‘Sciences,’ ‘Hair,’ ‘United,’ Quebec, Pay TV,

Mexican Producers Work U.S, Canada

GUADALAJARA – Breakout art pics “Natural Sciences” and “Bad Hair” and Spanish comedy “Family United” clinched deals at the 29th Guadalajara Festival, which announced its prizes Saturday.

Led by the unveiling of L.A.-Mexico City based Alazraki Entertainment, fest was energized by the big, bold ambitions and announcements of a new breed of Mexican producers, often straddling Mexico and the U.S. and now cutting deals with Canada.

The big winner at 2014’s Guadalajara Festival, “Natural Sciences,” by first-time Argentine helmer Matias Lucchesi, also scored on the sales front.

Produced by Buenos Aires-based Juan-Pablo Miller (“Las Acacias,” “Lock Charmer,” now Paula Markovitch’s “Paintings in the Dark”), Luchessi’s relationship/road movie has been acquired by Alfonso Lopez’s Alfhaville Films for theatrical distribution in Mexico, by Louis Dussault’s K-Films for theatrical distribution in Canada, and by Ernesto Munoz de Cote at Fox International Channels, Latin America, for premium and basic pay TV in Latin America.

UDI’s Eric Schnedecker negotiated the deals during the Guadalajara Market. France, Spain and the U.K. are expected to be the next territories to fall for the new gem from Argentina, he told Variety.

Also belying industry lore that only big name auteurs sell these days, Paula Astorga’s Circo 2.12 closed rights to Mexico Friday on the FiGa Films-sold “Bad Hair,” enthusiastically received when it screened in fest’s Ibero-American Competition. Deal is “Pelo Malo’s” 25th, making it FiGa Films best-selling title ever.

In maybe the weightiest Mexico deal, Vicente Canales’ Film Factory licensed “Family United,” from Spain’s Daniel Sanchez-Arevalo(“Darkbluealmostblack”), to Leopoldo Jimenez’s Cine Nueva Era. The ensemble comedy about a family forced to marry the youngest sibling the day Spain plays South Africa’s World Cup final, “United” is produced by Atipica Films (“Unit 7”) Mod Producciones (“Agora”) and Antena 3 Films. It grossed €3.0 ($4.2 million) in Spain for Warner Bros. last year.

Film Factory is in talks for a Mexico deal on “Ismael.” It sealed a package of European films with Fox Intl. Channels, Latin America.

“It’s important to be in Mexico to see distributors whom sales agents might not see at other events. It’s an important market,” said Susanne Davis at European Film Promotion (EFP), which runs a European film sales support umbrella at Guadalajara.

Sales agents had other interests as well. Mexico produced 126 movies in 2013, its biggest result since 1959, IMCINE Mexican Film Institute director Jorge Sanchez said at a presentation of the state film board’s 2013 Statistical Yearbook of Mexican Cinema. The average budget climbed to 22.2 million pesos ($1.7 million) as private finance – which financed 41 films last year – flows into the sector, attracted by tax breaks.

Many new Mexican films – 20 contested Guadalajara’s Mezcal Prize – still have to be brought on to the market, opening up business opportunities.

Off Guadalajara, Germany’s Media Luna is in advanced negotiations to acquire two Mexican films and has initiated ongoing conversations on other Latin American titles, said Media Luna’s Mariel Macia.

“Guadalajara is an interesting market for finding new talents and new voices,” she added.

By market end, Meikincine’s Lucia Meik was in advanced negotiations on its first high-profile Mexican film.

Of big announcements at Guadalajara, Gary Alazraki and Leonardo Zimbron, director and producer of “We Are the Nobles,” announced the creation of Alazraki Entertainment, an integrated company producing film, TV, live entertainment, online content and commercials, with offices in L.A. and Mexico City.

Alex Garcia’s AG Studios unveiled a new production, comedy thriller English-language “Mind Puppets, to shoot in New Orleans and the feature debut of Mexico’s Juan Kuri. Producers of 2014 Mexican hit “Marry If You Can,” NeverEnding Media has announced a bevy of English-language projects.

Quebec was Guadalajara’s guest territory. It is also shaping up as a Mexican production partner. In one move, Jorge Michel Grau and Mayra Espinosa Castro’s Velarium Arts look set to team with producer Anne Marie Gellinas of EMAfilms and distributor Andrew Noble of Filmoption on horror/sci-fi project “Multiplier.” In another, Machete Films boarded triple-story drama “X Quinientos,” from Juan Andres Arango (“La Playa”), already set up at Montreal-based Peripheria Productions, and Septima Films in Colombia.

Not all Mexican companies, however successful, look all the time to North America for international co-production. Also at Guadalajara, “Instructions Not Included” producer Monica Lozano and Spain’s Antonio Chavarrias announced they are teaming on Chavarrias’ next, historical thriller “The Chosen,” about Trotsky’s assassin, Ramon Mercader.

Created by Mexican director Daniel Gruener (“All of Them Witches”), “Short Plays,” a soccer-themed omnibus production/TV series shot around the world – with Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Carlos Reygadas, Vincent Gallo, Gaspar Noe and Dorris Dorrie among its 31 directors –  prompted immediate industry reaction. Also buzzed up was “The Hours With You,” by Catalina Aguilar Mastretta, and docus  “Echo of the Mountain,” one of the talking points of the festival and the Mezcal winner, and “The Dance of Memory,” another prized feature.

Attendance at Guadalajara’s Market was 39% up to 762 participants, said Estrella Arailza, in her first year as its director.

Awkward dating – the Festival runs three weeks before Easter to aid hotel room access – saw Guadalajara overlap with Colombia’s Cartagena Festival and conflict directly with FilMart, explaining a few no-shows among Latin American funding bodies and sales agents.

That said, for the Market, 2014 will go down as a year of transition.  Its direction is clear: It has already added seven new events, such as a Mexican Film Forum and a Cinema and Internet seminar.

More look likely to follow, most notably Principio del Film, presented Wednesday, a book-to-screen meet for publishers and producers planned for 2014 as a joint venture between Ventana Sur and Gudadalajara. Publishers will be invited from the world over, Araiza said, production companies from Latin America.

The initiative comes as a significant number of Latin American chart-toppers are based on literary properties, Brazilian distributor and market analyst Ana Luiza Beraba said at the presentation.

Guadalajara already hosts a Cannes Producers Network and Berlinale Talent tie-up. As markets seek to give maximum exposure to films, more event collaborations look likely to follow.

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