MEXICO CITY – In a visionary move, Mexico’s Los Cabos Festival launched in 2012 as a crossroads for the U.S., Mexican and Canadian industries – just as Mexican talent fires up the U.S. Latino market, Mexico consolidated as a film power which could bring significant money to the table and Canadian film authorities and filmmakers began to cultivate co-productions with Latin America.
Three years later, running Nov. 11-15, and bookended in 2015 by Jean-Marc Vallee’s “Demolition Man” and Michael Fassbender starrer “Steve Jobs,” Los Cabos boasts far more star presence: Academy Award winner Jared Leto, Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor.
Fest also bows news sections- Tastes, a gastronomy focus; American Specials, for audience friendly fare; Outdoor screenings; and Spotlight, featuring Alex Ross-Perry (“Listen Up Phillip,” “Queen of Earth”) and his regular d.p. Sean Price Williams.
In industry terms, the 4th Los Cabos has made another forward-thinking strategic land-grab launching Cabos TV. Bar Rio de Janeiro’s TV market, nothing exists like it at a high-profile Latin American fest: a forum where producers not only screen dramas but move their latest projects and debate film-TV production model, fast consolidating over Latin America.
Producers attending include “The Book of Negroes” Damon D’Oliveira, “Cromo’s” Lucia and Nicolas Puenzo, from Argentina’s Historias Cinematograficas, Mexico’s Film Tank and Traziende, whose Leonardo Zimbron will present Netflix series “Club de Cuervos,” and Room Service’s Bolchevique, also from Mexico, at Los Cabos to present “El Dandy,” which it produced for Sony Pictures Television.
“We hope to keep strengthening Los Cabos not just as a film market but as a TV market as well,” said Festival director Alonso Aguilar Castillo.
He added: “We would also like to explore how the new Over The Top operators are changing the way to premiere independent films as well. We think this is something that will grow year to year.”
Last year, 69 U.S. industry delegates attended. In a sign of Los Cabos’ growing clout in Hollywood, at 100 U.S. delegates almost outnumber Mexico’s – 134. But it is the caliber of attendance, not its volume, which has always characterized Los Cabos.
CAA’S Micah Green and Roeg Sutherland have been strong Cabos supporters, as has L.A.-based Alex Garcia at AG Studios and other Hollywood agencies: Paradigm, ICM, WME Global and UTA.
“Our collaboration with CAA and other film agencies and companies such as WME, UTA and XYZ is growing,” said Aguilar Castillo, adding that Los Cabos is this year organizing a series of private sneak peeks of never-seen film projects with these companies, only available for very targeted industry professionals.
Cross Creek Pictures’ Brian Oliver, Warner Bros. Intl.’s Monique Esclavissat and Antoine Fuqua will also attend, plus significant execs from Netflix, Amazon, IM Global, XYZ Films, HBO, Participant Media, AMC Networks/Sundance Channel Global, Fox Searchlight, Paramount Pictures, The Weinstein Company, Lotus Entertainment, Duplass Brothers Productions, Sony Pictures Classics, Annapurna Pictures.
Lincoln Center, Telluride, SXSW, Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and Berlinale programmers will scout for selections.
Academy Award winning actor Jared Leo (“Dallas Buyers Club”) will attend Los Cabos Opening Night Gala Nov. 11, featuring the Latin American premiere of “Demolition,” where “Demolition” director Jean-Marc Vallee will receive 2015’s Tribute.
Liam Neeson will hold a press conference Nov. 14. “I think this speaks loudly of how we are not only trying to bring celebrities to walk on the red carpet, but work with them, providing an industry platform is relevant for them,” said Aguilar Castillo.
Ewan McGregor will receive fest’s Protagonist Award for Excellence in Acting also Nov. 14.
Sourcing and showcasing projects, Los Cabos has thrown the net wider. In 2016, it will stage its first Los Cabos Goes to Cannes, a pix-in-post showcase held with the Cannes Film Market. For its second Los Cabos Discovery co-pro forum, it has new established project exchange pacts with New York’s IFP and the Sarajevo Film Festival, while maintaining its alliances with the Tribeca Film Institute and Strategic Partners.
Re-named Cabos in Progress, fest’s pix in post showcase is putting a large emphasis on first features – three make the seven-pic cut and include genre, said Los Cabos’ Francisco Westendarp. Qualifying on both counts is Carlos Algara and Alejandro Martinez Beltran’s “Veronica,” a cabin-set psychodrama selected for Ventana Sur’s Bloody Work in Progress.
