Better funding powers film ambitions

Often a springboard for pics and projects from Latin America’s up and coming helmers, Berlin also attracts talented Latino producers. Their aims at Berlin, along with those of Latin American sales agents, reveal much about the region’s potential growth as a market and as a production powerhouse.

Spurred by government coin and private investors, production is robust across the region with gems emerging even from small countries such as Bolivia and Guatemala.

However, these have to be really outstanding films to sell in the international arena, especially the Mexican-dominant U.S. market, said Eric Mathis, CEO-founder of Ondamax. His shingle is taking its own discovery, Brazilian helmer Raphael Aguinada’s Spanish-lingo debut “The Uprising” (La Sublevacion), shot in Argentina, for its market debut in Berlin. Dramedy explores what happens when a cloned Jesus descends on a nursing home.

“Latin American films may showcase some great talent but international distributors know they can tap subsidies when they buy films from Spain, for example,” said Guido Rud, CEO of Argentine-based FilmSharks Intl.

To offset that advantage, Brazil has upped its p&a incentive from $15,000 to $25,000 each for 15 approved Brazilian pics. Buyers from Japan, Korea, the U.S. and Colombia have used this perk, now in its fourth year, in the past.

“We supported the release of Oscar-nominated documentary ‘Waste Land’ last year, for instance,” said Andre Sturm at film export board Cinema do Brasil. “Waste Land” took the Panorama Audience Award and Amnesty Intl. Film Prize at the 2010 Berlinale.

“People are not rushing to see Latin American films but once they do, they want to see more,” said Alex Garcia of FiGa Films, which is selling Brazilian road movie “Look at Me Again,” screening in Panorama, and “Bestaire,” playing in Forum, plus its new lineup led by Bolivia’s “The Parents” by Martin Boulocq and Mexican Matias Meyer’s “The Last Christeros.”

Latin American cinema is “better than ever,” says FiGa partner Sandro Fiorin. “More funding means a lot more films of all kinds; more choices,” he adds.

“Films with a good cast and fest pedigree will have a better chance at selling, of course,” said Elias Axume of L.A.-based Maya Intl., who’s taking four pics to the European Film Market, including Sundance Next selection “Mosquita y Mari” and doomsday comedy “It’s a Disaster” starring Julia Stiles and America Ferrera, still in post.

FilmSharks is amping up its remake division, launched in 2007, to diversify its revenue sources. It is selling rights to some 20 international pics including Marcos Carnevale’s “Widows” and Beto Gomez’s “Saving Private Perez,” a Mexican B.O. hit released by Lionsgate-Televisa joint venture Pantelion in the U.S.

More Latino producers are warming up to co-productions, with European-Latino pacts either being renewed or drawn up.

Backed by a strong local currency and generous subsidies and incentives, Brazilian producers, in particular, have become more active co-producers. “Five years ago, there were an average of three co-productions a year in Brazil; now we’ve heard of 25 co-productions in the pipeline,” said Conspiracao Filmes partner Leonardo de Barros.

Conspiracao is prepping German-Brazilian co-production “Bach in Brazil” with a year-end target shoot date. “We plan to make one international co-production a year,” said de Barros, who is also looking closer to home, Colombia, for further co-production possibilities.

Colombian helmer Ciro Guerra’s “Embrace of the Serpent” is among Latino projects seeking European co-producers at Berlin’s Co-production Market. Guerra’s third pic will shoot in the Colombian Amazon next year and has already received coin from Colombian, Ibermedia and Hubert Bals film funds.

“Brazil and Colombia are the darlings of Latin America at the moment,” said Cristian Conti, CEO of Colombia’s Dynamo Capital, which oversees a private equity fund.

Plans unveiled last year to launch a second large pic fund have been shelved as the weakened world economy has forced some investors to retrench.

“We launched a smaller revolving fund to back an annual average of three to five pics shooting in Colombia,” said Conti who will be trawling for co-production possibilities at the Berlinale.

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