‘Blanquita,’ ‘Almost Never,’ ‘1989’ Make Puentes

Courtesy: Puentes, EAVE

2015-16 development-training workshop unspools first in Montevideo over Nov. 25-29, then at August’s Locarno Fest

Fernando Guzzoni’s “Blanquita Bueno,” Alonso Acosta’s “Almost Never Too Late” and Sebastian and Rodrigo Barriuso’s “1989” will be honed at the first 2015-16 Puentes meet which, co-organized by Uruguay’s Mutante Cine, unspools in Montevideo over Nov. 25-29, on the eve of the 7th Ventana Sur.

Part of the E.U. Creative Europe backed Eave program, Puentes, the most prominent of Europe-Latin American co-production workshops, sees industry tutors subjecting ten projects, five from each side of the Atlantic, to sustained development consultancy.

Coming in a year when Latin America swept many big prizes at the world’s biggest fests, injecting a surge of confidence into Latin-American filmmaking, Puentes almost inevitably features projects from producers behind some of the big kudos winners. Chile’s Giancarlo Nasi, who produces “Blanquita Bueno,” co-produced “Cesar Acevedo’s “Land and Shade,” which took Cannes’ Camera d’Or for best first feature. Lead produced by Nima Yousefi at Sweden’s Hob AB, but set in a starch-collared Colombian mountain village, “Clara Sola” is partnered by Cristina Gallego, producer of Ciro Guerra’s “Embrace of the Serpent,” which took the biggest prize at Cannes’ 2015 Directors’ Fortnight. Guatemala’s La Casa de Produccion, producers of Jayro Bustamante’s Berlin Alfred Bauer Silver Bear winner, “Ixcanul,” partner on a third project, “Uspantan.”

Inevitably, Puentes’ selection depends on selectors’ tastes. Even compared to the workshop’s 2014-15 line-up, the new Puentes suggests a larger seriousness derived from a predominance of social issue movies. These in turn may tap into the region’s zeitgeist, as Latin America assesses how far it has really come in broader terms with its commodities-fuelled economic boom now stalling.

Equally, Puentes suggests one reason for the creative power of Latin American filmmaking: The relatively low budgets of films made or shot there, as local and international state funding for Latin American movie largely holds. Just one of the 10 Puentes projects costs north of $2 million, none from Latin America are over $1 million.

Guzzoni’s third feature – “Jesus,” his second, is still in post – and on paper his most psychologically complex, “Blanquita Bueno” is inspired by true events. It turns on a single mother, seemingly involved in a prostitution racket, and finally jailed for serving false testimony and, at a deeper level, “falsehood,” “a way of generating truths once we forget they are lies.”

Screenplay is by Guzzoni with input by Gustavo Calderon, who wrote Pablo Larrain’s Berlin winner “The Club.” “Blanca” is “about power and its excesses, about fragile and socially excluded characters and their struggle to have a voice, own a life story,” Nasi added.

Pitched at Mexico’s Guadalajara Fest in March, and again based on true events, “1989” follows a Russian literature lecturer who translates for Chernobyl child radiation sufferers being treated in Havana. Based out of Toronto, Cuba’s Rodrigo and Sebastian Barriuso direct.

A drama/historical thriller set in a cartel bomb-struck Bogota in 1989, “Almost Never Too Late,” produced by Carolina Mosquera at Colombia’s Cabecitanegra Producciones, marks Acosta’s potential follow-up to feature debut, “The Crack,” a grieving family chiller, which was picked up by eOne Intl. for world sales.

Serving as script and pitching consultants and taking part in a extended panel on Saturday morning on Entering the Film Market, experts will include Christoph Friedel at Germany’s Pandora Film Produktion, sales agent Fabien Westerhoff, Venice Days’ director Sylvain Auzou and Agustina Llambi Campbell at Argentina’s La Union de los Rios and Didar Domehri at Maneki Film-Full House, producers of Santiago Mitre’s “Paulina,” which topped Cannes Critics’ Week and swept most every prize for which it was eligible at San Sebastian.

10 Uruguayan directors-producers will also present projects at Puentes Uruguay. It may be no coincidence that, as in many festival or Oscar nomination lineups of late, seven of the ten international Puentes projects are inspired directly or loosely by true events. Six are set in the past. Socially attuned, many movies explore Latin America’s gaping social divides, the struggle to break free from social and religious oppression, and, above all, the legacy of a dark, brutal, corrupt and authoritarian past.

