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Latin American Connection Drives New San Sebastian Trade

Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum hikes industry fest attendance by 31%

BUENOS AIRES — Firmly-established after just two meets as one of the most-important Latin American movie project showcases in Europe, San Sebastian Festival’s new Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum has galvanized industry attendance at the Spanish fest, sparking a decisive 31.3% hike in participants over 2010-13 from 984 to 1,292.

San Sebastian’s industry presence rose to 1,084 in 2011, the first year under Jose Luis Rebordinos, then jumped to 1,290 pros in 2012, the first year of the Forum. Companies repped at San Sebastian surged 28.8% to 826 in 2013. Countries present jumped 20% to 54.

In even larger leaps, attendees at the Forum itself jumped 49.9% to 570, projects presented for selection – a final 16-project cut this year – were up 53.8%, one-to-one­-meetings 26.3% to 461.

Any growth in Spain these days is eye-catching, let alone robust double-digit expansion. Some credit for the Forum must go to the Basque government, which pays for the event, and Latin American film institutes, which bear part of the costs of travel. Equally, however, Rebordinos has prioritized industry growth at San Sebastian.

“A 31.3% rise in industry presence during a full-on crisis at a festival without that much industry activity before can only be achieved by a clear bet on industry,” said Rebordinos.

Also, the Forum is a key stop on a road map for movie project development /funding, which also takes in Ventana Sur and the Cannes Market, with additional pit stops possible: Rio Fest, Los Cabos’ Baja and Guadalajara, even Sao Paulo and Valdivia.

Latin American producers of course attend other fests: Morelia, Mar del Plata. But, partnered by the Cannes Market and Ventana Sur, San Sebastian now looks like one of the macro events in the circuit.

In one link-up, five European producers at the Forum have been invited to present their Forum projects at Ventana Sur: Pedro Aguilera (“Demonios tus ojos”), Edgar Tenenbaum (“The Companion”), Jose Maria Lara (“La puerta del amor”), Marianne Dumoulin (“Nobody Boy”), Alberto Gerrikabeitia (“Operacion Concha”) and Eugenia Mumenthaler (“Pozo de aire”).

More long-term phenomenon’s are also in play. Ten years ago, Latin America looked to Spain to fund its films. Now, post crisis, the boot isn’t quite on the other foot, but Latin America and Europe are certainly working a two-way street. The sharp 49.9% rise in Forum attendees this year vs. a stable general attendance suggests more and more Spanish pros are taking time out to visit the Forum.

“It looks like many people who were here last year decided, for whatever reason, to participate in the Forum in 2013,” said Rebordinos.

Movies presented to screen in San Sebastian’s videotheque spurted 50.8% to 92 this September; digital library screenings skyrocketed 209%. That suggests people are simply working harder. (Most-watched film at the video library was Spanish: Fernando Franco’s “Wounded,” followed by Mexican Fernando Eimbcke’s “Club Sandwich” and Aitor Merino’s “Asier eta biok,” an unusual Spain-Ecuador docu feature.)

Where does San Sebastian go from here?

“We’re happy about the presence from Spain and Latin America,” said Rebordinos.

“What we’d like to have is more European companies that work with Latin America and, while we’ve had projects of large interest, another pending subject is to have among the Forum’s 16 or 17 projects, three or four larger-scale ones.”

Rebordinos, who curated Blood Window’s Bloody Work in Progress, will participate with Outsider Pictures’ Paul Hudson and Cinesud Promotion’s Thierry Lenouvel on a Ventana Sur panel, “What Do I Like About Latin American Cinema?” which takes place Wednesday.

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