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Ventana Sur Market Works to Fuel Biz in Latin America, Europe

Over the past decade, one of the biggest shifts in the international movie business has been the rise of local film industries. Latin America has proved a pacemaker in growth. Ventana Sur, Latin America’s biggest movie market, which kicks off its 6th edition in Buenos Aires Dec. 1, has positioned itself sagely to not only grow with it but channel and drive change.

Final numbers have to come in. But on its first half-day of trading, this Monday, its organizers – Argentina’s Incaa Film Agency and the Cannes Festival and Cannes Film Market – were reporting at least several hundred more international buyers attending this year.

Once an after thought for a highly Hollywood-centric industry, Latin’s America’s movie ramp up cannot but attract attention.

Fueled by government subsidies, tax coin, TV promotion, new generations of filmmakers, ever cheaper high-tech digital cameras and the local audience’s hunger for films reflecting their own social realities, Mexico (10.6%), Brazil (18.6%) and Argentina (14.6%) all saw local films take more than 10% of the local B.O. in 2013 for the first time in memory.

SEE MORE: From the November 18, 2014 issue of Variety

In 2014, 45 Chilean movies will be released in that country, up from 2013’s 25, while Warner Bros.-distributed “Wild Tales,” which grossed $17.2 million through Nov. 2, is helping push Argentina’s 2014 local film share toward 16%-17%, said Lucrecia Cardoso, Incaa president.

Running Dec. 1-5 in Buenos Aires, Ventana Sur’s 6th edition gives some hints at where the Latin American film industry, now often heavily involving Hollywoodstudios and the region’s biggest broadcasters, massive media companies, may now be heading.

Originally conceived as a pure-play sales market in 2009 by the Cannes Festival and Market and Argentina’s Incaa film agency, Ventana Sur was flooded in 2010 by producers from all over Latin America, most seeking co-production partners from Europe and the U.S. To that end, Ventana Sur has become ever more not only a mart but a meet. In 2014, producers backed by the San Sebastian Film Festival, the Roma Lazio Film Commission and Catalan Film & TV will all be dispatched to Buenos Aires. But specific delegations to not explain the robust hike this year in buyer attendance.

Ambitious Latin American producers are turning to co-production to help finance films that can stand out in a crowd: Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales,” which bowed in Cannes and was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics in the U.S., was produced out of Argentina and Spain; Pablo Fendrik’s “El Ardor,” another Cannes bow, is a Latin America-U.S.-Europe co-production, and the first production of Participant PanAmerica, the arm of the U.S.-based Participant Media.

“There’s a consolidation of relations across Latin America: People are getting used to dealing and working with one another,” says Cristian Conti, a partner producer at Colombia’s Dynamo.

“Latin America cinema wants to have more scale, caliber, which means higher production values, higher-profile cast, effects, locations, distinctive facets allowing it to compete head on with European productions,” says Juan de Dios Larrain from Chile’s Fabula.

That’s not the only trend which will be evident at this year’s Ventana Sur. For many young Latin American filmmakers, genre is the new arthouse, allowing a mix of more mainstream entertainment with auteur and social concerns. Picking up on a genre build, Ventana Sur last year bowed Blood Window, a fantastic film mini-mart that has already grown beyond Buenos Aires. A six-pic Blood Window showcase unspooled at Cannes and a Blood Window Award for the Latin American Film — the Eli Roth-produced “The Stranger” — was given at October’s Sitges Fest.

Notable, this year, is a bevy of lo-fi but high concept sci-fi projects and productions: Isaac Ezban’s “The Similars,” “Fractum,” from Argentina’s Sergio Esquenazi, Brazilian Pedro Marques’ high-concept “Tales of Tomorrow,” and, set up at Chile’s Glaciar Films, “Requiem For a Robot.”

A Variety Latin America Up Next roundtable on Wednesday, featuring panelists such as Argentina’s Matias Mosteirin (“Wild Tales”), Chile’s Augusto Matte (“Voiceover”) and Giancarlo Nasi (“Nobody Boy”), Brazil’s Diana Almeida (“The Way He Looks”) and Ecuador’s Maria Angeles Palacios (“Porcelain Horse”) will give a quick take on the now bracing range and quality of top-notch Latin American filmmaking, driven mostly – but not entirely – by a new generation of filmmakers.

If Ventana Sur had launched 10 years before, it might have been described as an arthouse market. Now, however, Latin America is trending ever more mainstream.

“For many years, Latin American cinema looked strongly towards European festivals, Cannes, Berlin, Venice, San Sebastian, etc. Now many producers are trying to reinvent themselves, trying something new: Cinema of quality, but films that really reach audiences, including in their home markets,” said San Sebastian Fest director Jose Luis Rebordinos, curator of Ventana Sur’s Bloody Work in Progress.

One key to growth has been the launch each year at Ventana Sur of new initiatives, alliances, suggested its co-director Bernardo Bergeret. At 2014’s Blood Window, for example, the Roma Lazio Film Commission will give two prizes, one for post-production services, a second in co-production funding for a Blood Window genre pic project.

Another 2014 departure: Principio del Film, a platform for Latin America’s biggest book publishers to present their hottest new properties. A second edition unspools in March at 2015’s Guadalajara Film Festival, which is hosting Latin America’s biggest book fair.

Interactuar, a new section will showcase multi-platform projects and productions: Rhayuela’s upcoming “Alias Maria,” for example. “Latitudes,” from Brazil’s Felipe Braga, a pioneering web and TV series/feature, also plays Ventana Sur

Ventana Sur’s core activity remains, however, market screenings of about 120 recent Latin American films. This year, a new Europe Day will allow Latin American sales agents to screen Euro films;  Ventana Sur will also organize meetings between sales agents and Latin American producers and invite Latin American exhibition execs to attend screenings.

“The Europe Day will make Ventana Sur more attractive to Latin American buyers of more general films – four more have signed up from Mexico – who may then develop an interest in Latin American movies,” said Ventana Sur co-director Jerome Paillard.

“Exhibitors are not normally invited to market screenings, but their feedback on titles can help distributors decide on acquisitions,” he added.

So, although domestic films’ market shares may dip in Mexico and Brazil this year, the biggest trend at 2014’s Ventana Sur, as for Latin America’s film industry at large, remains sustained growth.

With 150-plus Brazilian attendees, Ventana Sur, “The largest market in this sector in Latin America, will certainly offer participants effective business opportunities, such as international distribution agreements, commercial co-production partnerships, as well as the exchange of information and networking,” said Cinema do Brasil CEO André Sturm.

“Other countries in Latin America have come to see Ventana Sur as their own market,” says Incaa’s Cardoso.

That is a large achievement.

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