A case in point: Gerardo Tort’s “The Broken Years,” produced by Ozcar Ramirez’s Arte Mecanica, and penned by Tort’s screenwriter Marina Stavenhagen (“Have You Seen Lupita?). One of the most politically compelling of titles at Puentes, it follows a man who sets out to find his brother, supposedly killed in the Mexican’s government’s 1970s dirty war against dissidents, but seen alive years later. “We want to bring this to the table so that we don’t forget. Thousands of people were killed over many years and we never knew about it,” Ramirez told Variety, announcing the project.

Equally, set in 1978 under Stroessner’s dictatorship, Hugo Gimenez’s debut “Killing the Dead” focuses on two men who bury bodies on the quiet, until they have to bring themselves to kill one which is still alive. Movie explores the legacy of dictatorship and its still rankling mind-set in modern-day Paraguay, Gimenez has said. Paraguay’s Sabate Films produces.

In “The Broken Years,” it’s the brother who’s missing; in “Uspantan,” directed by Cesar Diaz, an editor on Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s “Amores Perros” and “Ixcanul,” a man searches for the remains of his father, killed by the army in Guatemala’s civil war, uncovering family secrets and helping to establish his true identity.

“I have always felt a void in my inner self, I have never been able to bury and mourn my imaginary missing father. This movie is a way to do it,” said Diaz, who never knew his father.

Project is lead produced by Brussels’ Need Productions, and co-produced out of France by Perspective Films and La Casa de Produccion. Other films still mine Latin America’s rich social themes, but shift their focus. The third feature from Portugal’s Antonio Ferreira, and laced with magic surrealism, “America” turns on a humble butcher who, social chasm notwithstanding, determines to conquer a beautiful TV star via his cooking. It will be lead-produced by Sao Paulo’s Persona Non Grata Pictures.

Lead produced by Nima Yousefi at Sweden’s Hob AB, and co-produced by Katrin Pors, and Gallego, working in a freelance capacity, “Clara Sola” charts the sexual awakening of a 32-year-old Colombian woman, affected by high-functioning autism. Born in Sweden, raised in Costa Rica, Nathalie Alvarez directs; Vancouver Film School alum Maria Camila Arias, who is writing Ciro Guerra’s upcoming “Pajaros de Verano,” co-writes.

Other films tap into Latin America for its exoticism, or smart eroticism. Targeting the YA crowd, and pitched as suspense-road-movie, “The Indian Road” sees a group of friends set off into a legendary ancient forest to find answers to a rare mental disease afflicting people in Uruguay. Raised in Uruguay and Sweden and a successful SVT drama series helmer, Emiliano Goessens directs.

“Summer Diaries” is set in a small Argentine town in 1953, where the arrival of an ageing writer – inspired by the figure and writings of Poland’s Witold Gombrowicz – sparks a dangerous series of games with one family’s young daughter, Marisa. Warsaw’s Koi Studio produces.

Having been developed at Montevideo’s Puentes, the 10 projects now hit the circuit, an ever better-defined roster of events over the fest-mart calendar offering development, networking and market-access to young producers. One, San Sebastian’s Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum sends select projects to next week’s Ventana Sur, Latin America’s biggest mart-meet.

Producers of the 10 Puentes titles plus 10 Uruguayan projects, along with 10 other producers or directors without projects, six from Uruguay, will also segue from Montevideo to Ventana Sur, just across Mar del Plata, Nima Yousefi as part of the Forging Alliances link between San Sebastian’s Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum and Ventana Sur.

After Cannes, Puentes reconvenes at August’s Locarno Fest, rapidly building a critical mass of young Latin American producers with projects in development, via its Match Me! networking event.

Further Puentes participants, but without projects, are Victoria Gutierrez, at Mexico’s Artegios, a docu production-distribution co; Araka Matits, head of new Germany-based acquisitions-co-pro consultancy Featurette; Alexa River, manager-producer at Paris’ Altamar Films, and Josephine Schroeder, at Chile’s Cinestacion, which won Mar del Plata’s Lobolab forum with “The Settlers” and is moving into international co-production.

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