MORELIA — This year’s Locarno Festival, one of the oldest in the world having been founded the same year as Cannes, hosted one of its news initiatives, its fourth annual Industry Academy at its own festival. The initiative may be recent in its inception, but in reach it has grown rapidly having just this year bowed for the first time at Chile’s Valdivia while it is set to run Oct. 25-29 at São Paulo’s Mostra.
Sandwiched between the two, the Industry Academy will drop anchor in Morelia, Mexico for its third installment at the festival.
Running Oct. 21-25, the Morelia-IMCINE Locarno Industry Academy International is open to professionals in sales, distribution and festival programming, marketing & exhibition, and is an opportunity to network and learn from long-time professionals in similar fields. Tutors are brought in from international and domestic markets to educate, and be educated by, the young attendees.
There are nearly 20 specialized events for the participants, among them; Foreign-language Cinema and Alternative Models in the U.S. with tutor Carlos Gutierrez; Programming International Film Festivals with tutors Rasha Salti (Toronto), Edouard Waintrop (Cannes Directors’ Fortnight) and Mihai Chirilov (Transylvania Int. Film Festival); and How to Improve Circulation of Indie Films with tutors Michelle Hamada (Tribeca), Renato Galamba (FiGa), and Johanna Duncombe (ICO).
“We think that Latin America is really different, Brazil and Chile are very different than Mexico,” said Nadia Dresti, Locarno’s deputy artistic director and and concept creator of the Locarno Academy’s international outreach. In fact, while the perception might be that Latin America is one large market, for those with their boots on the ground, that couldn’t be much further from the truth.
“The problem is, that from the outside, Latin American cinema might seem homogeneous. Maybe you think: ‘Let’s just make Mexican cinema more popular in Chile!’ said Marion Klotz, Industry Academy International project manager.
She added: “The thing is, it doesn’t work this way. We had a case study at Valdivia we heard that it’s easier to release a Swedish film in Chile than a Mexican or Colombian film.”
She went on to point out that each Academy is specifically curated for the market in which it is hosted. “We try to diversify as much as we can, the tutors we invite and try to always have tutors from the local market, but also international markets. The idea is to adapt to every single reality.”
While the films may not always cross South and Central American borders with any type of ease, many of the issues facing these industries do. “In Mexico, people were saying to me: ‘We have producers and filmmakers but we don’t have many distributors and in Mexico the theaters are mainly major chains, there aren’t really independent theaters going on,” said Dresti. These complaints are not at all uncommon throughout Latin America, and indeed territories around the world.
“I think one of the most challenging concepts for me in this industry, as well as in Mexico is the fact that what I want to expose and bring to light has a cultural and intellectual value,” said Regina Serratos Varela of Mexico’s Piano Distribution, who will be attending this year’s Academy.
“It is hard to comprehend the lack of collective interest in the cultural industry and above all the relationship between this art form and the entertainment industry. Where does a film become entertainment, and an economic asset?” she wondered.
“For me the biggest problems are that these cultural events are isolated to big cities. Also, it is too difficult for Mexican movies to get into exhibition spaces,” observed Diego Alfonzo Torres of Cine Móvil Toto, another of this year’s participants.
While the Industry Academies are not meant to have answers for all of the issues facing emerging markets, it does put together groups of like-minded people and offer them a platform from which to brainstorm possible solutions.
“The workshops are a one in a lifetime experience. You are with your peers four-to-six days sharing everything. There are meals, drinks, parties and it generates strong connections between people. We select a very small group of people to allow that kind of thing to happen,” summarized Klotz.
The latest edition of the Academy will host representatives from Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador. The list includes Angela Guerrero Arias, Canana, México; Andrés Jiménez Suárez, FICCI, Colombia; Tomás Astudillo, Vaivem, Ecuador; Adriana Agudelo Moreno, Mutokino, Colombia; Lariza Melo Preciado, Floox Media Planning, México; Edher Campos, Machete, México; Diego Alfonso Torres Méndez, Cine Móvil Toto, México; and Regina Serratos Varela, Piano Distribución, México.
A jam-packed calendar awaits the participants. Each day starts at around 9:30 stretching late into the evening with optional screenings, culminating in Wednesday night’s closing ceremony.