LOCARNO — Over Aug. 6-8, 16 production companies from Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Israel and Turkey will meet at the Locarno Fest, in the Swiss Alps, to enjoy its glorious weather – if Saturday was anything to go by – multiple industry workshops and presentations and each other companies in an informal networking event, Match Me! Most companies were set up this century, many this decade. Between them, they represent many of the ambitions and concerns of young production houses in Europe and Latin America working the international fest circuit today. Here are brief profiles and five things they have in common:
“Turkey is one of the few European countries where local films have a bigger share than Hollywood films,” said Muge Ozen, who’s moving “Wedlock” and “In Five Years” at Locarno. “There’s been an incredible increase at the Israeli box office over the last couple of years, Israeli audience who preferred overseas movies, especially American cinema, are finally comes to see Israeli films,” concurred Keren Michael, at Israel’s Dori Media group, noting this build began with Taliya Lavie’s debut, “Zero Motivation,” and was followed up by hit family films such as “Galis,” and “Abulele” and high quality comedies, such as “The Farewell Party.”In all, 12 out of the 16 Match Me! producers say there national cinema is becoming more popular.
2. Comedies Yes, Arthouse, Most Probably No
But there’s a ceiling to local industry build, at least in Latin America. Local comedies are more popular in Brazil and Mexican than Hollywood comedic fare. “The problem is that besides comedy and – maybe – horror films, Mexican cinema is stigmatised as boring, violent,” said Anomia’s Valeria Arinez. As when Alfonso Cuaron’s generation broke through in the 1990s in Mexico, the natural audiences for the films the Locarno Match Me! producers – self-confessed arthouse filmmakers – want to make are in international.
3.Straight is the Gate
The first port-of-call financing for films in all five countries, insistently cited by producers, is national film funds, as emerging markets have copied, to the best of their resources, a Western European model. Again, there is sting in the tale. Public films funds are exposed to political pressure, austerity measures in economic slowdown. And the huge rise in production levels is often outstripping available public resources meaning films even by illustrious big fest prized directors can be left empty-handed. Few national cinemas have been so successful at festival as Chile’s which has just placed not one but two films in competition at Venice. One of Chile’s challenges, is “sustainability, not only in an economic but also in artistic means,” said Araucaria’s Isabel Orellana. But “we lack greater flexibility and strength from Chilean funds. There’s simply not enough [resources].”
4. Global Is Local
As Participant Media CEO and Raimundo Rezzinico Award winner David Linde said at Locarno, in a conversation with Variety’s Jay Weissberg. In other words, the most common feature of movies from different countries is their differences. There is a huge disparity between the industry tenor of Chilean projects, sophisticated upscale middle-class set dramas pointing the complexities of humankind, and movies from Israel which court audiences with – hopefully – quality mainstream fare, while – their challenge – seeking international audiences for the self same fare.
5.The Rub: Digital, Theatrical Overseas
“The greatest challenges in filmmaking are related to distribution,” said producer Denis Feijao, at Brazil’s Elixir Ent. In Brazil,that includes domestic outlets. Beyond that, only one production house at Match Me! – and one of the biggest, Chile’s Jirafa Films – appears to have a relationship with a digital platform, via its deal with top Spanish-world sales agent Film Factory. Creating such relationships, or scoring theatrical distribution abroad, remains international arthouse’s largest challenge.
A brief drill-down on the projects:
ANIMAL TROPICAL CINE (Mexico)
Flagship project at Match Me!: “Estanislao,” a humanist monster movie, about a man born with amphibian parts to his body, including a fish face, from Alejandro Guzman (“Short Distances”). Producing is Mariana Monroy, head of production at Mantarraya, the Mexico City outfit behind movies by Carlos Reygadas and Amat Escalante, Cannes best director winners in 2012 and 2013.
A new kid on the block: Set up in 2014 by producers Valeria Arinez and Araceli Velazquez, focused on Latin American indie arthouse. In Locarno with Emilio Santoya’s incest drama “Ana’s Desire.”
ARAUCARIA CINE (Chile)
Developing an adaptation of Roberto Boloño’s “The Third Reich” by Alicia Scherson, Isabel Orellana’s Araucaria, which has a strong line in documentaries, is taking a large step towards international recognition.
