Ventana Sur’s sales surge

Spotlight: Ventana Sur

Launched by Cannes’ Market and Argentina’s Incaa Film Institute in 2009, Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur has already addressed one of Latin America’s perennial banes. Its films often garner fest praise and plaudits, but that rarely translates into significant overseas sales.

That’s now changing.

Sales agents picked up at least 15 Latin American titles at 2010’s Ventana Sur. Paybacks can be notable. Urban Distribution Intl.’s “Las acacias,” which it circled at Ventana Sur, won Cannes’ Camera d’Or and closed 16 territory deals to date.

Strand Releasing took U.S. distribution to “Astral City,” a FilmSharks 2010 Ventana Sur pickup.

The event has “enlarged the visibility of Latin American films,” says Ventana Sur co-director Jerome Paillard. More Latin American films are selling widely, more Latin American execs attend Cannes.

Running Dec. 2-5, Ventana Sur is still growing and innovating.

Around 250 buyers from outside Latin America — 10% up on 2010 and encompassing most Latin American film buyers — are due to attend this year, Paillard says.

In the new Festivals in Focus section, directors of the Lima, Santiago, Rio de Janeiro, Morelia, Icaro, Mar del Plata and Valdivia fests will each present one local standout pic. All were world premieres, some are buzzed-up (Rio’s “Matraga”) for foreigners, most remain unseen.

“Flooded” by requests, says Ventana Sur co-director Bernardo Bergeret, the mart will add late evening screenings at the Cinemark Puerto de Madero eight-plex.

A new Copia Cero award for Ventana Sur’s Primer Corte works-in-progress showcase includes €5,000 ($7,000) of post-production services from Paris-based Titra/TVS. Europa Distribution Intl., an indie European network, offers $1,400-$6,000 per European country where EDI members distribute the film, says Paillard.

Also part of Copia Cero, Argentina’s Films Suez supports the winner’s Argentine marketing campaign. U.S. exhibitor Cinemark, which owns 1,250 screens in Latin America, will open the title in Argentina, Chile and Peru.

Among side events, Cannes topper Thierry Fremaux will program and present a European Film Week, Nov. 29-6.

Latin Side of the Doc/Doc Buenos Aires, a co-production-networking confab, runs just after Ventana Sur.

Ven TV, a new sister event, showcases titles from 400 hours of drama and docus financed by public tender over 2010-11 and aired on 16 new state DTT channels.

Financed series include “Organ & Co,” from Vanessa Ragone, producer of “The Secret in Their Eyes,” and “Rodolfo Walsh’s Last Case,” produced by Claudio Posse (“Metamorphosis”).

However a Latin American film market will always rely on the state of local film, and 2011 has seen spectacular signs of new ambition.

At Berlin, Colombia’s Dynamo Capital confirmed plans for a $150 million-$200 million private equity fund to invest in Latin American film, TV and animation.

At October’s Rio fest, “Elite Squad” director Jose Padilha announced his Zazen label and Daniel Filho’s Lereby Prods. will invest $60 million in 10 Brazilian pics. These will feed a new domestic distrib, Nossa Distribuidora, whose multiple partners include Fernando Meirelles’ 02 and Conspiracao.

Growth in Latin America, however patchwork, is undeniable. But Ventana Sur points up other historic challenges to the region’s production.

Movie companies produce most of Argentina’s new DTT series. A mixed film/TV slate “gives film companies oxygen, cutting recoupment cycles,” says Incaa prexy Liliana Mazure.

Latin American pics, Mazure argues, lack exhibition playdates, squeezed out by massive Hollywood blockbuster releases at multiplexes.

She cites July 14-17 in Argentina where “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two,” “Cars 2” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” together occupied 711 of the country’s 800 screens.

Ventana Sur has invited execs from exhib chains Cinemark, plus Mexico’s Cinepolis and Colombia’s Cine Colombia to discuss the collaboration.

Another challenge is pan-regional distribution.

“It’s so frustrating how few Argentinean or Colombian films are shown in Mexico,” laments Mexico’s Fernando Rovzar, who founded Lemon production house. “We share a region and a language: It’s imperative we work toward monetizing those cultural similarities.”

Seven Latin American distribs — including Colombia’s Cineplex and Mexico’s Mantarraya — have banded together to form pan-regional distrib Lared to provide more focused releases of three-to-four Latino and international indie pics a year. Institutional support comes from Media Program’s Media Mundus.

One idea, Paillard says, would be to use next year’s Ventana Sur to launch a P&A support scheme for Latin American pic distributors.

Save for Brazil, local pic market shares remain low. So many Latin American producers still focus on endowing national audiences with a sense of excitement about homegrown product.

Padilha’s 10 pics, he says, “primarily target Brazil.” “Secret” producer Ragone recognizes she’s “especially interested in attracting spectators in my own country where my films should naturally work.”

Seachanges are sweeping the region, however.

Since the early 2000s, a vast new wave of filmmakers has broken through and many yearn to make films of larger scope.

Also, “auteur cinema is now complemented by films made for audiences,” says Chilean producer Juan de Dios Larrain.

Both moves augur well for regional distribution and exports alike.

Charles Newbery contributed to this report.

Ventana Sur’s sales surge | Bazaar buzz | Movers and reshapers