Selection underscores the new upscale commercial edge to much Latin American production
GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Carlos Morelli’s “Mi Mundial,” Jorge Leyva’s “My Demons Never Swore Solitude” and Flavio Pedota’s “Infection” topped Guadalajara’s 11th Works in Progress winning the highest number of prizes at an awards ceremony Sunday evening held at the Mexican festival.
Framing seven films from five countries, screening movies in (sometimes very) rough cut, Guadalajara’s 11th WIP delivered a telling reminder of the increasingly robust diversity of Latin American filmmaking.
Titles varied from dramas to coming of age tales, a Western and a zombie film, genre movies but of large value, as Guadalajara Works in Progress coordinator Angelica Lares pointed out.
They also suggested, however, how Latin America’s newest cinema is shrugging off what has come to be called in Latin America a “poverty porn” straightjacket to supply sometimes trenchant statements about its region, the tragedy of violence, the fate of its intelligent women, and the propagation of a rabied anger among its underclass, but in films which are migrating from straight-arrow art pics to crossover titles and, ever more, upscale mainstream plays. That makes them suitable not only for sales agent’s pick-ups but also acquisition by digital platforms which, led by Netflix, are gradually reforging distribution models in the region.
All three of the major winners at Guadalajara demonstrated this new commercial edge to Latin American filmmaking.
“Mi Mundial,” director Carlos Morelli’s young teen morality play tracks a kid who has the slalom dribbling skills of Messi but unfortunately develops the ego of a young Cristiano Ronaldo – without Ronaldo’s concerns for family.
Propelled into youth pro soccer after his humble family – embodied by his heart-of-gold janitor dad – faces severe financial straits, it takes an accident to bring him down to earth and recognize what is really important in life.
“One of the characteristics which make this a singular film for [Latin American] independent cinema is that it is a project which was conceived by its production house,” said Lucia Gaviglio Salkind, who is based out of Montevideo’s La Gota de Cine. which produces with Argentina’s Pensa & Rocca and Brazil’s Panda Filmes. A passion project, Gaviglio Salkind optioned the rights of the book on which “Mi Mundial” is based seven years ago.
She said in Guadalajara that she is in conversations with several sales agents on “Mi Mundial,” which opens commercially in Uruguay on June 22.
“Mi Mundial” took three prizes at Guadalajara’s WIP, “My Demons Never Swore Solitude” a couple, including a world sales pick-up from Alfredo Calvino’s Habanero Films. A Mexican horror-Western with a narrative twist worthy of Jorge Luis Borges, the second movie from Mexico’s Jorge Leyva Robles turns on Silent, an uncouth, violent, liquor-guzzling gold-panner haunted by a figure of a man with a sack over his head. Liquor-guzzling, hallucinating, convinced that his young wife is cheatin’ on him with another settler, he mounts up and roams the countryside intent on killing his wife’s lover and the demon.
Set in 1854 at a benighted cabin among mini Monument Valle-like outcrops near to the Arizona border, the film builds as metaphor of not only a land lost in a horrifying vortex of violence, machismo, revenge and greed but also a disavowal of its true self. Manuel Uriza (“Better Call Saul”) and Paulette Hernandez (“Purasangre”) star, Leyva Robles’ La Tuerca Films produces.
Venezuelan Flavio Pedota’s first fiction feature and Venezuela’s first zombie movie, “Infection” also took two prizes, one the offer of a trailer from Mexico’s Fix, whose Nacho Soto described the film as having “large commercial potential.”
It kicks in with a rabies victim Russian construction site worker shooting up on Krokodile. The mixture unleashes a new and wildly contagious strain of rabies which soon engulfs Caracas and the surrounding countryside. Having already lost his young wife to cancer, doctor Adam Vargas begins a near suicidal cross-country odyssey to get to a World Health Organization lab and rescue his son. On the way, he suffers attack after attack from an enraged, crazed Venezuelan peasantry.
Produced by Venezuela’s Luz Creativa Producciones and boasting high production values – such as weirdly silent overhead shots of Caraca – the unrelenting survival thriller can be read as social allegory, necessary if it hopes to roll out territory-by-territory sales through a sales agent to arthouse audiences.
“’Infection’ is a tropical zombie apocalypse movie which highlights a Latin American political problem, the destruction of a political and cultured class in a class struggle which spreads to the rest of Latin America,” argued Javier Fernandez, head of Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, which invited “Infection” to its pitching sessions last December.
Toplining Dolores Fonzi, star of Santiago Mitre’s Cannes Critics’ Week winner “Paulina,” in a rare international outing, the semi-autobiographical “Wind Traces” scooped the Estudios Churrubusco prize, made up of post-extensive production services, one of the biggest at the Works in Progress.
turns on the impact of a father’s sudden death on his two children. Told by their mother that their father isn’t really gone, the seven-year-old son imagines him coming back as Guillermo del Toro-ish cadaver, a mix of an antlered head, face mask and Native American ceremonial robe, plus blackened hands. But while the mother takes to bed, drink, pill-popping, it is the daughter and son who resurface far quicker from processing loss.
“’Wind Traces’ talks about absence, physical and the emotional, and how children cope better thanks to their resilience and their open heart,” Montemayor told Variety, adding that “we tend to close our hearts as we become adults and afraid of feelings and emotions, trying to numb pain away instead of living it and growing from it.”
Playing South by South West, shot in Old Providence on the Colombian Caribbean coast and funded by Kickstarter, “Bad Lucky Goat,” the fiction feature debut of Samir Oliveros, won a trailer sound mix from Pablo Mondragon and Encore Studio. A knockabout reconciliation dramedy spoken in Creole, it tracks two teen siblings as, after killing a goat with their father’s truck, they attempt to repair the vehicle and, on the way, their own estranged relationship.
Two titles hit Guadalajara is such an advanced stage of post-production as to require few prizes in post-production: “Absence,” from Chile’s Claudio Marcone and Liu Marino, and Javier Palleiro’s “Breathe,” the second Uruguayan title at Guadalajara as Uruguayan producers turn to pan-regional co-production to make up for a lack of state funding at home.
Directed by Javier Palleiro, a co-scribe on “Solo,” by Guillermo Rocamora, who produces and co-writes this time round, “Breathe” is co-produced by Juan Pablo Miller, one of Argentina’s top young indie producers, and Santiago Lopez. An intimate drama it centers on a woman, Julia, who is pregnant by her ex-husband, debates whether to have the child, suffers symptoms of drowning. “‘Respirar’ is a tense, intricate drama, product of Julia’s life and her failing attempt to avoid losses,” according to Palleiro.
“Absence” is co-directed by Liu Marino, a photographer and woman filmmaker. It tells. The romantic drama is a portrait of Carmen Arriagada, regarded as Chile’s first well-known woman writer, thanks to the letters she sent over 10 years to her lover, German painter Moritz Rugendas. This is no classic bio of lifelong building achievement, however, but rather a vignette of a sentient being, set over a few days during the lovers’ last meeting before Rugendas returned for ever to Europe. It is told from Arriagadas’ POV, relating her feelings, physical and emotional, and anticipation of abandonment, with narrative and psychology rendered through a photographer’s sensibility for composition, symbolism, light and highlight, often of Arriagadas’ face against a darkened background.