BESOURO FILMES (Brazil)
A company focused on “strong auteur-driven pieces with an unique viewpoint of Brazil,” says producer Jessica Luz. Shopping at Locarno “The Flooded House” a story of love, loss and memory with a woman obsession her house is flooding after the mysterious disappearance of her husband. Directing: actress-turned-director Marta Biavaschi (“Verdes anos”). Argentina’s Lagarto Cine co-produces.
CINEMAGGIO PRODUCCIONES (Mexico)
A producer on Fernando Leon’s war-set “The Zebra,” a first hit, Cinemaggio’s Socorro Mendez is pushing a slate at Locarno led by Enrique Rivero’s fantasy, “The Night of the Fish.” An especial interest i romantic comedies, Mendez said.
Produced by Muge Ozen, Can Kilcioglu’s “Wedlock” is a black comedy about a young Turkish girl falling in love with a Kurdish boy.
DORI MEDIA PARAN (Israel)
Keren Michael, producer of 2010 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight entry “The Wanderer,” is presenting at Locarno “Let It Be Morning,” a bittersweet comedy about state of sieges –both internal and external– whether a man who builds a wall around his heart, or a village, surrounded by another wall.
ELIXIR ENTRETENIMENTO (Brazil)
At Locarno with dramatic thriller “The Bear’s Path,” in which 18-year-old Fernando, undertakes a journey of self-discovery in South America, only to discover the corpse of a brutally murdered tourist by a lake. Directing is debutant Rafael Aidar, a best short winner with “O Pacote” at the Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Festival..
FIRMA FILMS (Israel)
Dramedy “Ger-mania,” directed by Roi Werner tells the story of Yossi, a Holocaust survivor who impregnates a woman, not knowing she’s German. Tel Aviv-based, Firma Films and Firma Creative Production are dedicated to cinema and advertising respectively.
ISTANBUL FILM PRODUCTION (Turkey)
Short filmmaker and university professor Andaç Haznedaroğlu directs a children’s drama, “The Guest,” about a seven-year-old, whose family died in Syria, but makes it to Turkey with her baby sister.
JIRAFA PRODUCCIONES (Chile)
By far the highest-profile Latin American company at Match Me!, Augusto Matte’s Jirafa has come good on large promise in 2016: Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’ ‘Much Ado About Nothing” was selected for Sundance and Berlin, snagged a Netflix global distribution deal; Christopher Murray’s “The Blind Christ” made Venice competition. In the pipeline: Marcela Said’s “Los Perros,” with Alfredo Castro (“From Afar”) and Antonia Zegers (“The Club”), a tale of unsettling sexual and political realities in modern-day Chile.
MAJDAL FILMS (Israel)
Baher Agbariya, producer of Maha Haj’s “Personal Afffairs,” which screened at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, will talk up in the Swiss Alps Tawfik Abu Wael’s “Wise Hassam,” about a man uncharged with killing a collaborator who lives in Tel Aviv. The assignment begins with the surprise discovery that the victim is a transgender female who makes a living as a prostitute. It ends with friendship and love,” Agbariya explained.
MANUFACTURA DE PELICULAS
Producer Macarena Lopez broke through with Pepa San Martin’s “Rara,” which was snapped up by sales agent Latido Fims at San Sebastian’s 2015 Films in Progress and went on to become a Berlinale GenerationK Plus 2016 Grand Prix winner. At Locarno with Ignacio Aguero’s essay documentary, “Un Dia.”
NIEBLA PRODUCCIONES (Chile)
Bent on making risk-taking art films which are visually stunning, said Yennifer Fasciani, its flagship Match Me! project, “Green Grass,” features a Japanese man. aged 30, who wakes up in the Chilean countryside after an earthquake in Japan, to discover he’s dead.
SOLIS FILM (Turkey)
A company dedicated to producing arthouse films with international potential, favouring female writers and directors,” says Muge Ozen.
At Match Me with “In Five Years,” Nathalie Sejean first feature, about four friends who meet every five to see if their dreams and expectations have become true. Turning 32 in 2016, Frederique is months away from the next “in-five-years” meeting and her life is everything but what she had dreamt of.
TACACÁ FILMES (Brazil)
An associate production company of Oblivious Memory, the production of vet director Ruy Guerra, a Berlin Silver Bear winner in 1978 for “The Fall,” Vinícius Reis’ “Roller Coaster” charts wrenching change in late -90s Brazil as a family’s father is forced into early retirement.