Woodpeckers
Courtesy of Tabula Rasa Films

Deals, TV, animation, genre, VR, AR power up Latin America’s biggest film market

BUENOS AIRES — Sundance-selected “Woodpeckers,” Emilio Portes’ horror movie “Belzebuth” and Argentine debut “La Educación del Rey” set the pace in deal announcements at the 8th Ventana Sur which saw a slew of trading or sales announcements, however small some art film deals these days inevitably tend to be.

Fiction Factory, Animation! and Trends, three new forums dedicated to TV series, toon movies an TV shows and VR and AR also brought a wash of new companies to Ventana Sur, beginning with execs from Disney, Sony and Fox, on hand to discuss their channels’ original programming needs in Latin America.

The subject of a bidding war – a phenomenon seen rarely these days even at Cannes – penitentiary romance “Woodpeckers” was acquired by Vicente Canales’ Film Factory in negotiations which begun before the movie even screened at Ventana Sur in the new Copia Cero section for more commercial arthouse movies. Distributors were beginning to queue for the title as Canales, director Jose Maria Cabral and Omar de la Cruz, director-programmer of the Dominican Global Film Festival, confirmed the deal to Variety.

Frederic Corvez’s Paris-based UDI confirmed world sales on “La Educacion  del Rey,” Argentine Santiago Esteves’ feature debut and TV series, produced by Ezequiel Perri (“13 Conejos”), it stars German de Silva, the taciturn lorry-driver of “Las Acacias,” as a retired security guard who takes a teen petty criminal under his wing.

“It is the first time UDI has handled sales on a series, but it’s a logical development for UDI which has been representing Argentine films for many years. Years ago, an academic film was pejoratively tagged ‘TV drama.’ Now TV is the yardstick for quality content.” said Corvez.

“Belzebuth,” won three prizes at Blood Window, Ventana Sur’s genre market, the biggest trophy trawl of any title there. Shot in English and Spanish, set on the U.S.-Mexico border, turning on the Devil’s coming, and distributed in Mexico by Televisa’s Videocine, Emilio Portes’ movie is shaping up to be one of the biggest genre movies of 2017 in Latin America, and a potential crossover, said Daniel de la Vega at Mexico’s Sofia Films.

Deals to Latin America at this year’s Ventana Sur looked limited in number: Currencies are being pulped in key markets – Argentina and Mexico – by inflation and the Trump effect respectively.

Deals on titles at Ventana Sur looked legion, however. Several factors are in play. Sales agents are jockeying to take potential fest titles, especially now for Berlin. Ventana Sur is now firmly established as the market to load up on movies from the region.

Also, a generation of Latin American producers and directors which broke into the industry from the turn of the century onwards are raising their ambitions, often via international co-production and titles which incorporate more mainstream narrative tropes, VFX, star directors or regional stars. And as international markets toughen, the exponential rise in production levels in Latin America and beyond has created huge competition for theatrical distribution slots, in domestic markets and foreign. Filmmakers are raising their game as a result.

Some results were seen at Ventana Sur, such as one new movie project brought onto the market, Chilean Andres Wood’s “Arana,” co-written by Guillermo Calderon (“The Club,” “Neruda”), a political thriller turning on the roots of xenophobic nationalism unspooling from early 1970s Chile to the present day.

Of buzz titles, “Harpoon,” Argentine Tomas Espinosa unruly high-school set debut, had definite fans, for the two classic virtues of Argentine cinema: Writing and performances. “‘Harpoon’ was a surprise,” said festival advisor Denis de la Roca. Brazil’s Urca Filmes and Argentina’s Haddock Films presented a teaser for their dramedy co-production, “Happy Hour,” much of it spoken in Portuñol, to an upbeat response.

Launched in 2009 by the Cannes Festival and Film Market and Argentina’s INCAA film agency in an attempt, which proved successful beyond all expectations, to create a film market for Latin America movies, Ventana Sur has bowed its TV and animation events seeking best-of-their class strategic alliances.

Animation!, for example, launched at Ventana Sur this week in alliance with the most important festival animation market in the world – MIFA at France’s Annecy Fest. Fiction Factory has established ties with Paris-based TV fest SeriesMania, another French festival in the throes of vigorous industry growth whose 2016 competition was won, moreover. by an Argentine series, “El Marginal,” a highly-original prison break series from Sebastian Ortega at Buenos Aires’ Underground Producciones.

