Participant PanAmerica, Baja Fest 2013

Fest consolidates as Mexico- U.S.-Canada meet-mart

BAJA FEST, LOS CABOS -– “Sarah Prefers To Run,” “Amazing Catfish” and “The Beginning of Time” topped awards at the 2nd Baja Festival which, supported by Hollywood, Canada and Mexican industries alike, looks to have taken a significant step towards becoming a significant boutique meet-mart for business between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada alike.

Beating out lauded U.S. indie competition — SXSW/Locarno winner, “Short Term 12,” Tribeca hit “Hide Your Smiling Faces,” “I Used To Be Darker,” admired at Sundance -– “Run,” a tale of a woman’s emotional disconnect from Quebecois scribe-helmer Chloe Robichaud. landed Baja’s main Los Cabos Competition award.

A breakout winner at Ventana Sur’s Primer Corte which achieved the unusual feat of chalking up pre-sales on a debut feature by an unknown director, Claudia Sainte-Luce’s Pyramide Intl.-sold “Catfish,” a warm-hearted family portrait, won Mexico First, a new competish for first and second films which marked part of Baja’s drive to add industry heft to its four-day fest.

Screening in rough-cut, Bernardo Arellano’s “The Beginning of Time,” the chronicle of a ninety-year-old couple battling economic crisis, added to a Gabriel Figueroa post-prod plaudit on Friday, winning BIFF’s first Works in Progress Mexico award.

A meet and mart, the 2nd BIFF saw multiple and sometimes heavyweight biz announcements, some made out of the luxury coast-side hotels housing fest’s major industry figures.

Dakota Fanning was attached to star as an ‘80s punk band groupie in the untitled English-language debut by Mexico’s Gerardo Naranjo (“Miss Bala”), skedded for a February production start and produced and co-financed through Alex Oriovsky and Hunter Gray’s Versisimilitude. CAA, Naranjo’s Hollywood agency, arranged financing and will rep the film’s domestic distrib rights. Deal was first reported by Deadline Hollywood.

Cutting Edge Group boarded Relativity’s Western “Jane Got Her Gun,” with Ewan McGregor, Joel Edgerton and Natalie Portman, and FilmDistrict’s sci-fi movie “The Signal,” with Laurence Fishburne. CEG (“The King’s Speech,” “Drive”) invests in movies’ music budget.

Speaking on a panel about U.S.-Mexico co-production, Uncorked Productions’ Andrew D. Corkin confirmed he is beginning to explore the idea of a sequel to Jim Mickle’s “We Are What We Are,” itself a remake of Jorge Michel Grau’s Mexican original, “Somos lo que hay.” Grau is attached to direct.

“While there are no official treaties between the U.S. and Mexico, we hope to use tax incentives in the U.S. and everything you can count on in Mexico to create an unofficial Mexico-U.S. co-production.,” Corkin said.

At Baja for its “Meet Your Neighbors” co-prod forum, Grau and partner Mayra Espinosa Castro at Mexico City’s Velarium Arts unveiled an extensive, and still-growing, slate for 2014-15 – apart from the “We Are” sequel, Grau‘s two next – “Keep Quiet” and “Yamaha 300,” Daniel Castro Zimbron’s “The Darkness,” Rodrigo Hernandez’s “Multiplier” – which confirms Velarium as one of Latin America’s fast-emerging genre hubs.

XYZ Films has acquired international sales rights and closed an early pre-sale with France’s Wild Side Films. XYZ Films’ Todd Brown and Nate Bolotin will exec produce, Bolotin said at Baja.

Canana Films, whose partner, thesp-director-producer Gael Garcia Bernal was the subject of a Baja tribute, announced at Baja it would produce Yolanda Cruz’s indigenous community dramedy “La Raya,” which was put through the Sundance Institute’s Workshop for Production, Writing and Directors. Pablo Cruz will produce.

Participant Media’s Jonathan King and Gabriel Brakin, producers Pablo Cruz and Cristian Conti, presented Participant PanAmerica, a new fund for Latin American movies, emphasising the flexibility of the fund’s involvement in production, both in financial arrangements and the types of films the fund will back.

“At Participant, we’ve done almost 50 movies. Almost every deal has been different,” King said.

The scrimmage of often-young Mexican producers near-sprinting to introduce themselves to King after the presentation confirms the basis on which Baja is built, and will predictably grow more in the future: Burgeoning trade in talent, finance and productions between Mexico and the rest of North America.

If U.S. agents, financiers, producers, buyers, sales agents and fest execs rolled into Baja, along with a large Telefilm-led Canadian delegation, it was not just for the luxury hotels to which fest delegates were dispatched, nor Baja’s summery sunshine. Though that helped.

“Placing the industry in such a special setting allows for a unique experience conducive to business. New relationships were formed, as evidenced by the deals announced and forthcoming partnerships which we hope will consolidate the festival as a viable and needed market,” said Daniel Dreifuss, BIFF’s U.S. industry liaison.

Said BIFF director Alonso Aguilar: “Baja Intl. Film Festival-Los Cabos has confirmed its commitment to work towards becoming the most useful industry platform where Mexico, U.S. and Canada can meet and collaborate.”

“Baja is just starting. They’ve brought in a great group of producers, sales agents, a huge Canadian delegation, and most people are very accessible,” said Canadian producer Yannick Letourneau at Peripheria Productions, who looks set to shortly announce a co-production with Latin America.

Of fresh films and projects at Baja, Sebastian Hiriart’s “Natural Philosophy of Love,” a four-part portrait of sexual instinct – with one particularly strong segment of a couple dangerously lost in the jungle – looks to have sales potential.

Also playing Mexico First, Lourdes Grobet’s debut docu feature “Bering, Balance and Resistance, boasted outstanding lensing driving a warm examination of an indigenous culture in its death throes as globalization and climate change take hold.

Latin American paybox Moviecity awarded $40,000 and $30,000 for feevee rights to David Pablos’ “The Life Afterwards,” which preemed at Venice, and Marcelo Tobar’s family secret drama “Asteroid,” from “Workers” producer Elsa Reyes.

“The Return of the Dead,” a portrait of an aging hitman waiting for death in a flophouse, won the Splendor Omnia-Mantarraya 25,000 post-prod services award.

There was buzz on the Maya Goded’s “Plaza de la soledad,” winner of the Baja Fest Docs Forum Award and sourced from Mexico City Intl. Documentary Film Festival.

Gregory W. Allen’s “The Object Formerly Known as a Record,” a portrait of Mexican rock group Cafe Tacuba at work on their latest album, also had fans. Cafe Tacuba’s performance at Baja was the Fest’s live-event highpoint.

2014’s Baja Fest will be renamed Los Cabos International Film Festival.

James Young contributed to this report.

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