BUENOS AIRES — The most bullish edition of Ventana Sur, Latin America’s biggest film market, closed Friday after a five days of screenings, a panoply of panels, deals, and unequivocal reminders that, in geo-content terms, Latin America is still on the rise as a film and TV power. 10 Takes on this year’s ninth edition:
1. STANDOUTS: ‘DRY MARTINA,’ ‘LA CAMARISTA,’ ‘LOVE AT LAST SIGHT’
Che Sandoval’s “Dry Martina,” Lila Aviles’ “La Camarista” and Sergio Machado’s “Noah’s Ark” proved three standouts at 2017’s Ventana Sur. “Dry Martina,” from Chile’s Forastero and Argentina’s Rizoma, landed what to date looks like the deal of the market, here from Film Factory, within literally a couple of hours of its market screening in Ventana Sur’s Copia 0. “La Camarista,” Mexican Avilés’ feature debut, landed the biggest prize, the European Vision Award, in a strong Primer Corte pix-in-post edition. Starring Ricardo Darin, one of Latin America’s biggest marquee values, “Love at Last Sight” was one of three high-profile titles at FilmSharks Intl., with “Dark Buildings” and “You Shall Not Sleep,” sparking what looked like a typical mix for FilmSharks of multi-territory studio deals and multiple territory buys in international.
2. WORKING THE NICHE
How come Ventana Sur felt so buoyant when the American Film Market seemed such a downer? In theatrical terms, the foreign-language sales market is after all one of the toughest in the film business, contracting around only a clutch of titles – maybe a dozen-to-a-score a year, that break out to really size-able box office abroad, in the sense of seven-figure box office grosses in at least one foreign territory. That hardly seems big enough to sustain a sector. But sales on Latin American movies is also a question of expectations. “Or your volume is large or your structure is small,” sentenced Manuel Marti, at Artear’s Pol-ka Producciones. Most Latin American film sales companies are essentially lean operators, working the niches, aggregating modest deals on numerous territory sales. The same can be said for arthouse buyers in the region. But sales can add up. In contrast, the American Film Market lacked in general the big U.S. titles – now scooped up by digital platforms before they even reach the open market – which can help justify the existence of the world’s biggest foreign theatrical distributors.
3. ANIMATION EXPLOSION
Further factors help explain 2017 Ventana Sur’s vibrancy. The biggest by far was Animation!, Ventana Sur’s film and TV animation mini co-production-sales market. Its Work in Progress spread of five titles and movie project pitches proved dazzling examples of the quantity of quality, creativity, variety and sophistication of animation coming online from Latin America. Animation looks set to provide many of the biggest-budget movies coming out of the region. A musical comedy tapping into the songs of Bossa Nova icons Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobin, creators of “The Girl from Ipanema,” “Noah’s Ark” is budgeted at $7.5 million, very high-end for Brazil. It will also focus some of the creative energies of its best-known directors. “Noah’s Ark” is produced by Walter Salles, “Escape from India,” another flagship Latin American toon feature by Juan Jose Campanella. Major companies, such as Mexico’s Anima, are forging strategic international alliances, Anima with the U.K.’s . Virtually any project or work in progress at Animation! could have won at their respective sections. “What’s really extraordinary is the number of productions which will emerge in 2018 and 2019. Animation in the U.S. and Europe has largely plateau-ed. Latin America is a rising power,” said José Luis Farias, organizer of April’s first Quirino Awards, which will celebrate animation in Ibero-America.
4.OUTSIDER TAKES U.S. THEATRICAL ON LATIDO’S ’THE LAST SUIT’
Paul Hudson’s Outsider Pictures has acquired U.S. theatrical rights on “The Last Suit,” sold by Latino Films and directed by by Argentina’s Pablo Solarz, best known for his comedy screenplays, such as “I Married a Dumbass.” A-Z Films’ Antoine Zein’s has acquired Canada. A drama departure for Solarz, “The Last Suit” turns on an 88-year-old tailor who travels to Poland to honor a promise to a friend who saved him from certain death 70 years before. “The Last Suit” marks one of a brace of strong plays from Latido – another is Javier Fesser’s “Campeones” – as it moves into larger movies and consolidates talent relationships, including in Argentina, currently Latin America’s biggest source of sellable larger foreign-language titles.