Of potential Mexican buzz projects, Eugenio Derbez will be at the Mexican resort with producer partner Benjamin Odell to talk up a latest project, Zimbron and San Juan will present “Almost Paradise,” a potential second feature from Gaz Alazraki, whose riches-to-rags comedy “The Noble Family” grossed $26.25 million in Mexico in 2012.
Also at Los Cabos Discovery is horror-thriller “Keep Quiet,” from Jorge Michel Grau (“We Are What We Are,” “Big Sky”), which rates as one of Mexico’s most ambitious and biggest genre projects. In Cabos in Progress, multi-part “La Habitacion,” features a huge cast, and a sweeping vision of Mexico’s past and present.
Los Cabos takes place as various phenomena galvanize Latin America’s market. One is the dramatic build of local industries, grabbing market share, including from U.S. indie productions. Mexico is a case in point.
In 2015, through Nov. 8, Mexican films’ admissions, at 16.5 million, are 34% down on 2014, reports Rentrak’s Luis Vargas. But, with nine more Mexican movies that may drive up share, currently 6.4% still have to open. And 16.5 million is significantly above Mexican movies’ highpoint this century before 2012: 14.7 million for all 2002.
A distaff generation is gradually powering up too. Beyond David Pablos’ “The Chosen Ones,” a hit in Cannes Un Certain Regard, and Julio Hernandez Cordon’s “I Promise You Anarchy,” rated by many his most mature work, in Mexico Primero two out of the six directors are women: Katina Medina Mora with “You’ll Know What To Do With Me” and Alejandra Medina with “Easter,” a Toronto premiere and Mundial sales pick-up. In Discovery, Elisa Miller, best known to date as a director is teaming with “Easter’s” producers Pimienta Films on “Skin Deep,” a portrait of female sexuality which marks respected video artist/docu director Paulina del Paso’s fiction feature deb.
Also, Netflix has already galvanized Latin America as an acquisitions market, incrementing the value of its pat TV window.
Per Ivan Boeing, at Brazil’s Imagem, one of its biggest indie distributors, “Pay TV rights used to be worth 10%-15% of prices paid for Latin America. When they are factored into a purchase, on big studio-level films or movies with U.S. distribution, now they account, with free TV, for about 70% of the buying price.”
The question now is whether it or Amazon will also energize production. Cabos TV launches as a sea-change is sweeping over Latin American TV with the feeding frenzy for dramas encouraging producers to seek international sales alliances: HBO Latin America inked a international sales pact with Telemundo Internacional at Mipcom, for instance. Equally, its biggest broadcasters – Globo, Telefe, Caracol, for example – are diversifying from staple telenovela production into far more limited, more upscale series. The future for movie production in Latin America, as over the world, looks to be the diversification into TV.
Moving into TV, Los Cabos is likely to attract more top-notch film producers.
“I would say this is the most ambitious industry event we’ve launched so far,” said Aguilar Castillo.
Some of Los Cabos’ attractions endure, however, from its first edition, as he recognized. “The film industry is often a very vertical pyramid. Los Cabos makes it a more horizontal experience. Everyone who comes tries to network in a relaxed environment. This enhances business immediately, very organically, and pleasurably as well.
“Keep Quiet,” (Jorge Michel Grau, Mexico, France)
“Gunpowder Seeds,” (Arturo González Villaseñor, Mexico)
“Memories of the Red Days,” (Rafa Lara, Mexico)
“Skin Deep,” (Paulina del Paso, Mexico)
“Almost Paradise,” (Gaz Alazraki, Mexico)
“Opus Zero,” (Daniel Graham, Mexico)
“Sunbathing in Hell,” (Sophie Deraspe, Canada)
“I’m Not a Bad Person,” (Andrew Huculiak, Canada)
“Merciful,” (TBD, Canada)
“Beauty Salon,” (Andrea Pallaoro, Mexico, United States)
“Nancy,” (Christina Choe, United States)
“Picking Cotton,” (Jessica Sanders, United States)
“The Taste of Apple is Red,” (Ehab Tarabieh, Syria, Qatar, Lebanon, U.S.)
CABOS IN PROGRESS
“Beauties of the Night,” (María José Cuevas, Mexico)
“Carrion,” (Sebastián Hiriart, Mexico)
“Failure,” (Ricardo Silva, Mexico)
“The Bedroom,” (Carlos Carrera, Daniel Giménez, Carlos Bolado, Ernesto Contreras, Alfonso Pineda, Alejandro Valle, Iván Ávila and Natalia Beristáin, Mexico)
“Landscapes,” (Rodrigo Cervantes, Mexico)
“We Are Tongue,” (Kyzza Terrazas, Mexico)
“Verónica,” (Carlos Algara and Alejandro Martínez, Mexico)