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Pacha pacts with Zazen for co-prod’ns

Rafecas' 'Buda' is alliance's first effort

BUENOS AIRES — Pachamama Cine and Zazen Prods. have formed a film distribution and production alliance, a fresh financing model in cash-tight Argentina.

Pachamama will distribute around 15 foreign films in South America each year, using a portion of the proceeds to co-produce at least one feature a year with Zazen.

“This is a full-circle approach” that provides stable financing and “energy” for production, Zazen director Diego Rafecas tells Variety.

It is also a break from the traditional financing approach in Argentina, where money has been scarce since the 2001-02 economic collapse and currency slump.

Most distributors don’t produce films. At most, they help finance productions. Instead, producers rely on private financing from family, friends and increasingly European production companies. After the release, they recover some of the costs and possibly break even thanks to state subsidies. Profits come from either a healthy run at the box office or from exports, which bring in strong currencies at a time when production costs are low in Argentina.

This fresh model should allow for larger production and distribution-marketing budgets, says Alejandro De Grazia, who recently quit Quasar Films, the Argentine distributor of Chilean distrib rights broker Phoenix World Investments, to form Pachamama.

Indeed, the alliance’s first effort is a $1.2 million production, a large budget for a domestic pic. It is Rafecas’ freshman feature “Un Buda” (A Buddha), the story of two brothers’ spiritual search 25 years after their father, a Zen monk, was killed by the military dictatorship during its 1976-83 rule. Pic stars Agustin Markert, Carolina Fal, Julieta Cardinali and Rafecas, who also wrote the screenplay.

De Grazia and Rafecas, himself a Zen monk, are spending $100,000 on marketing and related costs for the July 14 release. That’s 10 times more than average and not far off the spending for domestic commercial hits like Raul Rodriguez Peila’s 2004 thriller “Dangerous Obses sion.”

“Buddha” will bow on 20-25 prints, twice the average domestic release, yet shy of the 30-70 of Hollywood pics in Argentina.

Pascal Diot’s Onoma of France will handle international sales for “Buddha.” De Grazia plans to attend November’s AFM, where he hopes to pick up new titles and touch base with potential co-producers.

(Anna Marie de la Fuente in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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