BUENOS AIRES — In a sign of the sustained ramp-up of Latin American genre production, Argentina’s scarefare-fantasy-sci-fi sector took three significant steps forward over the past week: the Liga of Argentine Genre Cinema launched at Ventana Sur (LIGA); the INCAA Argentine Film Institute’s adjudicated grants in a first Argentine Fantastic Genre Film Competition; Nicanor Loreti’s Argentine superhero movie “Kryptonite” scored heartening first-weekend B.O. at Argentine theaters.
Capped by the presentation of a “Manual de Cine de Genero” authored by Hernan Moyano and Carina Rodriguez and containing a series of informative how-to essays and analysis from genre pic enthusiasts over Latin America, all three moves rep indications of an Argentine genre scene that, once marginalized, is now seeking and seeing more mainstream recognition.
Argentina’s genre industry is a “relatively new phenomenon that burst onto the scene over the last decade,” writes Rodriguez in the “Manual.” 28 Argentine genre movies were made last century vs. 150 since 2000, she adds. Made on micro-budgets, from 2008’s “Visitante de invierno,” 13 Argentine genre pics have nevertheless seen theatrical release, Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s Disney-distributed “Cold Sweat” hitting a box office high for pure genre of 80,549 tix sales: $401,000, placing in the top five Argentine releases of the year.
In 2013, in a bold pioneering move for a public Latin America film-TV agency, Argentina’s INCAA launched a Blood Window Latin America Fantastic Film Market at Ventana Sur, creating editions at Cannes, Sitges and Busan and organizing pix-in-post and project prizes.
Such was the support for LIGA that at its photo-call, after a multitudinous Dec. 3 press conference at Ventana Sur, that its 34 members present could hardly fit on the stage.
Among directors, producers and screenwriters to thesps, technicians, writers and film fest execs, LIGA already counts with over 100 members, and that’s counting.
Backed by the Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre Festival, a crucial showcase for productions, Argentina’s genre sector – and the sector at large – has always shown notable esprit de corp. In a passionate declaration of intent at the press conference, Gustavo Cova, director of “Boogie, el aceitoso,” a noirish toon feature, recalled how, when Argentina’s INCAA announced its first Argentine Fantastic Film Competition, a group of around 50 genre filmmakers began to tutor one another on its application procedures. “That doesn’t happen all the time in the film industry where everyone worships themselves and looks out for their own interests,” he enthused.
Cova is echoed by Pablo Conde – a festival programmer/writer, and moderator of Mar del Plata press conferences: Argentina’s genre sector “has a lot of potential. No other work collective communicates between its members so well, establishes such a dialogue and shares its successes.”
Critics and industry writers also increasingly recognize in its modern-day manifestation a smart auteur genre movement that mixes gore or horror with more auteurist concerns and style, sometimes a social conscience.
“Latin America combines two unique narrative traditions,” Telefe-Telefonica Studios’ Axel Kuschevatsky writes in the “Manual de Cine de Genero.” “We belong to a region where literature and social cinema are a fundamental part of our epics, stories, and we have inherited from Europe a passion for pure genre.”
Made at Blood Window, LIGA’s reps a drive to channel and capitalize on the Argentine genre sector’s energies, increasing industry standing and ever-larger output. At the LIGA presentation, Laura Cascabe, director of “Benavidez’s Case,” which went on to win a two prizes at Blood Window’s post in pix strand, said that Argentina’s genre sector could turn out 15 films a year. Key aims include lobbying for continued Argentine federal government support, promotion via showcases and retrospectives in theaters; outreach to international funding and TV channels in Argentina.
Blessed by Latin America’s only dedicated fantastic film market on its Buenos Aires doorstep, already tapping INCAA general development, production and distribution aid, the genre sector has just won added recognition and coin. Announced at the same Dec. 3 presentation, four movies tapped INCAA the first allotted Argentine Fantastic Genre Film Competition production grants: Post-Apocalypse “Soy toxico,” from modern Argentine genre pioneer Daniel de la Vega, director of “Jennifer’s Shadow,” with Faye Dunaway; “La casa acecha,” from Mariano de Rosa; “They’re Terrified”, directed by Demian Rugna, a cult director-producer since 2007’s English-language “The Last Getaway”: and “Proyecto Epecuen,” from giallo specialists Nicolas and Luciano Onetti, who win attention with thriller “Sonno Profundo.” Tabbed at 70% of maximum grants available from INCAA, and working various subsidy lines, surpassing $500,000 for top wards, Institute coin can effectively greenlight a production. It also offers budgetary levels near unknown to the genre when it first lifted off early last decade.
LIGA also naturally pursues more audience recognition. So the timing of its launch could hardly have come better. Opening at Argentina’s Mar del Plata Festival last month, where it proved one of the most buzzed-up titles, superhero tale “Kryptonite,” the fifth film from Niconor, sold 34,005 ticket on its first weekend, over Dec. 4-6, per Ultracine. That’s “one of the best bows for an independent movie – without TV or Hollywood major backing – in the last years,” said Ultracine’s Mariano Olivares. “A noirish superhero tale laced with humor in a John Carpenter-like universe with echos of Almodovar,” Loreti told Variety at Mar del Plata, “Kryptonite” uses local references, turning on a doctor slaving away at an under-funded Buenos Aires suburb hospital, and also a universal genre-blending idiom.
As Argentine genre faces off with Hollywood tentpoles, “Local referents are a plus. It’s time to take advantage of them,” Kuschevatzky writes in his “Manual de Cine de Genero” prolog.