GUADALAJARA – With “El Guri” (The Kid), which won an HBO Latin America cash prize at Guadalajara Wednesday, Argentine writer-director-producer Sergio Mazza (“Graba,” “Gallero,” “El Amarillo”) is laying one founding stone of what local authorities hope will become a film-TV hub in Entre Rios, Argentina.
A clutch of factors – governments keen to create advanced service sector industries, often in traditionally rural economies; proliferating film schools; access to low-cost high-quality digital tech; building regional TV networks – are powering up regional industries over Latin America, from Mexico’s Guadalajara to Brazil’s Belo Horizonte or Cordoba in Argentina.
Now Entre Rios looks set to join the mix. Wedged between Santa Fe to the West, Uruguay to the east, and, to the south, Buenos Aires, and coursed by multiple rivers, Entre Rios has produced celebrated cineastes. Many shoot there. But they have traditionally set up their production houses in nearby Buenos Aires.
One, Celina Murga, competed at 2014’s Berlinale with “The Three Sides of the River,” which recreates sensuously the towns and riverscapes of Entre Rios, is exec-produced by Martin Scorsese.
Mazza now hopes to reverse the trend. In a first move, he transferred his production hose Masa Latina to Victoria in 2011. He has also invested in the region, creating Babul, a facilities and post-production house to service local productions from Rosario, Parana, Santa Fe and Victoria, four towns around the Parana River, within a short drive of each other. Babul can drive down costs, Mazza said. “Before, anybody who wanted to shoot in 4K had to rent out of Buenos Aires,” Mazza said. Masa Latina will also launch a screenplay competition this year.
A move towards a more audience-friendly auteur filmmaking for Mazza, “The Kid” is his first film shot in Entre Rios as an attempt at a regional build, and a showcase for Entre Rios-based regional filmmaking.
Produced out of Masa Latina, and to be distributed in Argentina by Pascual Condito’s Primer Plano, “The Kid” turns on the endeavors of a plucky 10-year-old, El Guri – “Kid” in local argot to find a place to live for his baby sister and himself, as his mother, once a prostitute, lays dying. That proves no easy task.
Shot last year, “The Kid” pulled down $50,000 from Entre Rios’ Ministry of Culture and Communication, Mazza said in Guadalajara where “The Kid” also won a Titra California subtitling prize.
What distinguishes it is precisely is its sense of place and robust, tragedy-laden characters. The singular flatlands of Entre Rios – boats beached up on dry land, a countryside littered with wreckage, scrap and stray dogs – also yield natural metaphors for the film’s characters where El Guri wanders like a stray, other people seem stranded in the past, unable to move on, and many face the wreck of past relationships, such as the lover of El Guri’s mother, too distraught at the death of his two young sons in an automobile accident to adopt other children.
“El Guri” was crewed up 50/50 from Buenos Aires and from Entre Rios, said Mazza. That will allow local technicians to gain experience, he added. The idea is to increase the regional presence in crews.
“The aim is to be able to pre-produce produce, shoot, post-produce and begin distribution in Entre Rios,” Mazza said.
Masa Latina has seven projects in development. One, with a complete screenplay, “Hot 3 At Home,” about a budding young photographer, Masa Latina aims to set up as a U.S., Mexico and Argentina co-production.
The Entre Rios government is backing local production, so are local TVs. Regional production will really lift off, however, with the full launch of DTT in Entre Rios.
Cordoba has a Universidad de Cine, Entre Rios does not, and needs one, said Mazza.
A regional film-TV hub is not created in one day.