Celina Murga, Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, Aly Muritiba Set for San Sebastian’s 5th Co-Production Forum

And 10 things the 17 projects say about Latin American Filmmaking Today

Vendra la muerte y tendra tus ojos, San Sebastian Forum, 2016
Courtesy: Globo Rojo Producciones

MADRID — Celina Murga’s “Irene,” Alejandro Fernandez Almendras’s “Una periodista” and Aly Muritiba’s “Blood-Drenched Beard” are set for San Sebastian Fest’s 5th Europe Latin America Co-Production Forum, now firmly established as one of Europe’s main industry gatherings for high-profile Latin American arthouse talent.

Also in the mix: “Panza de Burro,” a calling card for Peru’s fast organizing film industry; “La Civil,” the fiction feature debut from Teodora Ana Mihai, whose “Waiting For August” won best documentary at HotDocs and Karlovy Vary; and new projects by name directors such as Rania Attieh and Daniel Garcia, directors of the Venice, Sundance and Berlin-selected “H,” Sandra Gugliotta , with “Suicidios telefonicos,” an expose of big business mobbing; and Jose Luis Torres Leiva’s terminal illness-themed “Vendra la muerte y tendra tus ojos.”

Producers at the Forum will include Andres Longares, whose company credits at Cepa Audiovisual range from “The Sixth Floor” to Julia Solomonoff’s upcoming “Nobody’s Watching,” Laura Imperiale’s Cacerola Films in Mexico (“Nora’s Will,” “Nicotina”), and Argentina’s Anahi Berneri, a distinguished distaff director (“Aire Libre”), and co-scribe of “7:35 am,” the second feature from Javier Van de Couter (“Mia”).

Ibermedia, the Latin America, Spain and Portugal film fund, will present one project, “Las hijas de Alonso,” from  Costa Rican actress-director Kattia Gonzalez Zuniga.

Efad and Caci, the associations of European and Latin American public film agencies respectively, offer a new €20,000 ($22,000) cash prize to the lead producer of the Forum’s winning project.

Unspooling Sept. 19-21, the Forum offers sales agents the chance to board projects which will see fest success and global sales, as well as catch talent before its breakthrough. Past Forum projects include the Canana-produced “The Chosen Ones,” a Netflix global acquisition, and Eduardo Williams’ “The Human Surge,” co-produced by Brazil’s RT Features, at San Sebastian with “Blood-Drenched Beard,” which has just swept Locarno’s 2016 Cinema of the Present section. The Forum also affords an overview of the disparate, sometimes slow-boil trends, energies and concerns, industrial and artistic, driving today’s Latin American filmmaking and its European arthouse counterpart. Here, suggested by the 5th Forum, are 10:

1.Argentina rules the roost. Seven of the 17 Forum projects are Argentine productions. Despite a film market with a 2015 B.O. gross ($238.1 million) a third or less of Brazil’s ($705.4 million) and Mexico’s ($843.9 million), last year Argentina produced way more films than any other Latin American country: 182 features play Mexico’s 140 (an all-time record) and Brazil’s 128. The Forum’s Argentine projects also benefit from a double diaspora. Five of the seven Argentine Forum projects are made either by Argentines who left to live or study abroad but retain links with the country – “Azor,” lead-produced by Argentine-born Eugenia Mumenthaler’s Geneva-based Alina Film; Argentine Patricio Suarez, an alum of Barcelona’s Cecc film school – or are made by foreigners who have settled or part-live in Argentina: Italy’s Maura Delpero, director of “Hogar”; France’s Edson Sidonie, producer of “Los dias segun ellos,” who works between France and Argentina; Spain’s Andres Longares, long-settled in Buenos Aires. Co-production, in such circumstances, is a natural ambition.

2.Post-“The Clan” and “The Club,” Latin America movies haven’t abandoned a political conscience, as they chart the limits to democratic change. Produced by Andres Mardones and Sergio Gander at Chile’s Parox, and set in “the lethargy of Chile’s long transition to democracy,” according to director Almendras, “Una periodista” charts the moment when a journalist sets out to succeed where Chilean justice has failed: Bringing to justice the on-the-run Paul Schafer, a pederast head of Colonia Dignidad, a Chilean torture centre under Augusto Pinochet. “This ever riskier crusade will alter her life forever,” Almendras added.

“Azor,” a fiction feature, from Switzerland’s Andreas Fontana, tramps the discreet back corridor of power in 1981 Argentine, and the Swiss bank’s role in institutionalising tax fraud and money laundering among Argentina’s ultra-rich as the country “became a laboratory for experiments in Neo-Liberal theories, even before Regan and Thatcher,” said director Fontana.

3.Yet, as national industries mature, they diversify. Latin America’s cinema is also auteur-driven, as Europe. So Forum projects reflect a broad auteur gamut. “Una periodista” is inspired by true facts. Set to go into production first semester 2017, according to producer Rodrigo Teixeira, “Blood-Drenched Beard” is inspired by Daniel Galera’s post-modern identity drama/mystery thriller. In contrast, Murga’s “Irene” is inspired by Roberto Rossellini and Martin Scorsese, more particularly Scorsese’s reflections in “My Voyage to Italy” on Rossellini’s “Europe ’51.” “Irene” is a ‘re-reading or visit to ‘ Europa ’51, seen from the present and set, in this case, in contemporary Argentina,” Murga said.

