A highly respected Latin America/U.S. Hispanic art pics-in-post showcase created and curated by Toronto programmer Diana Sanchez, one of the world’s foremost experts on Latin American production, both movies made and those in the pipeline, Encuentros runs March 12-13.
Part of the VeoMiami’s industry program at Miami Dade College’s Miami Intl. Film Festival, which unspools March 6-15, it also includes Juan Sebastian Quebrada’s “Strange Days” and Fernando Lavanderos’ “Lost North.”
A comedic drama, “The Apostate” marks the anticipated latest film from Uruguayan-Spanish Veiroj, director of the Directors’ Fortnight-selected “Acne,” plus “A Useful Life,” a tribute to film as inspiration.
Starring Alvaro Ogalla, and Spain’s Marta Larralde (“Leon and Olvido”) and Barbara Lennie, a Spanish Academy Goya best actress winner for “Magical Girl,” it plumbs late-teen angst as its antihero struggles with issues of faith, guilt and desires, and attempts to escape his tempestuous past, not conform to his parents’ expectations and find his own path to a new maturity.
Lead-produced by Nicolas Avruj at Buenos Aires-based Campo Cine (“Refugiado”), and the fourth feature from Katz, a noted Argentine auteur, following “Musical Chairs,” “A Stray Girlfriend” and “Los Marziano,” “My Friend From the Park” turns on a first-time mom who befriends another young mother in a cold and windy district park in Buenos Aires. Their friendship takes a slightly dangerous turn.
“Maternity is a conventional issue treated in multiple TV commercials and a close-by reality seen in any street. But for cinema it’s still virgin territory. ‘My Friend From the Park’ is a great opportunity to explore this very curious world,” Katz has commented.
Heralded by producers Sandro Gomez and Maximiliano Cruz, partners at Mexico’s production/distribution house Interior 13, as a step-up in scale and move toward a more open arthouse style from Cordon (“Gasolina,” “Marimbas From Hell”), “Wounded” turns on Johnny and Miguel, best friends and lovers. Skateboarders in a throbbing Mexico City, they sell their blood and that of other donors until a big transaction ends up badly for everyone involved, whereupon Miguel is dispatched abroad, to face his own destiny.
Produced by Luis Cifuentes, whose “In the Grayscale” world premieres in Miami as part of the Lexus Ibero-American Opera Prima competition, “Lost North” marks Chilean Lavanderos’ second movie after “Things The Way They Are,” which won an Independent Camera award at 2013’s Karlovy Vary Fest. In it, a publicist is dumped by his girlfriend, then follows her journey north, visiting exactly the same places, in a trip which, as in most road movies, becomes one of discovery and self-discovery.
Argentina-set, shot in black-and-white and Quebrada’s feature debut, “Strange Days” — which was presented at Buenos Aires’ Universidad de Cine showcase during December’s Ventana Sur — centers on a boy and a girl, both foreigners, battling to sustain their amour fou.
“Diana Sanchez has put together a phenomenal collection of projects that are certain to be the toast of the Ibero-American and international cinema worlds in the 2015-16 season,” said the Miami Festival’s executive director Jaie Laplante. “Her taste and her eye are uncommonly precise among the world’s programmers.”
That matters. Movies from Latin America now have an often-powerful presence at A-list fests. At 21 features in Competition, Panorama and Forum, the Berlinale’s highest-profile sections, Berlin’s 2015 Latin presence – read movies from Latin America, Spain and Portugal – outranked Asia (20) and North America (15). Chile alone won seven prizes in Berlin’s total kudos count, mostly on Saturday night.
After San Sebastian, Miami was one of the first major film events in the world to recognize the growth in Latin American filmmaking, Sanchez founding Encuentros in 2003. Miami’s large support for Latin American film is reflected in the repeat count of directors and producers at Encuentros who have already had titles at the Florida Festival. Veiroz’s “Acne” and “A Useful Life” both played its Official Selection, as did Hernandez Cordon’s “Gasolina,” “Dust,” and “Marimbas From Hell,” which won 2011’s Knight Ibero-American Grand Jury Prize. Argentine director Juan Villegas (“Saturday,” “Los suicidas,” “Idleness”), a producer on “Strange Days,” produced Celina Murga’s “A Week Alone” and Gonzalo Tobal’s “Villegas,” both at Miami.
Through just five titles, Encuentros also underscores industry trends in Latin American cinema. Its producers have traditionally turned to co-production with Europe to co-finance or even majority finance its films. “The Apostate,” for example, is lead-produced out of Spain. “Wounded Man” tapped into Berlinale World Cinema Fund coin. “Strange Days” however, is produced between Colombia and Argentina, as pan-Latin American co-production grows.
Encuentros traditionally commands a choice but significant industry audience of producers, distributors and sales agents.
Boosting this presence, this year’s Encuentros jury includes Virginie Devesa, co-founder of Alpha Violet, a Paris-based sales agency with a strong line in Latin American fare, its “So Much Water” winning Miami’s 2013 Grand Jury prize, and Barbie Heusinger, the new sales and acquisitions manager for Latin America, Spain and Portugal at Germany’s Picture Tree Intl. as it ups its interest in Latin fare.
Also on the jury: Paul Hudson, co-founder of U.S. distribution, production and sales co Outsider Pictures, a select buyer of prized and high-profile Latin America films, such as “Las Acacias,” “Juan of the Dead,” “A Wolf at the Door,” last year’s Miami Fest Grand Jury prize winner, and “Voice Over,” which screened in Encuentros and now plays its Official Selection.