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‘Voice Over,’ ‘The Mystery of Happiness,’ ‘Gente de bien’ Play Rio Fest’s Latin Premiere

Key Rio Fest section showcases forces now driving Latin American filmmaking

RIO DE JANEIRO — Chilean Cristian Jimenez’s “Voice Over,” Argentine Daniel Burman’s “The Mystery of Happiness” and Colombian Franco Lolli’s Gente de Bien” feature in this year’s Rio fest Premiere Latina.

Packed with fest faves, prize winners, plus some box office hits, Latin Premiere not only showcases many 2014 Latin American highlights but also implicitly the trends driving filmmaking over the region.

Playing in international premiere at last week’s San Sebastian Festival, and set in the small town of Valdivia, southern Chile – “Voice Over” reps a large step-up for Jimenez, bristling with characters and side-stories while portraying a family and its myriad multifarious members.

Likewise, after 2009 family saga “Huacho” and 2011’s countryside-set drama “By the Fire,” Alejandro Fernandez Almendras adds genre gristle to the mix in “To Kill a Man,” a probing revenge drama thriller that questions the victim’s real motives for pay-back.

To aid films to attain a large enough scale to stand out in an

ever-more crowded art-house sector, producers are turning to international co-production. Partners now come not just from Europe but increasingly North America and the rest of Latin America.

A pioneering U.S.-Colombia production exec-produced by Spike Lee, produced by Elena Greenlee and Marcia Nunes, Mirlanda Torres Zapata and Carolina Caicedo, and drawing both coin and inspiration from Latin America, Jakob Kubota Wladyka’s thriller “Manos Sucias” won Best New Narrative Director Award at Tribeca and placed second in the Heineken Audience Award. Among Latin America finance: Cine Colombia and Caracol TV.

Burman’s “The Mystery of Happiness” is co-produced by Burman and Diego Dubcovsky’s BD Cine in Buenos Aires and Walkiria Barbosa’s Total Filmes in Rio. For ”Voice Over,” Chile’s Jirafa Films enrolled not only Paris’ Rouge Intl, but 1976 Productions in Canada.

On the M-Appeal-sold “Holiday,” Diego Araujo’s gay coming-of-age tale set in Ecuador in 1999, Ecuador’s Luna Films and Abaca Films is joined by Andres Longares’ Buenos Aires-based Cepa Audiovisual – whose recent credits include Ricardo Darin and Belen Rueda starrer “The 7th Floor,” a kidnap thriller also at Latin Premiere.

In its distaff directors Celina Murga and Anahi Berneri, Latin Premiere makes a nod to the now remarkable presence of femme helmers in Argentina via two films with excellent pedigri and “A” Grade Fest competition berths: Helmed by Berneri (“Encarnacion”) and world premiering at San Sebastian, ”Open Air” portrays a couple’s gradual, almost unknowing separation.

Exec-produced by Martin Scorsese and an Argentine-Germany-Netherlands co-production, Murga’s “The Third Side of the River“ drew down coin from the Entre Rios province, as regional film funding builds in Latin America, allowing Murga and producer Juan Villegas to make a film in Entre Rios at a larger scale than her debut, “Ana and the Others” – yet another step up from an Latin American established helmer.

Femme directors are breaking through in Latin America because entry to film schools, which are fuelling the new Argentine Cinema, is as open to women as men, Murga tpld Variety at Rio.

All over Latin America, proliferating film schools, economic access to high-tech equipment and hiked government funding is bringing on a new generation of filmmakers. At Premiere Latina, eight of the 18 films are fiction feature debuts. To name just a few: Benjamin Nashtat’s “History of Fear,” Colombian Franco Lolli’s “Gente de bien,” about inimical class divides in Colombia; Hernan Rosselli’s “Mauro” and Juan Martin Hsu’s “La Salada,” both from Argentina.

Some Premiere Latina titles slip any category: Martin Rejtman’s “Two Gun Shots,” a profoundly realistic take on narrative; Oscar Ruiz Navia’s “Los hongos,” midway between arthouse and experiment.

But if Latin American filmmakers face one challenge it’s how to mesh character-driven stories with the social issues that still concern them.

In Premiere Brasil’s “Casa Grande,” said helmer Fellipe Barbosa, “My main intention was to tell a great story, focusing on characters and their relationships, set in a very specific and authentic universe.”

That specific universe is marked by “changing class relations in Brazil over the last 20 years, as workers, including domestics have finally gained labor rights.

“There is a trend now that we are able to look backwards and see how Brazil has been built for good and for bad over the last forty-to- fifty years,” Rio Fest co-director Ilda Santiago.

She added: “That’s what we actually want because the country is changing very fast, has been changing very fast over the last years.”

 

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