Young Latin American filmmakers flock to fest's discovery programs

MEXICO CITY — While the Guadalajara Film Festival attracted high-profile Latin American players, two sidebar incubator programs were hot tickets for industry attendees.

The Guadalajara Construye and the Ibero-American Coproduction Meeting are gaining more attention, thanks in part to such projects as “The Cinema Hold Up,” “Summer of Goliath” and “A Ticket to Paradise,” which emerged from last year’s GC to gather momentum on the festival circuit.

The programs are becoming increasingly competitive and, for producers and other industryites in attendance, represent an opportunity to find not only great projects but emerging talent.

“It’s the people behind the projects,” says producer Leonardo Zimbron, a former Warner Bros. exec. “When I worked for Warner, (the sidebars were) interesting not only for the products but for the people, because we were looking for good directors and writers.”

Each sidebar represented films at a particular stage in development.

Focusing on films at the script phase, this year’s Coproduction Meeting ran March 27-29 and brought industry and talent together to review 30 projects from 11 countries in Latin America and Spain; those 30 entries were whittled down from 200 submissions reviewed by a blue-ribbon industry committee. Previous projects in that category include festival laureates like “Nora’s Will,” “Bad Day to Go Fishing” and “Cold Water of the Sea.”

Noting how the Coproduction Meeting complements other market events like the pitching market, Zimbron says, “With so many industry people around, it’s possible to do a complete (deal). … There is less risk to buy a script.”

For many working in developing areas of the region, the possibility of winning the Coproduction Meeting’s Churubusco Prize, worth between $40,000 and $120,000, is their only shot in realizing their project.

This year, Chile’s “The Quispe Girls” took the honor.

Directed by documentary filmmaker Sebastian Sepulveda (“El Arenal”), “Girls” is produced by Pablo Larrain and Juan de Dios Larrain’s Santiago de Chile-based art pic powerhouse Fabula.

Set in 1974, as Chile fell under the grip of Agustin Pinochet’s military authorities, “Girls” turns on the middle-aged sisters Justa, Lucia and Luciana, who are Coya shepherds living on the Chilean highlands.

The film already had $150,000 in backing from France’s Fonds Sud.

Juan Ignacio Correa and de Dios Larrain produce for Fabula. Other projects generating buzz at the Meeting include “Level With the Sky” by Spain’s Horacio Alcala, “What They Called Love” by Carlos Cesar Arbelaez, and Mexican-Dutch project “Dream in Another Language,” by Ernesto Contreras.

Festival industry director Andrea Stavenhagen adds that being accepted into the Coproduction Meeting is no guarantee of getting into the coveted GC program; however, “We keep an eye on the work (coming out of the meeting).”

Three projects made it into GC this year from the Coproduction Meeting: Mexico’s “La cebra,” directed by Jose Fernando Javier Leon; Colombia’s “La Sargento Matacho,” directed by William Gonzalez Zafra; and Guatemala’s “Polvo,” helmed by Julio Hernandez Cordon.

Stavenhagen notes how the growth of pic mart Ventana Sur has resulted in a shift in the projects’ origins.

“We have a ton from Colombia, and are seeing so many more from Central America — projects of all kinds. There are genre pics, portraits of Latin American life, other more personal projects, or even international projects. There is no recipe or profile,” says Stavenhagen.

Launched in 2007, Guadalajara Construye takes only six films from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean (including Colombia) that have completed principal photography. Stavenhagen noted the steady growth of competition for GC, with entries rising to 35 this year.

While GC also boasts many post-production prizes, including one tied to a pickup by Latinofusion, it offers an opportunity to see talent in the raw.

Zimbron’s own Filmadora, which he runs with Marco Polo Constandse and Avelino Rodriguez, offers its own prize tied to the GC.

“It is interesting to see who is behind these films,” says Zimbron. “You see the training of the director and the writers, because you see (a film) naked in this form, with almost no treatment.”

Zimbron adds that the GC is enhanced by the Coproduction Meeting, inasmuch as the Meeting reps projects at as they are being born.

“It is necessary to have both (the Coproduction Meeting and the GC),” Zimbron says. “If there were only Guadalajara Construye, it wouldn’t have the same potential.”

According to Stavenhagen, the personal touch with which projects are handled is the key to success for both the Coproduction meeting and GC.

“It’s become so hard to be so hands on with the project leaders … but this isn’t Berlin. This is personalized,” Stavenhagen says. “One of our harshest criticisms is when we fail to do this. Ultimately, we want (the filmmakers) to feel at home and want to return.”

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