‘ Kill,’ ‘Historia,’ ‘Delivery’ Films Progress

San Sebastian pix-in-post competition highlights Latin American production trends

SAN SEBASTIAN – Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’ “To Kill a Man,” Benjamin Naishtat’s “Historia del miedo” and Martin Mejia Rugeles’ “Delivery” will screen at San Sebastian’s 24th Films in Progress, one of the best-attended and tracked pix-in-post showcases in the Spanish-speaking world.

Running Sept. 23-25, the line-up neatly encapsulates two of the strongest trends in contempo Latin American production: Dramas-thrillers that mix genre tropes and social commentary; near documentary observance of marginalized communities alien to or on the receiving-end of Latin America’s economic ramp-up.

A standout at last month’s Chile-focused Locarno Festival Carte Blanche, where it won the section’s only prize, and a Sanfic WIP winner in Santiago de Chile in its wake, “To Kill” throws into question a whole Hollywood sub-genre: the rightful vengeance movie. It does so teasing out the real motives that largely impel a father, Jorge, to take justice into his own hands after a local delinquent shoots his son and kidnaps his daughter.

“Jorge’s motives are rather more complex than simple vengeance and their consequences wider than the guilt of his aggressor,” Fernandez said in the run up to San Sebastian. He added that he aimed to have the film ready for delivery by early 2014.

Buzzed-up, Naishtat’s ensemble mood-piece “Historia del miedo” portrays some similar social concerns to “To Kill”: People’s fear of a thought-to-be violent social under-class that the law prefers to ignore and certainly doesn’t try to help.

An attempt to capture rather than explain “big city social psychosis,” as Naishtat commented to Latamcinema.com, “Historia” boasts an impressive production pedigree for a first-time feature, weighing in to Films in Progress as a four-way Argentine-Uruguay-France-Germany co-production which has tapped into both World Cinema Fund and Ibermedia financing.

At the other end of the spectrum, but moving in a fiction/docu borderland explored by some notable Latin American cineastes – think Mexico’s Yulene Olaizola – the jungle-scrub located “Delivery,” on which word is also good, starts as the rainy season sets in and villagers halt fishing and the harvest to accompany a woman in childbirth. Her pregnancy is the result of rape.

The event is framed in the natural life cycles of the villagers’ mindset.

The feature debut of Juan Martin Hsu, the multi-part ensemble drama “La Salada” also seeks to bear witness to a community largely unknown to Latin Americans, let alone foreigners, turning on the hopes and solitude of three immigrant workers at Argentina’s massive open-air La Salada market, each figure enclosed in their own world, and own narrative.

Sometime, near documentary observance and genre blenders mesh in one film. Billed by the San Sebastian Festival as a road movie interfacing fiction and documentary, “Pantanal,” for instance, is helmed by the U.S.-born but Argentine-bred Andrew Sala, who won Tempere with his latest short, “Murder in Junin.” It turns on a man on the lam, fleeing from Buenos Aires towards Brazil’s Mato Grosso with a bag of cash. Witnesses relate to camera claimed encounters.

Films in Progress will also feature a second Chilean movie, Jorge Yacoman Saavedra’s “La comodidad de la distancia,” which tracks an increasingly ill university student wandering through the streets of Santiago. He has been shut out of his home by his only relation, his father, who then disappears.

Such, some will say, is the paradoxical state of many Chileans, abandoned by their parents’ generation, but still suffering the legacy of their actions.

Unspooling parallel to the 2nd Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum, and stretching for the first time ever over three days, San Sebastian’s other industry centerpiece, the twice-yearly Films in Progress, takes place at France’s Toulouse Rencontres in March and September’s San Sebastian.

Choicely selected, and backed by some of the most powerful producers in Latin America –Juan and Pablo Larraín’s Fabula alone has put through its recent editions Marialy Rivas’ “Young & Wild,” to Sebastian Sepulveda’s “The Quispe Girls” and Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria” – Films in Progress is the first reason most sales agents instance for attending San Sebastian, a must-attend event for Films Boutique’s Jean-Christophe Simon.

“It’s also interesting to see that a whole generation of producers/filmmakers/buyers and sales agents is ‘growing up’ around San Sebastian and Films in Progress,” he added.

Pitched films principally seek industry acclaim and a sales agent. They also compete for a Films in Progress Industry Prize, which sees seven companies – Daniel Goldstein, Deluxe Spain, Dolby Iberia, Laserfilm Cine y Video, Nephilm, No Problem Sonido and Vertigo Films – combine to offer outstanding post-production services through to a subtitled DCP copy in English, plus distribution in Spain.

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