying fast: There was no single favorite among Primer Corte rough-cut titles, and they played to decidedly distinct demos.

Most-watched pics ranged from Yulena Olaizola’s oddball friendship tale “Artificial Paradises” to Hernan Belon’s classic arthouse existential drama “In the Open” to Nacho Garassino’s more mainstream “Tunnel of Bones,” a prison-break ensembler with political undertones.

Ventana Sur ran Dec. 3-6.

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