BAM Underscores Further Industry Growth Colombia

Underscoring growing maturity, Schweizen, Mad Love, Calle Luna, Ventana, Cineplex unveil new deals at Bogota Audiovisual Market

BOGOTA – “This isn’t an event where you really buy many films but rather one to make contact with producers, get the latest on their projects and then follow-up later,” Ernesto Munoz de Cote, director of film acquisitions, Fox Intl. Channels Latin America, said of the Bogota Audiovisual Market (BAM), which wrapped Friday.

But business was certainly done, some deals were closed, others were broached; far more were advanced, and yet more were unveiled.

That said, BAM raised two larger questions. One is asked at any film meet these days in international: the real foreign sales potential of foreign-language art fare in overseas markets. Prices paid for most titles has nose-dived – and then some – this century, pushing companies to move into English-language production, and explore ever more either VOD distribution or paid-for festival screenings with confabs coughing up high three-figure or very-low four-figure dollars per film.

A field trip for overseas producers, eager to check out Columbia’s location potential and rebate facilities, brought some bigger-name guests to BAM: to name a few, Karl Richards at UMedia’s London office; Arclight Fims’ Mike Gabrawy, Belladonna Productions’ Rene Bastian.

But the biggest foreign contingent was made up of fest programmers, some – Toronto’s Diana Sanchez, Berlin’s Javier Martin, San Sebastian’s Andrea Stavenhagen, Miami’s Jaie La Plante – with an intimate knowledge of Latin American filmmaking. BAM can be highly useful for fests.

“I am here looking for the next ‘Mateo.’ I found Maria Gamboa’s feature in the works in progress here last here and the world premiere at Miami eight months later was amazing. She won two of our major prizes,” Miami’s La Plante said in Bogota.

“Discoveries are very important to us in Miami, and so far in BAM this year, there are a handful of works that are looking strong to potentially make a powerful debut in Miami 2015.”

But festivals are often essential for Colombia’s multiple art pics. Without fest play, most Colombian films stand little chance of scoring a sales agent pick-up, in cases where their sales potential is sufficient to merit one. And fest play these days includes projects. Out of BAM, three will now be pitched at Locarno’s Industry Days: “Asylum,” from Jaime Osorio (“El Paramo”), “X Quinientos,” Juan Andres Arango’s follow-up to “La Playa”; and Simon Paetau’s transsexual drama “Lacrimosa.”

Three more BAM projects – Juan Camilo Gonzalez’s “Jepirra,” Alexander Gonzalez Tascon’s “Sea Horses” and Alfonso Acosta’s “The Dead Professors” – will be presented during San Sebastian’s Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum.

Secondly, as Colombia’s film industry repositions as not only a production force but also a service provider on international shoots, another question is the depth of its local talent pool.

To date, three productions have tapped into Colombia’s international shoot rebates, up-and-running from second-half 2013: Phoenix Pictures’ Chilean miners saga “The 33,” helmed by Patricia Riggen; the Elijah Wood-produced “The Boy,” about a serial killer’s origins; and “Corazon de Leon,” a Colombian remake of the Argentine romantic comedy hit produced for Colombia, as Argentina, by Mauricio Brunetti’s Sinema. (A fourth international shoot is due to be revealed shortly).

According to producer Juan Pablo Tamayo (“The Colors of the Mountain,” “Operation E”), the Colombian service provider on “Corazon de Leon,” foreign producers must use a Colombian service company to access the rebates.One of their large advantages is that they are paid incash, not discounted as tax deductions, and go straight to the foreign producer. The rebate is returned to the producer in a maximum six months, though it could be as little as one or two months, Tamayo added.

Colombian production costs are the cheapest of any major market in Latin America, the 20%-40% rebates on local spend among the most generous.

But one challenge is growing the local technical talent base so that foreign producers can crew up in a major way in Colombia, beyond key tech positions, avoiding costs on flights and accomodation. Announced at BAM, “La Rectora” and “Maranon” Dynamo’s first two contained-budget Spanish-language productions financed in a production alliance with Colombia’s Caracol TV, provides on early answer to this challenge, repping a technical talent incubator.

Running July 14-18, 2014’s 5th BAM underscored the current vibrancy of Colombia’s arthouse production. Three top art pic producers confirmed new productions: Contravia’s desert-set emotional odyssey “Sal,” from William Vega (Directors’ Fortnight player “La Sirga”); Dia Fragma Fabrica de Peliculas’ “El patron ultravioleta,” the next from Ruben Mendoza (“Dust on the Tongue,” “The Stoplight Society”); and Rhayuela’s “America’s Affaire,” from Argentina’s Nicolas Capelli, narrating the 1822 meeting between Latin American independence icons Jose San Martin and Simon Bolivar.

