Chilean Biz Sees Growth as Directors Gain Experience, Clout

Chilean Biz Sees Growth Directors Gain
Copyright: Edison Sánchez/IFF Panama

The early stretches of Nicolas Lopez’s Eli Roth starrer “Aftershock,” set against Chile’s devastating 2010 earthquake, give moviegoers a new look at the old seaport city of Valparaiso.

Put-upon peasants? Favela hoods? Drug cartel violence? No way: “Aftershock” unspools in a chic rave club that could be mistaken for L.A., Roth said at a Sitges Fest presentation.

So too, increasingly, could Chile’s cinema.

As Hollywood fixates ever more on talent from developing countries, few far-flung places have enjoyed more of it, judged by festival kudos. Since 2012, Chile won at Sundance (“Violeta Went to Heaven, “Young & Wild,” “Crystal Fairy,” “To Kill a Man”), Berlin (“Gloria”), Cannes (“No”), San Sebastian (“Dog Flesh”) and March’s Platinos (“Gloria”).

Since breaking out at 2005’s Valdivia Festival, no other Latin American national cinema has matured as fast.

In 2003, seven Chilean films garnered multiscreen exhibition in Chile, while in 2013 that number increased to 30, per Constanza Arena, head of promo org CinemaChile.

Having ramped up production levels, largely of arthouse movies, and established strong institutional backing, Chile is now entering second-phase growth.

“There’s a broad diversity in issues, film types and styles; directors are consolidating international recognition while filmmakers making their first features are coming through, and talent is versatile, working in film, TV and commercials,” Arena says.

“No” director Pablo Larrain is attached to helm Universal’s “Scarface” reboot. After two English/Spanish-language movies shot in Chile — “Magic Magic” and “Crystal Fairy,” both starring Michael Cera — Sebastian Silva, now Brooklyn-based, is in advanced post on New York-set “Nasty Baby,” starring Kristen Wiig. It’s a U.S. production backed by Chile’s Fabula, plus Funny Balloons and Versatile in France.

Lopez’s Santiago-based Sobras Intl. Pictures partnered on Eli Roth’s cannibal thriller “The Green Inferno,” which Open Road bows Sept. 5 on 2,000 screens Stateside. It is co-producing Roth’s “Knock Knock” with Keanu Reeves and “Beyond the Green Inferno,” with Lopez directing at the end of the year.

Roth, Lopez and fellow Chilean Guillermo Amoedo wrote all three films: Chile’s Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy and Ignacia Allamand star.

Chile has not deserted its arthouse roots. Each year it produces a score or more graduation films, often relationship dramas with social issue undertones, such as “Cut Off Kite,” which preemed at Rome.

But led by Lopez, Igal Weitzman, Fernandez Almendras and Jorge Olguin, who is screening his latest, English-language 3D horror movie “Whispers in the Forest” at Cannes, Chile is moving ever more into genre.

Its industry is also consolidating. Almendras has struck a two-pic production alliance with Augusto Matte (pictured) at Jirafa to make music scene drama “La Indomita Luz,” and a sci-fi thriller, co-produced by Japan’s Kiki Sugino.

At Forastero, which backed the “The Maid,” Florencia Larrea joined Gregorio Gonzalez as a production partner. Its slate includes thriller “R. Lorena,” which is in post; thriller “Bird of Prey,” Nayra Ilyic’s “Square Meter” follow-up (“a much more ambitious thriller,” Gonzalez says); plus “The Summer Hit,” a zombie movie from Uruguay’s best-known arthouse auteur, Pablo Stoll (“Whisky,” “25 Watts”).

Why second-phase growth has kicked in so spectacularly is another matter.

“Right now, Chile is very well-known for festival hits, often intimate smaller films that put us on the map. Now people want audiences to see their films, to make a broader impact,” Gonzalez says.

Fabula’s Juan de Dios Larrain agrees: Some of Chile’s new-generation directors have matured. “They’re on their fourth or fifth film. They began with auteur cinema, their point of departure was talking about Chile, their context, its history, but they’re opening up to more audience-friendly films and increasingly looking to the U.S. to make them,” he says.

Growing U.S. connections reflect a gathering sea-change in potential funding for ever more ambitious international filmmaking.

When Almendras debuted with 2009’s “Huacho,” about a dirt-poor provincial family, he raised $1 million in soft money out of Chile, France, Germany, Japan and the U.S.

That would no longer be possible. “Outside Chile, the market has changed a lot in the last year: Some funding sources — the Sundance/NHK prize for Latin America — no longer exist. Others focus on new talent,” Almendras says.

Once a regular door to knock on, France’s restructured CNC World Cinema Support fund is increasingly popular, and so harder to access, Matte says.

And money talks. U.S. box office for “No” ($2.3 million for Sony Pictures Classics, released February 2013) and “Gloria” ($2.1 million, released in January by Roadside Attractions), helps Chilean films’ B.O. legitimacy, Larrain says.

The Roth-Lopez movies — “Aftershock,” “The Green Inferno,” now “Knock Knock” — were made wholly or in large part in Chile, at a significant fraction of U.S. costs. That’s something the Chileans aren’t shy to brag about to their neighbors to the north.

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