Latin pic marts sizzle

Markets flourish, boosted by buying spree

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — One decade ago, most Latin American national film industries were struggling for survival.

Now, after production levels have boomed in most territories — Argentina alone made 154 features last year — they’re battling for the keys to further growth.

A dynamic clutch of dedicated national, mini-regional and pan-Latin American film markets are aimed at boosting exports and co-productions for young, but fast-maturing local production sectors.

Mexico’s Guadalajara mart, under 2006-10 director Jorge Sanchez, built up its Film Market and Ibero-American Co-production Meeting, and imported Cannes’ Producers Network and a Guadalajara Construye rough-cut section.

This week’s Buenos Aires’ Bafici Festival boasts a prestigious works-in-progress section, a BAL co-production forum and Puentes, a Europe-Latin America meet.

Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur, a custom-built mart for Latin American pics combining the strength of its organizers, Cannes’ Film Market and Argentina’s Incaa film institute, has taken Latin American film markets to the next level.

At least 300 buyers and 1,960 non-Latin American participants attended the second edition of Ventana Sur in December.

Variety reported 12 pic sales, indicating the international film biz was taking Latin America films seriously.

With so many new markets, the biz will have to decide on what purposes each event serves.

Unspooling March 25-31, the Guadalajara Film Market amassed deals including Urban Distribution Intl. (UDI), which pacted to co-produce “What They Called Love,” from Carlos Cesar Arbelaez, also acquiring international rights; Spain’s Latido Films, which took international on serial killer drama “The 5th Commandment,” from Rafael Lara; France’s Pyramide Intl., which presold Ismael Ferroukhi’s “Free Men” to New Era for Mexico and Central America; and Bruno Dumont’s “Hors satan” to Mexico’s Mantarraya.

Among a slew of sales announcements, FilmSharks Intl. confirmed LAP TV taking “Desierto sur,” France’s Bodega Films Karlovy Vary winner “The Mosquito Net” and China/Australia’s Binci Media Argentine hit “Just Like Me.”

The pacts epitomize not only Guadalajara’s deal-making, but also the direction of the festival sales business at large.

Guadalajara deals were mostly in the low-six-figure range, but these days, sales companies cannot afford to leave any territory unexplored.

Guadalajara served as a beachhead. “Sales in Mexico facilitate further sales to smaller territories — Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru — which depend on the availability of Spanish-subtitled prints in Mexico or Argentina),” says Lucero Garzon, at Pyramide Intl. “So pre-sales are very helpful right before Cannes.”

But Guadalajara’s Cannes proximity is a double-edged sword. Notably absent from its festival lineup were some of Latin America’s hottest items — the Canana-produced “Miss Bala,” and Wild Bunch-sold “El Paramo,” from Colombia’s Rhayuela — which may be holding out for placement in Cannes.

Guadalajara, though a much smaller market than Ventana Sur, is, however, much more than just a market.

Flooded by young Mexican producers, and boasting the influential Ibero-American Co-Production Meeting — energized by the presence of topnotch Latin American players RCN Films, Patagonik and Fabula — and two Cannes Producers’ Network sessions, it functions essentially as a production-networking platform.

Guadalajara and Ventana Sur look more complementary than rivalrous.

But Latin America’s mini-mart explosion doesn’t stop there. Chile’s Valdivia fest hosts the prestigious rough-cut Austra Lab. Colombia inaugurated the Bogota Audiovisual Market last July. La Paz is bowing a Bolivia Lab.

“There’s something very fresh going on in that region,” enthuses FiGa’s Sandro Fiorin.

Some people would say there’s almost too much going on now Latin America.

But, they add, it’s certainly a far better problem than the one a decade and a half ago, when there wasn’t very much happening at all.