IFF Panama: ‘Gueros,’ ‘Manos Sucias,’ ‘Lorena’ Set For Fest Debuts

Section highlights first features from a seemingly bottomless Latin American new talent pool

Gueros Güeros
Courtesy of IFF Panama

Gueros,” “Manos sucias” and “I’m Not Lorena” feature in the IFF Panama’s choice eight-title Ibero-American Debut Films section.

Sold by Mundial, a joint venture of IM Global and Canana, “Gueros” weighs in as very likely the most-prized Latin American first features of 2014, having topped San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos and Mexico’s Los Cabos, won Best First Feature at 2014’s Berlin, an Audience Award at the AFI, among multiple other plaudits.

Shot in black-and-white and in Academy ratio, “Gueros” follows three misfits – a rebel teen, his college slacker brother and larky best friend – as they cruise Mexico City in their clapped-out car, just as a massive students strike unspools nearby. Delightfully inventive in its cinematography and soundtrack, for many critics it recalls the cine-literate playfulness of French Nouvelle Vague.

A Tribeca winner and a pioneering U.S.-Colombia production exec-produced by Spike Lee, the 6 Films-sold “Manos Sucias” follows two estranged brothers, Afro-Colombian fishermen, as they use a fishing boat to tow a cocaine –packed “narco-torpedo” from Colombia’s Buenaventura towards Panama.

First seen at Locarno’s Carte Blanche, and one of the latest films from Chile’s “La Nana” producer Forastero, Isadora Marras’ “I Am Lorena” turns on a young actress who’s suddenly hounded by collection agencies, which confuse her with someone else.

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.

The balance of their focus is changing too. While honoring Latin American cinema’s hallmark social issue tradition, they prove much more: Gueros is a slice of Mexican City life, but also a romantic quest, and a self reflexive commentary on film as play, with a character even suddenly addressing the camera. What is striking in “Manos Sucias” is its mesh of action-thriller drive and social-issue drama with moral dilemmas in a tale grounded in both its characters and a painstaking recreation of locale. “Lorena” is an identity thriller, also a journey into Santiago de Chile’s unseemly demi-monde, as well as a search for emotional happiness.

Equally, produced by Alex de la Iglesia, “Shrew’s Nest” (“Musarañas”) comes in at the repression of Franco’s Spain not as just its subject but the catalyst for a grisly sexual-slasher set in Spain’s ‘50s and paying homage, in its confined spaces, and characters’ burning obsessions to a Golden Age of late ‘50s/early ‘60s Spanish filmmaking, and a Spain hell bent – then as now? – on internal conflict rather than happy co-habitation.

Of other films in the section, written by Diego Araujo and set in Ecuador in 1999, “Holiday” turns on Juan Pablo, a 16-year-old, who falls in love with Juanjo on a family trip to the Ecuatorian Andes for the carnival. Juan Pablo begins to experience the pleasure of new liberating realities while his country, assailed by a banking crisis, and his family, embroiled in a corruption scandal, appear to be going to ruin. As friendship turns to a fragile romance, Juan Pablo is forced to define himself in terms of his sexuality and as a person.

For Maren Kroymann, CEO of “Holiday’s” sales agent, Berlin’s M-Appeal, “Politics provides a context in ‘Holiday’ but the film’s center is a sensitive, intimate portrayal of the boys’ universe, the dynamics between the two boys, one from a bourgeois family, another from a very different class, who find something in each other.”

Panama’s Ibero-American Debut Films also features Argentine’s Juan Martin Hsu’s “La Salada,” German Teijeira’s “A Moonless Night” and Roberto Gaston’s “The Silly Ones and the Stupid Ones.”

Set in a striking context of large social resonance, Buenos Aires La Salada, the biggest street market in the world, “La Salada traces three story strands: Teen Yunjin’s growing attraction to an Argentine boy, despite her upcoming marriage to a fellow-Korean; the friendship between Yunjin’s father Mr. Kim, and an 18-year-old, Bruno, recently arrived in Argentina; lonesome Huang’s life of selling bootlegged DVDs and watching Argentine movies, to understand his new country.

Winning the top Industry Award at 2013’s San Sebastian Films in Progress pix-in-post strand and development plaudits at the Havana Festival and Buenos Aires’ Bafici, the Latido Films-sold “La Salada” world premiered at Toronto last year.

A “thoughtful and affecting study,” Juan Martin Hsu’s “gorgeous film captures the singular spirit of a fascinating reality,” Panama’s artistic director Diana Sanchez wrote in her Toronto Fest program notes.

“A Moonless Night,” a tale of small-town solitude from Uruguay’s writer-producer-turned-director German Tejeira, – a Variety 2013 Latin America: Up Next honoree (as Ruizplacios in 2014) – follows three characters – a magician, a divorced cab-driver and a folk singer – who travel to Uruguay’s Malabrigo to spend New Year’s Eve.

Crew includes Hollywood-based Uruguayan cinematographer Magela Crosignani (“Cowboys vs. Aliens”) and “Anina” helmer Alfredo Soderguit, as art director.

Roberto Caston, whose 2009 gay Basque drama “Ander” played Berlin’s Panorama, world preemed in San Sebastian’s New Directors section with the film-rehearsal-themed “The Silly Ones and the Stupid Ones,” whose criss-crossing characters confront their lives with ennui or full-frontal dissatisfaction.

The line-up, though made by newcomers reflect Latin American cinema’s building industrial strength. Tejeira’s “Moonless Night” was produced by Montevideo’s Raindogs, a company which is not only diversified but works as a go-ahead talent hub where its partners – Tejeira, Soderguit and Julian Goyoaga – alternate different film responsibilities.

Six at least of the titles have sales agents. Mundial, a j.v. of IM Global and Canana, sells “Gueros,.” 6 Sales and Latido, both Madrid-based, handle “Manos sucias” and “La Salada” respectively. Barcelona’s Film Factory reps “Shrew’s Nest,” M-Appeal “Feriado,” and Shoreline “I Am Not Lorena.”

Gaston had to wait four years to make “The Silly Ones.”

Currently, the Basque Government is beginning to offer 30% tax breaks to its local industry. Spanish mainland tax breaks for the film industry run at 18%. Channeled through a Agrupacion de Interés Económico (AIE) tax scheme, these have just been used for the first time ever on Luis Marias’ “Fuego.” Caston may be able to make his next film slightly more easily.