UDI Sells U.S. on ‘Empty Hours,’ Picks up ‘Natural Sciences’ as Ventana Sur Closes on Flurry of Deals

Cannes/INCAA market still showing signs of vigorous growth

UDI Sells U.S. on ‘Empty Hours,’

BUENOS AIRES – Frederic Corvez’s Paris-based UDI took up the pace in the final stretches of a frenetic 5th Ventana Sur Latin American film market, taking world sales and French distribution rights to Argentine Matias Lucchesi’s “Natural Sciences,” winner of Ventana Sur’s pix-in-post showcase Primer Corte, its main industry event.

UDI’s Eric Schnedecker also sold U.S. distribution rights on Mexican Aaron Fernandez sex motel loners drama “The Empty Hours,” which screened at Ventana Sur, to Strand Releasing.

Deals on “Hours” for the U.K., Norway, Sweden and Switzerland are now pending.

Mid-week, Strand announced it had bought Mexican Claudia Sainte Luce’s 2012 Primer Corte winner, “The Amazing Cat Fish,” another Ventana screener, from Pyramide Intl.

With Outsider Pictures unveiling U.S. pick ups on multiple titles – NDM-sold Mexican Oscar entry “Heli,” “The Summer of Flying Fish,” from Alpha Violet,  “All About the Feathers,” from UDI, again, DeaPlaneta’s “Operation E” – as Outsider launches a curated TVOD site, Todo Cine Latino (TCL), the U.S. was one of the major markets for deals at Ventana Sur: Large U.S. indies and Hollywood studios are moving ever more into the Latin American movie biz, often to source movies for their own or other channels in a vibrant Latin American pay TV market, or for the U.S. feevee market.

AMC/Sundance Channel Global made early waves at Ventana Sur announcing it had closed first-run pay TV rights on its first two Latino movie pick-ups for its new Latin American Sundance Channel, which launched September: “Flying Fish” and Argentine Jazmin Lopez’s Venice player “Leones.”

Ondamax has sold a 12 movie-package to Starz’s rebooted Encore Espanol that, rather than a Spanish-lingo retread of mothership Encore, will now focus on movies and shows from Latin America. It has made “good sales” to HBO Latin America and made two offers on Ventana Sur movies, said CEO Eric Mathis.

Likewise, Argentine’s Aura Films has closed a three-pic deal with Sony Pictures Television for Sony and third-party channels in Latin America. Deal takes in “Luna en Leo,” “Inevitable” and “El secreto de Lucia.”

Aura will now target pick-ups for Latin America from not only Argentina but Peru, Colombia and Mexico, Aura’s Octavio Nadal said at Ventana Sur.

Chronicling a young girl’s journey to find her father, “Sciences” was one of a flurry of quality titles set for or already receiving major fest play that sold or attracted offers or buzz at the Buenos Aires meet-mart, which closed Friday.

Trading was robust too, at times, near runaway, as Ventana Sur added sections – a praised Blood Window mini-mart, a Brazil-Argentina-Uruguay Co-Prod Meet – participants, presentations, and a tsunami of new films.

That reflects market build at large in Latin America

“This year’s Ventana Sur has grown immensely. I’ve received far more product offers than before. Countries are producing, it seems, ever more movies,” said Ernesto Munoz de Cote at Fox Int’l Channels-owned LAP TV.

Mundial’s Cristina Garza said she had received “very good”  offers on her line-up, including “A Wolf at the Door,” “The Liberator” and “Paradise.” Alpha Violet’s Virginie Devesa was also advancing on multiple deals at market close.

In deals closed:

*Spain’s Festimania sold Jorge Algora’s “Inevitable,” a romantic riff on Jorge Luis Borge’s fantasy fiction and a highlight of a Galician promo-reel presentation, to Taiwan’s Cineplex. “Inevitable” has just been licensed to Japan’s Only Hearts.

*FilmSharks Intl. sold Armando Bo’s “The Last Elvis” to Australia’s SBS TV. Highly active, FilmSharks also announced it had closed international sales rights to Daniel Burman’s “The Mystery of Happiness,” one of Latin America’s obvious festival bets for early 2014, and Australia and Russia on Mexican blockbuster “The Noble Family.”

*Vicente Canales Film Factory Ent. licensed the U.S. on “Cannibal” to Film Movement and “Witching & Bitching” to IFC Midnight.

*Italian distributor/industry event organizer EXIT Media, a specialist in Spanish-language movie distribution in Italy, bought Santiago Mitre’s debut standout “The Student” from Alpha Violet. It plans a city-by-city roll-out, said EXIT’s Iris Martin-Peralta and Federico Sartori.

* In Buenos Aires, Canteen Outlaws and TLA Releasing snapped up U.S./Canada rights and the U.K. and France respectively to the Media Luna-sold gay family film “Blue And Not So Pink,” from Venezuela’s Miguel Ferrari.

*Primer Plano licensed “Corazon de Leon,” the second-highest grossing Argentine movie this year, to Weisner Distribution for Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Central America.

*Alfredo Calvino’s Habanero picked up San Sebastian Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum winner “The Companion” and offered a $10,000 minimum guarantee for Primer Corte co-winner “Open Cage.”

Many more deals look set to go down. This year, Shoreline Entertainment has made offers at Ventana Sur for international rights on films from six countries, said Shoreline’s Sam Eigen.

Jose Ramon Ganchegui at Miami-based paybox Somos TV acquired a score-or-more movies screening or sold at 2012’s Ventana Sur, buying U.S. pay TV, non-exclusive free VOD and Internet rights. He will take away 80 screeners from this year’s market, he saidSaturday.

Beyond ever-larger U.S. involvement in Latin America, from the studios downwards, trends cut several way at 2013’s Ventana Sur.

Backing Blood Window, this week’s 5th edition marked a milestone in public-sector recognition of Latin American genre as not only a potential export asset but also a potential future derivate of auteur cinema.

Projects and productions underscored a growing number of glocal productions: Movies often set at way-off-the-beaten-track locations but with cosmopolitan finance, such as Miriam Heard’s “Tierra Yerma” (Wastelands), produced by Chile’s Forastero and the U.K.’s Echo Art Films, with private-sector financing from Europe, but set in the desolate Chilean northern highlands, near the border with Bolivia.

Meanwhile, the Latin American film industry continues to grow. In just one latest instance, 12 commissions across the region are formally launching a Latin American Film Commission Network. Soon to be far more visible, it will favor pan-regional commission collaboration.

Buzz titles at Ventana Sur included Gonzalo Gutierrez’s fantasy epic “The Empty Kingdom,” pitched at the Beyond the Window co-production meet and, for more mainstream foreign-language buyers, Natalia Meta’s “Death in Buenos Aires” and Fernando Bermudez’s “El Bumbun,” sold by Urban Films.

Both “Death” and “R. Lorena,” in Primer Corte, were attracting sales agent interest in Buenos Aires. Argentine Gabriel Grieco’s serial killer procedural “Still Life” and splat-fiesta “Black Sea,” from Brazil’s Rodrigo Aragao, won Bloody Work in Progress.