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Ventana Sur Honors FiGa Films

L.A. sales-distribution-production house receives first tribute from Latin America’s foremost mart

MADRID –L.A.-based sales-distribution-production house FiGa Films will be honored by Ventana Sur with a six-pic homage in a new tribute initiative for leading sales companies and distributors of Latin American movies.

Kicking off Dec. 5 at Buenos Aires’ Cines Gaumont, as Ventana Sur rounds its final bend, the homage, entitled Garabato de Pajaro (literally, “Rough Sketch of a Bird”), bows with San Sebastian Golden Shell winner “Bad Hair,” about a nine-year-old boy toying with his nascent sexual identity, much to his mother’s appalled chagrin.

Tribute also features two strong debuts which deserve more attention – “Dog Flesh,” from Chile’s Fernando Guzzoni and Brazilian Sergio Andrade’s “Jonathas’ Forest” – plus three emblematic movies from directors which command a festival fan-base, plus niche sales: Bolivian Martin Boulocq’s “Los viejos,” Mexican Nicolas Pereda’s “Summer of Goliath,” and Guatemalan Julio Hernandez Cordon’s “Marimbas from Hell.”

“We wanted to create a tribute which was coherent with Ventana Sur, featuring companies present who could present films, and explain their company and films to an audience,” said Latin American film programmer Teresa Toledo, who created the section and curated its selection with FiGa.

“The tribute might also serve as a springboard for titles which haven’t been released in Buenos Aires,” she added.

“The idea is to celebrate a tribute every year, encouraging and supporting distributors and sales agents that focus on Latin American films,” added Ventana Sur co-director Bernardo Bergeret.

Few focus more than FiGa. Launching at 2006 Sundance by Brazilian Sandro Fiorin and Cuban Alex Garcia – hence its binomial moniker – FiGa began selling “Alice’s House,” from Brazil’s Chico Teixeira. “A simple, small film, which had everything we love about auteur cinema. It put us on the map,” Fiorin and Garcia recall.

FiGa gets to places and national cinemas most other sales companies fail to reach.

Since it’s foundation, it’s consistently worked the quickly building regional production/festival scene in Brazil, acquiring “The Sky Above” a Brasilia Film Festival prize winner, produced by Belo Horizonte’s film collective Teia Filmes.

Fiorin also carries a candle for Brazil’s Mostra de Tiradentes in Minas Gerais. “It’s like Sundance: Very hard to get to, in every regard, but completely worth it.”

Boulocq’s “Los viejos,” a chronicle of old age and rekindling love, is the second feature from one of Bolivia’s leading young auteurs.

“Latin America is the most exciting new cinema. Mexico, Brazil and Argentina are givens. The challenge is the rest of the continent,” Fiorin enthused.

FiGa doesso with passion. “Some sales agents say: ‘I love this film, but I’m not going to take it, because it won’t sell.’ FiGa takes films it loves, and then works, works at them, for festival play and its market. They have a permanent commitment towards Latin American cinema,” said Toledo.

“If we’re going to represent a film for two-or-three years, we have to love it as much as its director does,” Garcia and Fiorin explained.

Sales cycles on FiGa films can last even longer. “A Useful Life,” Uruguayan Federico Veiroj’s bravado homage to filmmaking and filmotheques, bowed at Toronto in 2010. FiGa has just sold it to Latin American cable for the second time.

FiGa focuses on small, often fragile films, micro by budget standards at least.  But their films do sell, on occasions very well. Exhibit A: “Bad Hair”: “a small film which keeps on growing,” per Garcia. Axiom Films has picked up the U.K., Eric Lagesse’s Pyramide Distribution rights to France, Look Now! Switzerland. Brazil’s Esfera Films, one of its biggest arthouse distributors, has swooped for Brazil.

A U.S. deal with an undisclosed distribution company is also closed, as are Latin American pay TV rights, Fiorin said. Other sales look to be announced shortly.

“Neighboring Sounds,” now Brazil’s Oscar submission, “continues to sell and get invited to festivals non-stop,” he added.  It will be commercially released in France and Portugal in February; a Blu-ray edition was just published in Austria.

“Our goal is to nourish emerging filmmakers, from finding producing partners to consultation through the post-production phase, from representation on the festival circuit to the ultimate sale and release of their film,”

Garcia and Fiorin say in a mission statement.

A major FiGa hallmark is its strong first features, such as Guzzoni’s “Dog Flesh,” a 2012 San Sebastian New Directors winner chronicling one week in the life of a former torturer, or Amazon wilderness-set “Jonathas’ Forest,” from Andrade, a 2012 Rio Fest standout.

The tribute’s six titles “represent something new, an unknown director, a novel narrative, something different,” the FiGa founder said.

FiGa’s sales catalogue now runs to over 60 titles. “Each has something very special,” they insist.

“Summer of Goliath” and “Marimbas in Hell” are set on the borderlands between documentary and film, avoid conventional narrative, traditional story drive, or sometimes visual definition.

As Juan Carlos Avellar commented in an introduction to the tribute, in many of the six film’s opening shots, their settings remain out of focus (“Goliath”), only partly seen (“Forest”), near empty (“Marimbas”), or partly obscured (“Viejos”). Latin America is like a “roughly-sketched bird,” still in the process of creation, Avellar argued in a reference that gives the tribute its title.

For those who like challenging, thoughtful films, among such rough sketches of Latin America FiGa has some of the finest.

Figa tribute Garabato de Pajaro runs Dec. 5-10.

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