Guadalajara fest goes to market

U.S. distribs made biggest showing ever at event

MEXICO CITY — Under new leadership, the Guadalajara Intl. Film Fest, which ran from March 24-31, took on growing importance for buyers keen on tapping the best Spanish language films.

Focused on Mexican productions until two years ago, the fest, in its 21st year, has become a showcase for cinema from all of Iberoamerica — colonial forefathers Spain and Portugal and Latin America.

Buyers commented that the fest market, now it its fourth year, was better than ever.

Alfredo Calvino, sales manager at Brazilian production company and international sales agent Grupo Nova, says Guadalajara’s market had become the needed replacement for the market at the Havana Film Fest that faded out in the ’90s.

“This is really one-stop shopping for Spanish language films,” says Gail Gendler, senior director of acquisitions at the Sundance Channel. “The volume and content base is very broad.”

U.S. distribs made their biggest showing ever at the fest, with execs from Paramount Classics, the Weinstein Co., Focus Features, Panamax and Samuel Goldwyn Films. Fest also attracted major European players like Wouter Barendrecht from Fortissimo, and Michael Weber from the Match Factory.

“It’s the only hub of Latin American product with producers and a co-production market,” says Tom Quinn, head of acquisitions at Magnolia Pictures. “I know there are festivals to attend, but to me, it seems to be the most important,” Quinn said Magnolia had taken an interest in two productions in development and may end up co-producing one of them.

There were no quick pickups for the U.S. at the fest, but several distribs took interest in Javier Patron’s “Fuera del Cielo.” Others, like Magnolia, were more interested in projects in the pipeline than what was in the official selection.

New fest director Jorge Sanchez, a renowned Mexican producer with cross-continental contacts, is aiming to make the fest the launching pad for co-productions between Latin American countries. Spain’s Tornasol introduced a E250,000 ($307,000) prize for the fest’s co-production meeting this year.

“This fest is helping us to join forces to push increasing co-productions,” says Victor Ugalde, head of Mexico’s government film fund Fidecine.

Sanchez is aiming to use the fest to educate Mexico’s struggling industry on how to push products in the global market. The fest featured well-attended panels of sales agents and distributors giving first-hand advice to Mexican filmmakers.

“Mexico’s movie industry has evolved little in terms of the diversity of production schemes, and there is a serious lack of know-how to insert Mexican cinema into the world market,” says Sanchez, who put together the fest and raised the level of its market in only four months. “This year is only the base for what we will do next year.”