Locarno: Puentes Showcases Latin American Talent, Trends

Mainstream plays, genre, macro co-pros among industry drives

LOCARNO – Enriched by projects such as Marcela Said’s “Los Perros,” Gonzalo Tobal’s “Dolores” and Paula Markovitch’s “Lead Actor,” the 6th Puentes Europe-Latin America Co-production Workshop, which holds its final session at this week’s Locarno Fest, also bears testament to production trends driving much of Latin America’s movie production.

Unspooling Aug. 6-10, and an initiative of the European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE), a leading European training facility,  the final leg of Puentes, a film development iniitiative, is also a showcase for fast emerging Latin American talent.

“Los Perros,” from Marcela Said (“The Summer of Flying Fish”), was developed at the Sundance Lab and Cannes Cinefondation and won the 2015 Berlinale Co-production Market.

An unsettling, perhaps potentially controversially drama, it turns on Mariana, 40, trapped in the role her father and husband have created for her of conceiving children, who finds solace with an exquisitely mannered retired colonel. Her riding instructor, he becomes her mentor and object of desire, even – or all the more? – when she discovers he possible involvement in Pinochet’s dirty war on dissidents.

From Gonzalo Tobal, director of Cannes’ 2012 Official Selection player “Villegas,” “Dolores” is produced by Argentina’s REI Cine, a company which – led by Benjamin Domenech, Santiago Gallelli and Matias Roveda- is fast consolidating one of Latin America’s most active lead (“Zama,” “History of Fear”) and minority (“Kill Me Please,” “Sand Dollars”) international co-producers.

Directed by Mexico-based Argentine Markovitch, co-writer of Fernando Eimbke’s Lake Tahoe,” and “Duck Season,” “Lead Actor” turns on an indigenous actor at the Berlinale. He happens across the laundry room and Azzra, another lost foreign soul trying to survive in a world far from its own.

A first Puentes workshop took place in Montevideo last November. “During the two workshops and in between, the producers have – under the guidance of the Puentes experts – done a huge amount of work in terms of script development, marketing and distribution strategy, financing strategy,” said EAVE CEO Kristina Trapp.

“After Locarno, they should have a solid package in hand with which they can confront the market and close their financing.”

Results are impressive. 69% of Puentes projects that get made secure an international sales agent, 85% what Trapp calls successful festival exposure.

Then again, as Europe-Latin America’s premier co-pro training facility, Puentes is, as Trapp puts it, “spoilt for choice.”

This sixth edition’s project also features two awaited follow-ups to notable debuts: Ecuador’s Ivan Mora follows up

young generation tale “No Autumn, No Spring” with “Yellow Sunglasses.” A tragicomic scrutiny of the end of youth, it turns on Maria’s a 34-year-old who finds a sense of a new beginning in a bizarre love triangle.

A coming-of-age drama in which a boy determines he will only lose his virginity with a beautiful prostitute, “Aurora,” another Puentes project, is written and directed by Venezuela’s Marcel Rasquin, helmer of “Hermano,” an accessible artfilm sold widely by M-Appeal.

Also at Puentes is “ The Return,” from Chile-born and Sweden-based Gorki Glasser-Muller (“One A Year”), about a man’s struggle to survive in a Chile still in the shadow of dictatorship, plus a lesbian film from Paraguay, Marcelo Martinessi’s feature debut “The Heiresses,” about a woman who’s come into a fortune but, past 60, but is finally forced to get a job. She discovers a new life and maybe new lesbian partner.

Another second chance drama “The Dragon Defense,” from Colombian scribe-helmer Natalia Santa, turns on a chess player, watchmaker and a Spanish homeopath, who learn it is never too late to change. And change they must. Also at Puentes, Clare Weiskopf’s “To the Amazon,” now at rough cut, tells the story of the director’s mother who, after the death of her elder daughter, gave up everything to live in the jungle. Backed by IDFA and Tribeca, the film also asks the reverse: Dies a woman have to give up her dreams when becoming a mother?

“There’s a strong tendency towards more commercially viable and market oriented projects alongside with the traditional arthouse and festival films. And a growing interest in genre projects in general,” Trapp said of Puentes titles.

Avery conscious move towards more accessible arthouse after “Villegas,” “Dolores” is noirish genre-blending mystery murder tale, where audiences will ask until the film’s end if the eponymous protagonist really killed her best friend or will go down by law. On drama thriller “The Return,” Zentropa International Sweden, which has co-produced films by Thomas Vinterberg, Lars von Trier and Susanne Bier,

Has brought in Danish writers Lars K. Andersen (“Flame & Citron”) and Pierre Daumillier (“The Killing”) to deliver a screenplay with Nordic crime thriller drive as well as a South American touch.

Thanks in part to a new state-backed minority co-producer fund, Brazil is emerging as a go-to territory for co-production. Brazil’s Esquina Producoes co-produces

“The Heiresses”; Ecuador’s La Republica Invisible has inked with Brazil’s Persona Non Grata to co-produce “Yellow Singlasses.”

Above all, perhaps, as international sales markets toughen, for U.S. independent and foreign-language movies alike, producers are carving out ever more robust co-production structures to give ever more ambitious filmmakers the budgets their films require, rather than budgets made up by available financing.

Latin American producers used to co-produce largely with Europe. Now, very often, they will also aim to co-produce on one and the same title with other parts of Latin America too. Such arethe plans for “THeDRagin Defense” and “KeadActor.”

Productions are highly structured: France’s Cinema Defacto (“As We Were Dreaming”), Chile’s Jirafa Films (“The Future”), Argentina’s REI Cine (“Zama”), and Germany’s Komplizen Films co-produce “Los Perros,” Mixing straight state subsidies, key TV sales – to French-German broadcaster Arte, for example – and increasingly tax-driven investment. co-production mitigate risk.

As market prospects for even A-list fest players are ever more limited, as much as 80% of a film’s budget may come from public funding, spread over multiple territories. If production partners include France and Germany, producers are taking the two biggest sales territories out of the equation. That, however, becomes inevitable as potential financing from these countries far outweighs current distributor minimum guarantees. Producers are left with smaller upside. But a film gets made. This is a new Latin American realism.

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