MAR DEL PLATA — Opening with Arnaud Desplechin’s lauded “My Golden Years” – Variety’s Justin Chang called it “marvelously vivid” – Argentina’s 30th Mar del Plata Festival sees obvious change: A new executive management duo in artistic director Fernando Martin Peña and general producer Ignacio Catoggio. After backing on to Ventana Sur in a late November berth last year, fest runs Oct. 30-Nov. 7, to avoid a clash with potential second-round voting in Argentina’s upcoming general elections.
Overall however, the 30th edition of Latin America’s only “A”-grade fest aims for continuity, and continuity in growt, in its international interface and industrial heft.
Welcoming Johnnie To, Desplechin and Peter Sohn, in town to sneak peek extracts from “The Good Dinosaur,” at one at the same time, Mar del Plata is opening up to its own city, making use of a pristine multiplex, which looks set to boost fest attendance.
Continuity: José Martinez Suarez is now in his ninth year as Mar del Festival president. For the eighth year running, Festival is backed by Argentina’s powerful INCAA Film Institute, also partner with the Cannes Festival and Cannes Film Market in Ventana Sur, Latin America’s biggest film mart-meet. That backing dovetails Mar del Plata into INCAA bigger picture strategic international, federal and regional vision, which has helped fire up Argentine filmmaking at home and abroad.
Also still in place: Mar del Plata’s hallmark left-of-field selection. 2015’s International Competition is a case in point. Some titles are eminently known: Atom Egoyan’s road movie come suspense thriller “Remember,” a Venice competition player produced by Robert Lantos, sold by IM Global; “Starlet” Sean Baker’s “Tangerine,” set in the L.A. demi-monde; Stephane Brize’s social drama “The Measure of a Man,” which won Vincent Lindon best actor at Cannes.
But there are, as often, a clutch of lower-profile titles: Slovac Ivan Ostrorochovsky’s docu-fiction “Koza,” a boxer comeback tragicomedy that played Berlin’s Forum; Sergio Oksman’s “O Futebol,” a frustrated father-son reunion drama, in Locarno competition; above all, “The Island of Wind,” from Spaniard Manuel Menchon Romero, which recreates the last years of principled Spanish philosopher Miguel Unamuno who, in an act of notable courage, raised his voice against Francisco Franco’s murderous new regime.
Big fest laureates pack out the line-up: Pablo Larrain’s chamber drama “The Club,” about unpunished Catholic Church abuse, a Berlin 2105 Grand Jury Prize winner; Ciro Guerra’s “Embrace of the Serpent,” a testament to the West’s destruction of Amazon civilizations, which topped Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight; “The Apostate,” from Federico Veiroj, which won a special mention at San Sebastian, a comedic drama steeped in Madrid culture about one man’s battle to find his own path to maturity.
However mainstream in some elements, they weigh in – in highly disparate ways – on the often-edgier side of arthouse. Symptomatically too, fest opens with a title not from International Competition but fest’s vast and rich Authors sidebar that features, among many others, Guy Maddin’s “The Forbidden Room,” Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “The Assassin,” Frederick Wiseman’s “In Jackson Heights,” Miguel Gomes’ “Arabian Nights,” Jia Zhanke’s “Mountains May Depart” and Johnnie To’s own “Office.”
Fest’s International Competition also frames three Argentine titles, one Pablo Aguero’s “Eva Doesn’t Sleep,” which played at San Sebastian, a surrealistic true-fact based reimagining of the 25-year odyssey of Eva Peron’s embalmed corpse.
Set in the 60s and shot in b/w, “Incident Light,” from Ariel Rotter, (“The Other,” a Berlin Grand Jury Prize winner) pictures a young widow, already courted for second marriage. Another world premiere, and a thesping three-hander, “Popular Mechanics,” from Alejandro Agresti (“The Lake House”) pits a literary editor who’s seen it all against a young writer aiming for the literary bigtime.
This year, Mar del Plata received 2,800 film submissions for its competitions, a historical high, said Catoggio.
That is recognition of an “established festival line which is increasingly popular,” he added.
Of 2015 growth moves, the biggest is LoboLab, Mar del Plata’s first co-production forum.
Projects run the broadest of gamuts, per Catoggio. Highlights include a move into production by both celebrated auteur Lisandro Alonso (“Jauja”) with Constanza Novick’s femme friendship drama “The Future Ahead” and by Chilean helmer Dominga Sotomayer (“Thursday Through Sunday”) with Felipe Galvez’s genocide exposé “The Settlers” to “The Bums,” the potential directorial debut of Gustavo Biazzi, d.p. on Santiago Mitre’s “The Student” and Cannes Critics’ Week winner “Paulina.”
