Mart draws execs looking for Latin American fare

Last year, at the first Ventana Sur mart for Latin American movies, organizers expected 500-600 participants.

But the mart’s backers, Argentina’s INCAA Film Institute and Cannes Marche, were surprised when 1,400 turned up, including 700 film execs.

Never have so many top-level film players gathered together under one Latin American roof.

And while the debut market was a success, VS, which runs Dec. 3-6, is introducing several improvements.

The mart’s screening venues, a 400-title digital library and market are all located at or next to the central Cinemark Puerto de Madero eight-plex, rather than, as in 2009, being a 20-minute taxi ride apart.

Screenings — close to 80 films vs. 42 in 2009 — run through four days, rather than three last year, says VS co-director Jerome Paillard.

“You get interesting Latin American films that hardly any sales agents have seen, because nobody’s pushing them,” Paillard says.

Eight European producers looking to shoot in Latin America will pitch projects to facilities houses and potential co-production partners (see sidebar). Primer Corte, a films-in-progress showcase, will give cash prizes to be used for post-production.

“Of Gods and Men” opens European Film Week, presented by Cannes delegate general Thierry Fremaux. Unspooling Nov. 30-Dec. 8, the Week focuses on films acquired but yet to be released in Argentina, such as “Waiting for Eric” and “Enter the Void.”

Some 300 sales agents and buyers will attend VS, on par with last year’s event. European shingles Wild Bunch, Pyramide Intl., Elle Driver, Memento, Funny Balloons and Bavaria will all screen films.

But the Latin American presence is up, with 100-150 regional companies expected, says INCAA prexy Liliana Mazure.

The uptick reflects current market dynamics.

“Latin America still doesn’t have many distributors for Latin American films and even fewer international sales companies,” says Mazure. But at VS, local producers can sit down with key international players.

Ventana Sur the market is one thing, but the international market for Latin American pic exports another. Here, trends appear to be playing in their favor.

Traditionally, Latin America’s films often play well at fests but very rarely rack up substantial sales. Recently, however, some deals for titles have been eye-catching.

Wild Bunch sold “We Are What We Are” to 20-plus territories; “The Silent House,” handled by Elle Driver, went to 30; Pyramide’s “Leap Year,” a Ventana Sur discovery, has closed 22. The Memento-licensed “Puzzle” was a Berlin sales hit.

One factor upping interest from abroad is the fact that this year marks Latin America’s definitive leap into genre: “What We Are” and “House,” both horror, played Cannes; in Mexico, production shingle Canana created scarefare distrib division Tangente; Miami-based sales company Ondamax has created a genre label.

“The urban wave of new talent from Mexico City, Sao Paulo or Bogota was 15-25 years old when ‘Blair Witch Project’ was released,” says Ondamax’s Eric Mathis.

Now 25-35, they see genre, where Spanish or Portuguese-language barriers are reduced, as a way into the international market, he adds.

“Spanish-speaking genre movies are more of an easy sale,” says Wild Bunch’s Gael Nouaille.

But, he adds, citing “Leap Year,” there’s still room for quality arthouse, and “solid arthouse still performs.”

Solid arthouse is, indeed, becoming ever more solid.

Latin American and European producers are bulking up budgets via co-production.

Two strongly selling cases illustrate that point: Period romp “Lope,” co-produced by Brazil’s Conspiracao, and Iciar Bollain’s “Even the Rain,” co-produced by Mexico’s Alebrije.

Thanks, above all, to tax breaks, Latin American producers can bring ever greater sums to the table.

On “The Mountain,” a Brazil-Italy-Portugal World War II drama, Brazil’s Tres Mundos and Primo put up 60% of a ?3.3 million ($4.6 million) budget.

“With all the support mechanisms we now have in Brazil, producers can take much stronger positions in co-productions,” says Andre Sturm, director general of government-backed film promo org Cinema do Brasil.

A second burgeoning market for Latin American films is the U.S.

“Over the past 12 months, TV channels, distributors and investors are suddenly looking for more Spanish-language films as they work more specific audience segments,” notes Paillard.

That said, exporting Latin American movies is no slam dunk. Only select titles sell well, laments one Latin American sales agent.

“Latin American films must still boost their sales to the rest of Latin America,” says Mazure.

But many of Latin America’s film industries are only now on the rebound, or finding their feet.

Subsidy programs rebooted the biz in Argentina and Mexico over the last decade. As a consistent production force, Colombia’s got a boost from a 2003 film law, says producer Diego Ramirez.

Five years ago, “there was one film faculty in Colombia, now there are six or seven.”

Approximately half the films screening at Ventana Sur are feature debuts.

Primer Corte received 104 applications. The section’s “a novelty for Latin America, both in its filtering productions and its power of attraction for sales agents who can distribute the films worldwide,” says VS co-director Bernardo Bergeret.

ALSO IN THIS FEATURE:
Window on growth | Doc event draws Euros, Latin Americans together | Growth market | Up next | Screening guide

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