Buenos Aires Festival Opens Path for Local Talent

In Latin America, the combination of muscular government funding, the boom in pay TV households and ironically, lack of stars, is pushing regional filmmakers to try more genres and create original visions. Indeed, Latinos have directed five of the No. 1 movies at the U.S. box office in the past year, including Argentina’s Andres Muschietti (“Mama”), Uruguay’s Fede Alvarez (“Evil Dead”) and, of course, Mexico’s Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”).

The future of Latin American filmmakers looks bright, with government money, such as the $170 million earmarked for film and TV subsidies unveiled by the Brazil Ministry of Culture in December, boosting the local biz, and helmers making the kinds of movies that are drawing foreign companies often eager to feed them into burgeoning pay TV operations in Latin American.
But bereft of stars that can drive box office and television sales, the most common denominator of success among new features by young Latin Americans has been – and has to be – their originality.

This year, BAL, the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Cinema’s industry initiative, will again showcase Latin American films in post in its Works in Progress competish. About half will travel to Cannes for Buenos Aires Lab Goes to Cannes, co-organized with the Cannes Market, per BAL co-director Violeta Bava. Bafici runs April 2-13 in Buenos Aires (festivales.buenosaires.gob.ar/bafici).

But, teaming with Chile’s Valdivia Fest Australab and Rotterdam’s CineMart, it will launch another initiative, Tres Puertos Cine, which attempts to prime the originality projects under its aegis.

Traditionally, development initiatives adopt a one-size-fits-all approach; the 12 projects selected for Tres Puertos, often in early development stages, will be “tailor-made for each film. So many workshops tell you what to do. We’re doing it the other way around, asking filmmakers what they need,” says BAL co-director Ilse Hughan.

Bava added: “We’re going back to the figure of the filmmaker, working creative aspects in a freer way in a workshop where there is real interchange between participants.”

The emphasis is on new or budding talent: Four projects, including “La Omision,” from Sebastian Schjaer, are first films. Six more are follow-ups to often notable debuts, such as “Movimiento elemental,” from Benjamin Naishtat, whose “History of Fear” competed at Berlin; and “Retiro dos padres,” from Leonardo Brzezicki, also from Argentina, whose “Night,” competed at Rotterdam.

But Tres Puertos Cine mixes things up, in filmmakers and films. Two are from actresses-turned-directors: Chile’s Manuela Martelli, who starred with Rutger Hauer in “The Future,” brings “1976”; Maria Alche (“The Holy Girl”), who directed acclaimed short “Noelia,” has family drama “Despedida.”

Most films are dramas, and three — “1976,” Costa Rican Alexandra Laftishev’s “Medea” and Chilean Camila Donoso’s “Nona” — are women’s dramas. But “Majijo,” from Neto Villalobos is deadpan comedy. Brazilian Sergio Borges adapts “Coiote,” a cult novel from Roberto Freire. “Apenas un delincuente,” the seventh feature from Rodrigo Moreno, who won Berlin’s 2006 Alfredo Bauer Prize with “The Custodian,” is a modern remake of Hugo Fregonese’s heist/prison movie “Hardly a Criminal,” a high point of 1940s Argentine film noir that won Fregonese a ticket to Hollywood.

Projects will travel to October’s Valdivia for further development then, if ready, be presented to potential co-producers at Rotterdam’s CineMart, Hughan says.

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