But as important is the presence of projects from lesser-known but building national cinemas, Catoggio argued. One example: Ecuador. Javier Izquierdo’s “Panama” is a LoboLab project; a 10-strong Ecuador delegation will attend. LoboLab also features Chile Factory, the Giancarlo Nasi and Dominique Welinski-produced new talent showcase from Chile, a country which punches way above its weight in cinema.
Lobolab looks set to spark synergies with INCAA/Cannes’ Ventana Sur. “We wanted the projects to be from people who normally don’t make markets. Mere attendance aids participants’ professionalization, readies them to participate in consolidated markets such as Ventana Sur,” Catoggio observed. One LoboLab prize is indeed a Ventana Sur invite.
Mar del Plata will also add six new screens, thanks to a Paseo Aldrey six-plex, opened Oct. 28, plus a screening room at the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art for retrospectives and restorations.
New sites boost Mar del Plata’s screen count from 13 to 21, allowing the programming and sessions to breath, Catoggio said. The 21st screen will be on the beach, “a model we took to a certain extent from Cannes.”
In a departure, the Intl. Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF), the fest regulator, will hold its annual meeting at Mar del Plata over fest’s first weekend.
Cancelled four times from 1954, but running every year since 1996, fest can now play off the energy and exponential growth of Latin American cinema in general and Argentina’s in particular. In 2014, Argentina punched a 17.8% national film market share, a modern record, thanks to “Wild Tales.” With $17.2 million through Oct. 25, Pablo Trapero’s “The Clan,” a Venice best director winner, is another reminder that one of the biggest film phenomena of modern times is the build of national film industries around the world. Mar del Plata affords an entry to many of its Argentine and Latin American players.
“Eva Doesn’t Sleep,” (Pablo Agüero, Argentina, France, Spain)
“Incident Light,” (Ariel Rotter, Argentina, Uruguay, France)
“Popular Mechanics,” (Alejandro Agresti, Argentina)
“Remember,” (Atom Egoyan, Canada)
“The Club,” (Pablo Larraín, Chile)
“Embrace of the Serpent,” (Ciro Guerra, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina)
“Koza,” (Ivan Ostrochovsky, Slovakia, Czech Republic)
“The Apostate,” (Federico Veiroj, Spain, France, Uruguay)
“O Futebol,” (Sergio Oksman, Spain)
“The Island of Wind,” (Manuel Menchón Romero, Spain)
“Tangerine,” (Sean Baker, United States)
“The Measure of a Man,” Stéphane Brizé, France)
LATIN AMERICAN COMPETITION
“Samuray-S,” (Raúl Perrone, Argentina)
“Campo Grande,” (Sandra Kogut, Brazil, France)
“Beyond My Grandfather Allende,” (Marcia Tambutti Allende, Chile, Mexico)
“The Monument Hunter,” (Jerónimo Rodríguez, Chile)
“600 Miles,” (Gabriel Ripstein, Mexico)
“What We Never Said,” (Sebastián Sanchez Amunátegui, Mexico, Argentina)
“Evilness,” (Joshua Gil, Mexico)
“Santa Teresa & Other Stories,” (Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Arias, Mexico, Dominican Republic, United States)
“I Promise You Anarchy,” (Julio Hernández Cordón, Mexico, Germany)
“Suspended Time,” (Natalia Bruschtein, Mexico)
“From Afar,” (Lorenzo Vigas, Venezuela, Mexico)
“The Spider’s Lullaby,” (José Celestino Campusano, Argentina)
“Road To La Paz,” (Francisco Varone, Argentina, Netherlands, Germany, Qatar)
“How Most Things Work,” (Fernando Salem, Argentina)
“Docile Bodies,” (Matías Scarvaci and Diego Gachassin, Argentina)”
“Easy Ball,” (Juan Fernández Gebauer and Nicolás Suárez, Argentina)
“Hortensia,” (Diego Lublinsky and Alvaro Urtizberea, Argentina)
“Kryptonite,” (Nicanor Loreti, Argentina)
“El movimiento,” (Benjamín Naishtat, Argentina, South Korea)
“Paula,” (Eugenio Canevari, Argentina, Spain)
“Pequeño diccionario ilustrado de la electricidad,” (Carolina Rimini and Gustavo Galuppo, Argentina)
“The Football Boys,” (Jorge Leandro Colás, Argentina)
“Our Last Tango,” (Germán Kral, Argentina, Germany)