4. Smaller-country industries continue to emerge in Latin America Exhibit A: Peru. A (far from complacent) omnibus homage to the directors’ home-town Lima, Forum entry “La panza del burro” is a standard-bearer for the figures, issues and international reach of a new generation of Peruvian filmmakers, its five-parts helmed by Rosario Garcia-Montero (“Bad Intentions”), Joanna Lombardi (“Alone”), Gianfranco Quatrinni (“Toxic Jungle”), Javier Fuentes-Leon (“The Vanishing Elephant”) and brothers Daniel and Diego Vega (“El Mudo”). It comes as Peru, unlike most of Latin America, enjoys sustained economic growth, its movie market nears Argentina’s in spectators (46.0 million in 2015 vs. Argentina’s 52.1 million) and Peru’s Ministry of Culture promised larger public support for the local film industry at mid-August’s Lima Festival.

5.A second axis of Latin America growth: Co-production. In the Forum’s first editions, only a clutch of projects came to San Sebastian with overseas partners attached. Now it’s a near majority, seven out of 17. Far more producers recognise the virtues and know the mechanisms of international co-production.Hence even feature debuts, such as Juan Pablo Felix’s “Los dias segun ellos,” set up at Bikini Films, hit San Sebastian with strong partners: Veronica Cura’s Utopia Group, the Argentine producer of Cannes Camera d’Or winner Las Acacias; Santiago Segura’s Bowfinger Intl. Pictures in Spain, behind the “Torrente” saga, and France’s Melocoton Film.

6. Globalization: “La Civil”’s director Mihal was born in Romania, is based out of Belgium. An alum of New York’s Sarah Lawrence College, her Forum project turns on Mexico’s drug wars. “Iniciales SG,” another Forum project, is helmed by Lebanon’s Rania Attieh and Texan Daniel Garcia, produced by Argentina’s Frutacine, and takes in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup;

its lead is ‘lightly inspired by moments and attitudes of the life of [France’s] Serge Gainsbourg, mixed with that of a little-known Argentine porn star,” said producer Ivan Eibuszyc, at Frutacine.

7. One world cinema revolution is the explosion in its production levels. Latin America’s 477 productions in 2014 doubled output in 2006, according to the Cannes Film Market Focus study. Another sea-change is the rise in overall quality. The Forum explains why. Looking at its directors’ C.V.s, their formal education is not just as good as many young U.S. or European filmmakers, it’s the same. And they can benefit from similar funding. A case in point: Brazil’s Giuliana Monteiro, at the Forum with her first feature film, “Road to Livramento,” studied at Tisch School of Arts and is the recipient of a BAFTA Fellowship. “Road” won a Spike Lee Production Fund development grant in 2014.

8.Running a Forum and Films in Progress pix-in-post showcase, San Sebastian “aims to support films at different stages of their making,” said festival director Jose Luis Rebordinos. That is not wishful thinking. A 2o14 Forum entry, Chilean Fernando Guzzoni’s “Jesus” plays in 2016 competition. It is also true of company slates, increasing San Sebastian’s industry value, hence key players’ possibility of attendance. Chile’s Globo Rojo Productions has Jose Luis Torres Leiva’s “Vendra la muerte y tendra tus ojos” (pictured) about a femme couple confronting one partner’s terminal cancer, at the Forum; Torres Leiva’s “El viento sabe que vuelvo a casa” plays San Sebastian’s new Zabaltegi Tabacalera competition. Another Forum project producer has three titles in different San Sebastian sections, he said, though two other titles are pending announcement

9.Mostly lacking strong public broadcasters, Latin America’s vibrant documentary production remains anchored most often in feature filmmaking. The Forum bears that out, showcasing three docu-features: “La Mami,” from Mexico-based Spaniard Luara Herrero Garvin; Suarez’s “Two Degrees From Autumn,” from Spain’s El Dedo en el Ojo (“Not All is Vigil,” “Paula”), an intimate portrait of a 70-something pig-farmer facing old-age crisis, in other words, absolute solitude; Gugliotta’s “Suicidios telefonicas,” a chronicle of the mobbing tactics used to slash head-count at Argentina’s telcos, privatised from 1990.

10. Some young filmmakers still favour coming-of-age tales. Produced by Venezuela’s Cine Cercano/Películas Prescindibles, France’s JBA and Brazil’s Grafo Audiovisual, “Black Dog,” from Venezuela’s George Walker Torres (“Sin Vuelta”), narrates how a child in a rich Caracas neighbourhood becomes convinced that a horrifying figure, a woman with dogs, dwells nearby.

But most Forum documentaries bear witness to the victims of macro-economic trends. Other Forum titles project a world where parents are absent – as in “Hogar,’ set in a nun’s home for teenage mothers – or utterly irresponsible: In “Los dias segun ellos,” for example, a con uses a three-day prison permit to visit his daughter to try to pull a highway hold-up.

Suggesting the consolidation of a new inflexion in Latin America filmmaking, however, more Forum features consider regeneration in a crisis-ridden world. “Road to Livramento” depicts the re-constitution of a family, one generation on, after a man-made disaster. In “7:35,” two former students attempt to track down the author of their school massacre, seeking closure. In “Las hijas de Alonso,” two Costan Rican daughters seek out their father, who disappeared off the map in Panama a decade earlier.

At least a trio of potential features  – “Irene,” “Una periodista” and “La Civil” – portray strong female protagonists who seek positive social change. Inspired by multiple testimonies of victims of the Mexican drug war, said producer Irina Malcea at Romania’s Luna Film, “La Civil” tells the story of a mother’s transformation from housewife to vengeful militant, after her teenage daughter is kidnapped by the local drug cartel. As in Santiago Mitre’s “Paulina” or Rodrigo Pla’s “A Thousand Headed Monster,” these women’s fates will reveal their directors’ take on the possibilities for positive social change in a turbulent world.