‘Camino a La Paz,’ ‘Nosotras’ Win Cartagena Fest’s First PuertoLab

Pix-in-post showcase a sign of fest’s building industry clout

Argentine Francisco Varone’s road movie “Camino a La Paz’ (Road to La Paz) and Colombia’s Emilce Quevedo Diaz’s “Nosotras” (pictured) shared the 55th Cartagena Festival’s inaugural PuertoLab prize, its first post-production plaudit.

Award was announced Saturday. The two productions, both first features, featured in a five-title lineup at PuertoLab, a pix-in-post competition which marks one of the first innovations at Colombia’s Cartagena Festival under its new artistic director, producer Diana Bustamante (““Crab Trap,” “La Playa D.C.” ). All titles selected are directors’ first, second or third films whose lead producer is based out of a country in Latin America, Spain and Portugal.

Granted by Cinecolor Digital, the PuertoLab award consists in required post-production services – editing, color-grading, sound –through to a DCP master.

Also written by Varone, presented as a project at San Sebastian’s 2013 Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum and prized by Switzerland’s Fribourg/Nyon Fest Visions Sud Est and Argentina’s INCAA film agency, “Camino a La Paz” turns on the unemployed 35-year-old Sebastian (Rodrigo de la Serna, “The Motorcycle Diaries”), forced to work as a private driver in his battered Peugeot, who is offered a lot of money by one of his clients, Jalil, an ageing Muslim with health problems, to drive him the 3,000 miles to Bolivia’s La Paz. Driver and passenger are chalk and cheese; the older man’s health is frail; the journey will change Sebastian’s life.

“Camino’s” clash of cultures reveals an opportunity for learning and exchange,” Varone has said.

The PuertoLab prize, ex aequeo, reps further recognition for producer Gema Juarez Allen at Buenos Aires’ arthouse/docu-pic shingle Gema Films (“Vivan las Antipodas!” “Invasion”), who at last month’s Berlin Fest won a VFF Talent Highlight Pitch Award with Panama’s Abner Benaim for “Biencuidao.”

“With this prize, we’d like to support a new emerging voice, Francisco Varone, who manages to yoke cinematographic subtlety and a fresh constructive perspective,” the PuertoLab jury announced, adding that “Camino a La Paz” “plumbed the humanity of two endearing characters while remaining faithful to itself at all times.”

Written and directed by Quevedo Diaz, ”Nosotras” joins a distinguished recent breed of Latin American documentaries – think Spaniard Hermes Paralluelo’s fest fave “Not All Is Vigil,” and Mexican Carlos Hagerman’s 2015 Ambulante-highlight “El patio de mi casa,” – in which directors portray elder family members, predictably to effective emotional pay-off.

A four generational women’s story, in “Nosotras” Quevedo Diaz accompanies her grandmother in the last few months of her life and talks with her mother Lucrecia and two aunts about why their lives have been so crossed by violence: Mistreatment by their husbands; their children’s joining the FARC guerrilla or the National Army; how Colombia’s armed conflict has affected them. Meanwhile, the director’s own daughter is born. With the birth comes an-even greater compulsion to understand where she comes from in an effort to take a different path.

“’Nosotras’ invites us to reflect, in a courageous, honest and unprejudiced way about what it means to be a woman, family, maternity, gender violence and, above all, love,” the jury commented.

It added: ”It is a necessary documentary with a mature dramaturgy, completely surpassing the difficulties of telling a personal story, her own family’s self portrait, and has , at one and the same time, a powerful, painful and hope-inspiring emotional charge.”

PuertoLab’s three-woman jury was made up of Colombian producer Cristina Gallego (“The Wind Journeys,” “Embrace of a Serpent”), sales agent-producer Gaelle Mareschi at Gregoire Melin’s Paris-based sales agency Kinology and founder of Fluxus Film, and Paz Lazaro, Berlin Panorama programming director and Spanish-language film Berlin Competition selection committee member.

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