Marking another title to track, Ciudad Lunar rolled Monday on the Colombian Amazon-set “Embrace of the Serpent,” the third movie from Ciro Guerra (“The Wind Journeys”).

Trading and biz announcements at BAM cut several ways. But, whichever way they’re taken – international co-production; novel distribution initiatives; Colombia’s first world film sales op – they suggest the maturing of a national industry now not just concerned with powering up local production levels, the typical hallmark of first-phase growth:

*Bogota-based MadLove Film Factory (“Poker,” “Broken Kingdom”) has boarded “Nobody’s Watching,” the first American film of the New York-based Argentne Julia Solomonoff (“Sisters,” “The Last Summer of La Boyita”). Owned by Natalia Agudelo Campillo and Nicolas Herreno Leal, MadLove will co-produce “Watching” with Felicitas Raffo at Argentina’s Travesia Producciones and Lucia Murat’s Taiga Filmes in Brazil. “A film about immigration but not about a man searching for a green card,” Solomonoff has said of the movie, which bucks immigration cliches, “Watching” turns on Nico, an Argentine who works in New York as a part-time servant, house-keep and nanny, running away from his past and himself, dodging the emotional bullet of his unrequited love for a man whom he grew up with.

*Colombia’s Schweizen Media Group, producer of “Silent Mirror,” which screened at BAM, has just inked with L.A-based FiGa Films on Venezuelan Mariana Rondon’s San Sebastian Golden Shell winner “Bad Hair,” and also bought from NDM Mexican Amat Escalante’s “Heli,” which took Cannes’ 2013 and the first Platinos best director nod. The two pics will launch Eva Distribution, Schweizen’s new and pioneering Latin American art pic distribution label in Colombia. Schweizen’s Augusto Sandino also founded Bogota’s Simposio Internacional Cine de Autor, whose first edition featured master classes by Carlos Reygadas, Escalante, Lisandro Alonso and Pedro Aguilera. “Many people in Colombia don’t know this kind of cinema,” Sandino (pictured with Rondon) said at BAM. Eva Distribution will release films theatrically, rolling off two indie arthouses in Bogota and alternative distribution – film clubs, community centers – for much of Colombia. It will open “Heli” and “Bad Hair” second half 2014. Sandino helmed “Silent Mirror.”

*Creating Colombia’s first world sales operation for film – in a country where films are hard put to recoup from domestic – Colombia’s Calle Luna Producciones has inked international sales rights to film/TV director Dago Garcia’s “Shakespeare,” the first venture into high-art auteur cinema of Colombia’s king of mainstream movie hits and Caracol TV telenovelas, such as watercooler movie “El Paseo” and soap “Pedro la Escamosa.” Calle Luna’s Linithd Aparicio will head up sales and festival outreach. A contempo, intimate drama and metaphor on human beings, family, ego and power, Aparicio said, “Shakespeare” will now be put out to festivals and major markets.

*Actor-turned-director Frank Spano announced at BAM his intention to shoot in Colombia his second feature, “Human Persons.” Carlos Bardem (“Cell 211”) and Venezuela’s Albi de Abreu (“The Zero Hour”) star in a redemption tale written by Spano and Pedro Garcia Rios. (see separate article). Spano’s Garra Producciones, Mexico’s Iman Inversion and Luis Pacheco’s Jaguar Films (“The Colors of the Mountain”) produce (see separate article).

*Juan Pablo Tamayo’s Ventana Films inked at BAM to co-produce “The Cabin” with Lina Badenes Turanga Films in Spain. Spain’s Maria Ripoll (“Tortilla Soup,” “Utopia”) will direct the psychological thriller, based on an original idea by Enrique Medrano, about a man, Fermin, who travels to Colombia with his wife Alicia, who is dying from cancer. In her final words, she mentions another man, Diego. Trying to find out who is Diego, Fermin discovers not only a side to his wife but a totally new world.

*During BAM, the United Nations launched a Breathe Peace campaign and selected Maria Gamboa’s “Mateo” as part of the initiative. Starting August, and using a branded Breathe Peace truck for movie exhibition, “Mateo” will be exhibited in 100 towns in rural Colombia. “This is the first time a Colombian film is part of a peace campaign and will be seen first in regions with absolutely no cinemas and in conflict zones, said Elba McAllister at distributor Cineplex which will release “Mateo” commercially on Aug, 28.

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