Peru’s Lima Film Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary as its local pic industry is reporting dramatic growth. National production levels have spiked over the past three years, from 12 releases in 2013 to at least 21in 2015, with expectations for an average output of 20 in subsequent years. Peru has also earned its place on the world stage for the extraordinary appeal of its cuisine, with some of the top restaurants in the world based in Lima.
A new president, economist and former World Bank exec, Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski (aka PPK), took office on July 28. How much of a film buff he is remains a mystery but he is known to be a keen piano player.
“The new government is most likely going to favor new investments and this will indirectly bolster the construction of new cinemas and private initiatives to invest in Peruvian films,” said Jorge Licetti, general manager of leading distrib New Century Films, which has released a number of local films, including the top four all-time blockbusters. “There are more Peruvian films than ever before and more people watching them,” noted Licetti.
Indeed: The box office share of Peruvian cinema has hovered between 11% and 12% since 2013 (albeit dipping to 9% in 2014), out of total admissions expected to grow 12% to 47 million this year. Peru has about 600 screens with 100 more expected to open by next year.
The festival, backed by the non-profit privately-run Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) for the past 20 years, opens Aug. 5 with the same pic that inaugurated it two decades ago, “Memories of Underdevelopment” by Cuba’s Tomas Gutierrez Alea.
“We thought it would be a perfect way to open the 20th edition of the festival; we have come full circle,” said festival director Alicia Morales, who credits Italy’s Bologna Cinematheque for restoring the classic.
While primarily a Latin American film showcase, this year’s edition widens its scope to include sidebars and retrospectives on films from Azerbaijan, France, Switzerland and a selection from Arab countries curated by Lebanese-based TIFF programmer Rasha Salti that includes Jordan’s 2016 foreign-language Oscar-nominated entry, “Theeb.” Salti will also be leading a talk on Arab Cinema along with Peru’s Farid Kahatt.
Mexico will have a strong presence during this edition with three films in official competition, two docus and four in the Filmoteca sidebar, said Morales. Ambulante, the roving docu fest founded by Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna and Pablo Cruz’s Canana Films, will also take root in Lima with a selection of docus that includes U.K. docu “David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.”
Helmer Ciro Guerra – virtually a national hero in Colombia for snagging a foreign-language Academy Award nomination and his recent sweep of Platino Awards for his Amazon-set drama “Embrace of the Serpent” – leads the jury for the official selection, which includes such notable pics as Pablo Larrain’s “Neruda,” Gabriel Mascaro’s “Boi Neon” from Brazil, Felipe Guerrero’s “Oscuro Animal” and Lorenzo Vigas’ 2015 Venice Golden Lion winner “From Afar.”
Although relatively small in scale, the Lima Film Fest has hosted such luminaries as Wener Herzog, Alexander Payne, Geraldine Chaplin, Ricardo Darín, Carlos Reygadas, Isabelle Huppert and Pablo Trapero.
This year’s stellar guests include Luc Dardenne to whom the festival is paying homage and Jonas Cuaron whose “Desierto” is in official competition. Latin American industry pros expected to attend include Cineplex’s Elba McAllister, FiGa Films’ Sandro Fiorin, Carlos Hansen of BF Distribution and Mexican producer Martha Sosa. Cannes Critics’ Week director Charles Tesson leads a host of festival and film institute heads descending on Lima. The Festival de Lima also pays tribute to its former director Edgar Saba.
Television will also have its day in the sun with the book launch of “Quiero ser Productor de TV” (I want to be a TV Producer) by Pablo J. Ruiz, a timely subject given the robust growth in Peruvian television, and the gravitation of more TV stars to film, at a time when costs of television production in Peru are said to be lower than in most parts of the region.
“I’ve also produced in Miami, Colombia and Venezuela and I’ve calculated that producing an average TV episode in Peru costs 35% less than in Colombia, for example, which has seen prices go up because of the active producing presence of studios such as Fox and Sony,” says TV vet Margarita Morales of 118 Prods.
While required to allot 30% of their programming to local productions and currently only cherry-picking some completed Peruvian pics, the acquisitions policy of free-to-air broadcasters America TV, Latina and ATV may change in the future. “They’ve been skeptical so far,” said Licetti, but given the growing box office success of more homegrown films, “they will be showing more interest from now on, perhaps coming in as partners, sharing in the costs, knowhow and in returns,” Licetti said.
Peru’s film community still needs all the help it can get. “When you see filmmakers mortgaging their homes or making just one film and then going back to their day jobs, then you know, you don’t quite have an industry yet,” said Licetti.
“We’ve been seeing a diversity of mainstream and auteur films the past three years, and not just from Lima but from other cities,” said Pierre Vandoorne, head of the National Ministry of Culture’s audiovisual division, which controls an estimated $3 million fund that finances up to 70 projects, including film festivals, per year.” In countries like ours, it’s very difficult to maintain a consistency [in output,] but we’re seeing that now.”
The Lima Film Festival runs from August 5-13.
Top 5 (All-Time) Peruvian Films:
1. “Asu Mare 2” (New Century) $10.9 million
2. “Asu Mare La Pelicula” (New Century) $10.8 million
3. “A Los 40” (New Century) $6.2 million
4. “Locos de Amor” (New Century) $3.9 million
5. “Cementerio General” (UIP) $2.5 million