Meanwhile, in what is certainly a first for Latin America, perhaps for the world, INCAA shook Latin America’s fantastic flip fandom – for the better – this week at Ventana Sur unveiling a dedicated public-sector incentive support for genre and fantastic cinema and web series’ production and development.

At Trends, Rodrigo Penna’s “Fran, el Guarani” won the Trends Prize 2016 for best Latin American VR and 360º Contents project. “Cuerpos de Agua,” from Alvaro Rodriguez and Carlos Serrano received a Special Mention. Trends co-ordinator Gabriel Giandinoto was expecting 30 Argentine VR companies attend a first meeting at Trends of firms working the technology, a sign of its growth.

The sense of energy at this year’s Ventana Sur, which runs Nov.28-Dec. 3 was fuelled by fulsome trading on pic packages and individual movies:

*At Ventana Sur Latido Films acquired sales rights to the documentary, “El mejor sommelier del mundo,” by Nicolas Carreras (“El duelo del vino,” “El camino del vino”), produced by Ramiro Navarro at Frontera Films and by Cactus Films.

*FilmSharks Intl. acquired world sales rights to adventure-thriller ‘Los Buscadores,’ from ‘7 Cajas’ directors Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schembori.

*Lucia Meik’s Buenos Aires-based Meikincine has sold to HBO Latino for U.S. broadcast two titles: “Locos de amor,” and “Una noche de amor.”

*Headed by Dominga Sotomayor and Omar Zuñiga, Chile’s Cinestacion, one of Latin America’s fast rising co-production forces, closed production deals on multiple fronts as it seeks to consolidate its position as an emerging director hub in Latin America. Just two: a co-production deal with Argentina’s Ruda Cine, a prestige label funded by Rosa Martínez and Violeta Bava, on Sotomayor’s “Late To Die Young”; and a U.K. distribution deal with arthouse distributor Peccadillo Pictures on Berlin Teddy-winning Zuñiga’s “Los Fuertes.”

*Cineplex, Elba McAllister’s distribution-sales company, acquired Rotterdam Tiger winner “Alba,” from Ecuador’s Ana Cristina Barragan, an affecting, tentative daughter-father drama, for world representation. It also closed with CineLatino an eight Latin film deal, most titles coming from Colombia.

*Alpha Violet has sold Venice Critics’ Week Audience Award winner “Los Nadies” to Spain’s El Sur Distribution and is in discussion with several titles, said Virginie Devesa. Paris-based sales company has also acquired world sales rights to “Bad Influence,” by Mapuche female filmmaker, Claudia Huaiquimilla.

*Brazil’s Urca Filmes and Escrevendo Filmes, Argentina’s GrinFilm and Paraguay’s Puatarara Films inked at Ventana Sur to co-produce “Residentas,” from Juliana Reis, about women fighting in the 1864-70 War of the Triple Alliance, the bloodiest in Latin American history.

*Patra Spanou is handling international on two Brazilian titles, “Holy Biker,” a futuristic motorbiking vigilante action drama and Brazilian B.O. hit, which won a Special Jury Prize at Tallin Black Nights; “The Revenge,” Fernando Fraiha’s comedy of two Brazilians who set out to wreak sexual vengeance on Argentina for past affronts. They fail miserably of course. João Queiroz and Justine Otondo’s Querosene Filmes lead-produces.

*Germany’s Media Luna is in advanced negotiation on a package of seven feature titles for U.S. pay TV and with Alfhaville Cinema for Mexico.

*U.K.’s Jinga Films acquired Brazilian spiritual thriller “Our Evil” for world sales at Ventana Sur.

More deals will likely go down. In symptomatic comments on dealing at Ventana Sur, Edward Noeltner at Cinema Management Group said his company is “currently taking a closer look” at an Argentinian feature that played in Ventana Sur’s Special Presentations section and a Mexican film that screened there as well. Mundial’s Cristina Garza said she was in final negotiations to acquire two films.

At Canada’s A-Z Films, Antoine Zeind said he would probably end up buying five or six films from Ventana Sur; Jean-Pierre Gardelli at France’s Bodega Films added he would pick up three titles, two from Colombia and one from Argentina. “Ventana Sur is a good platform for contacts for films going to major festivals,” said Gardelli. The prove will be seen in continuing deal announcements about Ventana Sur business made in the next weeks.

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