BARCELONA — Unspooling just nine miles from the Andalusian port of Palos de Frontera, from which Christopher Columbus set sail in 1492, the Huelva Ibero-American Festival also looks West and this year is promising discoveries.
Launched in 1975, Huelva is Europe’s oldest and largest confab dedicated exclusively to movies from Ibero-America: Spain, Latin America and Portugal.
“If you want to see a comprehensive panorama of the region, we’ve got it,” fest director Eduardo Trias says. “Our first criteria is to select the best films on offer. The second is a geographical spread.”
A bellwether of the shifting trends in Latin American production, Huelva nails two in its Competition, reflecting the large quantity and solid quality of young, first-time feature filmmakers from Latin America and the current vibrancy of Colombian film production.
Huelva’s Competition lineup includes two Colombian entries: “Dog Eat Dog,” a stylish thriller that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and “La milagrosa,” produced by Colombian Fractal Films and directed by Mexican helmer Rafael Lara. Five of the 12 films in the category are from new directors.
These competition picks underscore the impact of globalization. “Borders are disappearing,” Trias says. “You can have an Argentina-born helmer who studies in New York, consolidates his career in the Netherlands and has a Spanish co-production partner. ‘Parque Via’ could have been made by a French director.”
“Ibero-American pics that cross borders generally reflect the region’s social reality: poverty, drug dealing, violence,” states Eduardo Costantini, producer of Berlin Golden Bear winner “Elite Squad.”
Contempo war drama “La milagrosa” kicks off with the kidnapping of an upper-class Colombian by FARC guerrilla forces. “El enemigo,” from Venezuela’s Luis Alberto Lamata, depicts urban delinquents in Caracas.
But Latin American producers increasingly refuse to make just serio-social dramas.
“Producers should make universal stories and not just deal in stereotypes,” say Zita Carvalhosa and Patrick Leblanc, producers of another Brazilian showcase player, “Alice’s House.”
Huelva shows helmers reaching into more personal themes: “Mentiras piadosas,” from Argentina’s Diego Sabanes, satirizes human hypocrisy; Locarno Golden Leopard winner “Parque Via” deals with human solitude and underlying aggression.
“Some of our directors are exploring more mainstream possibilities, but there are others who don’t feel they’ve got a B.O. gun to their head,” says producer Pablo Cruz — who partners with Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna at Mexico’s Canana Films — referring to Mexican B.O. smash “Arrancame la vida.”
Huelva showcases one Brazilian blockbuster, the Costantini-produced “Elite Squad,” framing a testosterone-laden faceoff between Brazil’s BOPE police squad vs. drug barons.
Another pic with B.O. potential, Agustin Diaz Yanes’ Mexican crime drama “Solo quiero caminar,” won’t make Huelva this year. Released in Spain on Oct. 31, it still will be playing Spanish hardtops.
“Our main problem lies in internal circulation within Latin America,” says Fernando Epstein, at Uruguay’s Control Z, which produced Cannes Directors’ Fortnight selection “Acne.”
Spain’s Jose Maria Morales, Wanda Films’ CEO and VP of Fipca (the Ibero-American federation of film and audiovisual producers), agrees and sees the influx of Ibero money into distribution as a curative.
Fipca holds its annual board meeting at Huelva. Distribution will almost certainly be one of its main talking points.
When: Nov. 15- 22
Where: Columbus House Conference Center, Grand Theater, Aqualon Cinemas, Edificio Gota de Leche, UNIA – Huelva, Spain