Regional showcases highlight Latin American talent

GUADALAJARA, MEXICO — If one deal characterizes the 27th Guadalajara festival, it’s the one for competition player “Juan of the Dead.”

The zombie comedy by soph Cuban helmer Alejandro Brugues was sold to Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna and Pablo Cruz’s Canana for Mexico and Central America by Latinofusion within a day of its bow at the fest; Canana will release “Juan” via its genre label Tangente.

Much of the buzz at the festival had been made by genre pics, first and second movie projects, and young producers and distributors.

“Latin America is like Asia 15 years ago, a rising territory for new talent,” Urban Distribution Intl.’s Eric Schnedecker said at Guadalajara, which unspooled March 2-10.

Pushed forward this year to early March, Guadalajara came hard on the heels Colombia’s Cartagena Fest, and clashed with the Miami Fest and Unifrance’s New York Rendez-vous.

While the number of sales agents and higher-profile Latin American producers and pay TV execs declined from the 2011 edition, this allowed those that made the trip more time with tyro producers like Ozcar Ramirez, whose shingle Arte Mecanica (“Days of Grace”) confirmed that its next high-octane actioner, “Sealed Cargo,” a five-way international co-production, begins lensing March 26. Chile’s Parox and Promocine talked up, respectively, sci-fi thriller “Maoa” and historical epic “Besieged,” both TV series/movie projects.

Teen sexual identity tale “Uio,” by Ecuador’s Micaela Rueda, proved a popular winner of the Co-Production Meeting’s Churusbusco Recognition, a prize worth up to $115,000 in services. Big city corruption drama “Gonzalez,” from Mexico’s Christian Diaz, was the Meeting’s runner-up.

Other projects attracting attention at the Co-Production Meeting were serial killer thriller “Belzebuth,” from Mexico’s Emilio Portes; feature doc “Tus padres volveran,” from Uruguay’s Pablo Martinez Pessi; and Guatemalan village-set “El Escuadron de la muerte,” from director Jayro Bustamante, who characterized it as a black comedy about getting a second chance in life.

The festival also thrives on showcasing new talent. This year, Kai Perlange’s kidnapping drama “Interior Space,” Mexican docu-feature “Cuates de Australia,” and Brazilian Eryk Rocha’s debut fiction feature “Transeunte,” first screened in 2010, but only now receiving real recognition, were titles that attracted buzz.

Tyros who announced new projects include Mexico’s Michael Rowe (“Leap Year”), whose second film, “Napa,” will be produced by Garcia Bernal; Peru’s Javier Fuentes-Leon (“Undertow”), who unveiled noirish thriller “The Vanished Elephant”; and “Zanahoria,” from Uruguay’s Enrique Buchichio (“Leo’s Room”), which was a standout at the fest’s Ibero-American Film Co-Production Meeting.

Guadalajara is more a producers’ forum than straight sales market, although business was announced, including Latido licensing Andres Wood’s “Violeta” to Poland’s Aurora, with France in advanced negotiations. Wiesner Distribution took FilmSharks Intl.-sold “Saving Private Perez” for Central America; and M-Appeal announced sales on Venezuela’s “Hermano” and Colombia’s “Karen Cried on the Bus” to Lume Films, one of Brazil’s new wave of arthouse distributors.

Robert Koehler contributed to this report.

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