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Docs Provide Bright Spot in Ecuador’s Film Landscape

The documentary is alive and well in Ecuador, where a prominent docu fest, EDoc, attracts the best from around the world and inspires ever more local filmmakers to venture into nonfiction filmmaking.

One of Ecuador’s biggest box office and international hits remains the 2011 docu, “Con mi corazon en Yambo” (With My Heart in Yambo), a gripping account by helmer Maria Fernanda Restrepo of her family’s decades-long struggle to unearth the truth behind the disappearance of her two brothers. According to Restrepo, the doc lured more than 165,000 admissions, a record still unmatched by any Ecuadorian narrative pic.

Out of the country’s 16 releases last year, six were nonfiction. “Feature films are generally more expensive to make and the Ecuadorian market is too small to support costly productions,” says EDoc director/co-founder Manolo Sarmiento, who co-helmed 2013 docu “La Muerte de Jaime Roldos,” (The Death of Jaime Roldos) with Lisandra Rivera. The award-winning “La Muerte” delves into the mystery behind the plane crash that killed Roldos, Ecuador’s president from 1979 to 1981. Both “Mi corazon” and “La Muerte” have forced the re-opening of their respective cases.

Another reason behind the proliferation of docus is the national film fund, which categorizes pics not by genres but by budgets, leaving it wide open for non-fiction and fiction projects alike. Some helmers such as Mateo Herrera and Javier Andrade are straddling both worlds.

The 14th edition of the docu festival is held in the capital of Quito in May while a smaller version runs almost concurrently in Guayaquil. Screening at least 100 docs per edition, the main fest attracts up to 13,000 admissions.

Dario Aguirre’s personal family drama “El Grill de Cesar” (Cesar’s Grill), which opened the fest in 2014, is tracking well at the box office this year after collecting a clutch of festival awards.

Aside from running master classes in conjunction with the Universidad Andina Simon Bolivar, this year the festival is launching Edoc-Lab, a workshop for non-fiction projects from the Andean nations of Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. Each country will submit three projects, with each participant taking part in collective and one-on-one sessions with mentors, says Sarmiento.

The challenge now is for more Ecuadorian docs to move away from introspective treatises on families, memories and tradition to more universal subjects.

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