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‘Asylum,’ ‘Shade,’ ‘Quinientos’ Among Bogota Projects

This week’s Bogota Audiovisual Market underscores fast-diversification in Colombian movie-making

BOGOTA– Jaime Osorio’s “Asylum,” Cesar Acevedo’s “Land and Shade” and Juan Andrés Arango’s “X Quinientos” feature among projects to be pitched at the fifth Bogota Audiovisual Market, Colombia’s biggest movie mart and an annual bellwether of trends driving national production.

Kicking off Monday, and with the U.K. as its guest country, the market runs through to Friday night.

Films screening at Bogota include Cannes Critics’ Week player “Gente de bien,” sold by France’s Versatile Films, in which Franco Lolli skewers class-divides in Colombia.

Also being talked up in Bogota: William Vega’s projected follow-up to Cannes Directors’ Fortnight title “La Sirga,” focusing on man who embarks on a motorbike trip to heal the wounds from his father’s death.

Produced by Colombia’s Rhayuela and Burning Blue, plus France’s CineSud Promotion, and Osorio’s follow-up to his debut, the Wild Bunch-sold “El Paramo,” “Asylum” turns on a teen hesitating between avenging his best friend’s murder and saving the life of an asylum inmate whom he falls in love with.

A family drama, “Land and Shade” follows an old farmer who returns to his family’s village, but it is gone, devastated by the dust from sugarcane cultivation and industrial progress.

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Set in Mexico, Canada and Colombia, “X Quinientos’’’ three intertwining stories turn on individuals – a drug cartel member in the Colombian story – who, after a loved one’s death, go through physical transformation.

Along with titles from higher-profile helmers – “Fresh,” the next from the U.K.’s Peter Webber (“Girl With a Pearl Earring”) and “Everybody Leaves,” from Colombian vet Sergio Cabrera – “Shade,” “Asylum” and “X Quinientos” rep potential highlights at a mart that boasts a huge spread of films: 46 projects and 33 pix-in-post screening.

Selections at most other marts are much tighter, though Bogota has introduced a final filter mechanism for projects with the producers of the three judged the best traveling to Locarno.

The welter also has an upside.

“Co-production forums and markets seem to tend to pre-select projects in function of local demand or international potential. But at BAM you get all types of projects,” said Berlin Festival delegate Javier Martin. “The same can be said for the films screening. Even if the directors don’t yet have the level for selection at A-grade festivals, you can discover filmmakers whose films, especially documentaries, still get to interesting festivals and with whom it’s worth creating first links for the future.”

Moved by top Colombian arthouse producers – “Shade” is another Burning Blue production; “X Quinientos” is produced out of Colombia by Septima Films; “Asylum” trams Rhayuela and Burning Blue – all three titles have been sparking buzz, possess obvious fest potential and have drawn down foreign co-production partners: Canada’s Peripheria Productions and Mexico’s Machete Producciones team on “X Quinientos”; and a litany of production companies – Burning Blue, Cine-Sud, Germany’s Una Film, Chile’s Rampante Films and the Netherlands’ Topkapi Films on “Shade.”

If the fifth edition underscores anything, however, it’s the gathering build of films –and TV series – that do not explore civil conflict, the drug trade or grinding poverty.

“Colombian film audiences have started to ask for further film genres beyond violence and social dramas. Romantic comedies are an answer. It is only a matter of market,” said Diego Ramirez at 64A Films, which is remaking Bollywood title “Ladies vs. Ricky Bahl” and partnering with L.A.’s Green Dog Films to co-produce Madremonte Project, a five-pic horror slate.

At Bogota this year, genre projects include Juan Felipe Orozco’s haunted cabin chiller “She Comes Only at Night,” set up at 11:11 and picturing a family terrorized by a ghoul. Of movies screening, “Holly House” follows a boy who is hounded by the devil.

“Tell the Devil I’m Not Dead,” a stylized – director Edwin Cortes calls it “exaggerated fiction” – and finally brutal thriller turns on a one-eyed murderer pursued by a violent police captain.

Fantasy pic “Dome,” is set in a dystopia where a tomb robber and shaman face off with a war-thirsty Supreme Leader.

Another project, Giovanni Granada’s “Maximum Altitude,” from Bogota’s Metro Studio Films, weighs in as a teen fantasy in which class science nerd Camilo battles mighty enemies beyond the earth’s confines.

So the real narrative this year is Colombian cinema’s drive into multiple film-types as producers raise their commercial ambitions and sometimes budgets.

“The Nazi Code,” for instance, is a Mexico-set World War II espionage thriller adapting the bestseller from Mexico’s F.G. Haghenbeck and helmed by Colombian TV director Jaime Escallon (“La Jaula”).

A second World War II-set project, this time set among Colombia’s Mestizo population, “The Other War” tracks American Richard Evans Schultes who is dispatched to the Amazon in search of a solution to a scientific enigma.

An increasing number of films are dealing not with Colombia’s past civil conflict, but its current treatment in the country, which encourages more noirish titles, or what it says about human nature in general.

At a Bogota market where the word “silence” appears in multiple titles, Felipe Cano’s “The Seeds of Silence,” for instance, follows a detective who is investigating the murder of an human-rights attorney when she was seeking to link a high-ranking general to a series of murders.

The war zone becomes a context rather than subject in itself. In road movie “Three Scapulars,” one of the screenings highlights, a couple is dispatched to murder a snitch, only to discover it’s a woman and she’s pregnant. Movie marks the comeback after eight years of Felipe Aljure (“The Colombian Dream,” “La gente de la Universal”).

“The industry is looking at a wider market. If Colombian films aren’t recouping easily in their domestic market, producers are making more ambitious projects aiming at snagging much stronger international distribution,” said producer Jorge Botero at Septima Films.

Such goals favor diversification. Animation, for example, is also growing, Botero added. The at least six toons at the market already run a large gamut from Mari Escobar’s gender-breaking TV toon series, in which 6-year-old Ana imagines she’s a Corsair pirate, to Felipe Morell’s animated feature adventure “Zoro,” about an 8-year-old indigenous boy battling to save his people.

Victor Pena’s toon TV series, “The Impossibles: Love Superheroes,” depicts two children in the big city, and searching for their parents.

Some projects skew older: “El Sombreron,” for instance, is an omnibus toon feature from Medellin’s Clap Studios featuring 12 Latin American bogeymen.

Animation is increasingly enrolled in multi-platform docu series. One of the most original, “Old Folk’s Tales,” records seniors talking about their childhood. Its producer, Hierro Animacion, aims to co-produce its third season with Argentina, Brazil and France; “The Animal World of Max Rodriguez,” another doc toon series, tells children about the wildest animals on the American continent.

But Colombia’s industry continues to court audiences with comedies. One screener, Bkakti Films’ “For a Fistful of Hair,” energetically pushed by its producers, is about a village’s struggle at any cost to keep the secret of its cure for baldness. It stars soccer player Carlos Valderrama, whose blond Afro made him one of the most hirsute soccer stars in history.

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