5.GENRE: THE CHALLENGE
In one of the biggest strategic alliances unveiled at Ventana Sur, Mexico’s Morbido Festival/horror brand is allying with “Instructions Not Included” producer Monica Lozano to produce genre movies. The partnership has a wider aim, however: To ramp up theatrical returns for genre movies, rescuing them from a straight-to-DVD/VOD ghetto. That, currently, is the biggest challenge of Latin American genre. One movie which might achieve that crossover is Demián Rugna’s “Terrified,” which world premiered at Morbido to a Cinepolis Distribución award for Mexico and had five offers for U.S. distribution on the table at Ventana Sur, said sales agent Aura Films.
6.BUZZ TITLES & RECENT DEALS
Though all still require final cuts, at least four movies at Primer Corte looked worthy of sales agent pick-ups: “La Camarista,” a pretty-well universally-praised chronicle of a chambermaid’s tentative attempts to attain a sense of self; “Buenaventura Mon Amour,” featuring spectacular Colombian hip-hop; “We Are All Sailors,” an unusual, gritty social-crime thriller set in a Peruvian port city; and “Miriam Miente,” a sweet Dominican Republic coming of age drama. Natalia Garagiola’s ferociously antagonistic father-son drama “Hunting Season” has sold Spain, and looks set for wider sales. “The Secret of Their Eyes” producer Tornasol and Haddock caught attention announcing new co-production,
Multiple sales agents – Habanero Film Sales, for instance, – have still to announce recent deals. In just a clutch of Ventana Sur deals communicated to Variety, Germany’s Media Luna had a happy Ventana Sur, licensing Carmen Maura’s feel-good drama “Oh Mammy Blue,” Ignacio Nacho’s “Swap Night” (to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico) and Marcelo Briem Stamm’s “We Are Thr3e” and “Just Charlie” (to Poland). In three deals struck in Ventana Sur, Rio-based Esfera Filmes, which focuses on Latin American films, acquired family drama/revenge thriller “Maracaibo” from Meikincine, Gustavo Rondon’s “La Familia,” acquired from Celluloid Dreams, and Peruvian title “The Last Afternoon,” a political psychological drama, from Habanero Film Sales. And, MPM Film sold “Liquid Truth,” from Brazil’s Carolina Jabor, to Trigon for Switzerland during the market.
7.CHANGE OF GUARD
Ventana Sur saw Guadalupe Arensburg, at Spain’s Movistar + address an industry audience about the Telefonica pay TV unit’s acquisitions and co-production policy. Ventana Sur took place just over a year after Viacom acquired top Argentine broadcaster Telefe. One large question is what these two giants’ movie investment policy could be going forward for the Spanish-speaking world. An answer could be given at next year’s Cannes.
8.THE NEW LATIN AMERICAN HYBRID
It might be no coincidence that “Dry Martina” landed one of the deals of the market. Like other movies from Chile’s Forastero, such as “My Tender Matador,” a queer love story and story of social exclusoin, it exemplifies how Latin American cinema has moved on, mixing straight social drama or gender issues with broader audience film forms, whether comedy in “Dry Martina” or melodrama in “My Tender Matador” with more traditional social concerns, knit by the vision of a rotundly distinctive auteurist voice. The result, an arthouse/mainstream hybrid can be seen in multiple auteurist genre plays at Ventana Sur too, such as “El Muglur” and “The Eternal White,” which both won prizes at Blood Windows’ co-production forum. To sell these days foreign-language movies must be more entertaining, but still be films of substance.
9. REGIONAL POWER
Far better-known for its wines, the Argentine province of Mendoza has just announced tax breaks for international productions. Powered by a huge growth in national government support last decade, Latin American growth in film production sectors is shifting to smaller countries – Peru, for example – and regional hubs – Argentina’s Cordoba and now Mendoza and Brazil’s Pernambuco, for instance.
10.A CLOUD ON THE HORIZON
Ventana Sur proved a happy affair. “It’s a very easy market to work and there are very few events where producers can see and talk to almost all the programmers at the very top events in Europe,” said San Sebastián’s José Luis Rebordinos, noting he had had 14 meetings with Latino producers before the market had even begun. Figures just in from Brazil’s Filme B suggests, however, that in 2017 total Brazilian B.O. may be down in admissions terms for the first time in years. One explanation for that is that Brazil’s economic woes are finally affecting cinema going. As the economy puts national budgets under fiscal pressure, one question is whether state support will hold, and if so on what terms. Already Venezuela’s exit from Ibermedia TV, a program showing Ibero-America movies on public broadcasters in the region, has prompted its cancellation.