One of Argentina’s highest-profile film-TV executives, Telefe movie division head Axel Kuschevatzky, a former director of Telefonica Studios, has been named the new president of Argentina’s Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences.
Kuschevatzky heads up a new board of directors which includes actress Natalia Oreiro (“Gilda,” “The German Doctor”) as second vice president. Up-and-coming actor Joaquin Furriel (“The Boss, Anatomy of a Crime”) figures among its spokespersons.
Mauricio Macri’s government has sought to reverse many policies put in place under his predecessors. Argentina’s film industry has bucked that trend. Its Academy is a case in point. Rather than abandoning the Academy, its president, Juan Jose Campanella, an Academy Award winner for “The Secret in Their Eyes,” will now serve as its first vice president.
“The new board’s appointment represents an ongoing project initiated under Juan Jose Campanella’s leadership four years ago,” Kuschevatzky said.
That includes a film restoration program. “Part of our goal is to connect modern audiences with the Argentinian movie legacy, specially with movies that were huge box-office hits when they were released and deserve a close look today,” Kuschevtazky added.
The Academy’s restoration department delivers new prints of 1974’s “The Truce,” directed by Sergio Roman, and Argentina’s first Oscar-nominated feature.
Its restoration overseen by Academy board members, Mujeres que Trabajan (Working Women, 1938), a classic comedy that made actress Nini Marshall a star, will screen at late November’s Mar del Plata Festival, Latin America’s only A-grade event.
The Academy will go on taking Argentine cinema to the people, arranging screening in neighbourhoods, schools and federal prisons.
The new Academy board are likely to reach out to like institutions across Latin America, a move which is only natural given Kuschevatzky background as a co-producer via Telefe and Telefonica Studios of some of the most successful Argentine international co-productions of the last decade: “The Secret in Their Eyes,” “Futbol,” “Wild tales,” “The Clan,” “Paulina.”
But challenges, and basic ones at that, still remain. Few Latin American countries have Academies of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences or their equivalent. Hence in part the huge rows that can brew when Oscar entry selection is left to committees. Apart from Mexico’s Academy, created in 1946, those Academies that do exist – Colombia’s, created in 2010, Argentina’s, founded in 2004 – are still relatively young. Their multiple challenges and opportunities to launch aid programs, mean they have to run while still walking.
The Argentine Academy is concerned about membership, for example. But in Argentina this doesn’t turn on diversity but merely firing up the Academy’s membership base, currently at more than 300.
“Some branches – like casting directors – weren’t part of our institution or widely under-represented,” said Kuschevatzky adding that, as Argentina’s regional industries build, filmmakers from some other regions outside Buenos Aires don’t have any presence at all.
Academies can serve ad-hoc purposes as well, When Macri’s new government put out the appointment of the new head of Argentina’s Incaa Film Institute to industry consultation, it was Campanella who organised an industry forum, grouping industry associations and trade unions to discuss the matter. “In a unified opinion, a first in our country,” Kuschevatzsky commented, the forum put forward the name of Alejandro Cacetta, now Incaa’s president.
Argentina’s Academy will continue organising the Premio Sur awards, its own Argentine Oscars, as well as supporting the pan-regional Platino Awards, which take in movies from Latin America, Spain and Portugal.
Its members also select Argentina’s submissions to the foreign-language Oscars and Spanish Academy Goyas. Here Argentina has seen substantial success. Over the last 10 years, Argentina has won one foreign-language Oscar – 2009’s “Secret” – and been nominated for a second with 2014’s “Wild Tales.” Since 2004, it has also snagged seven wins and four more nominations for best Spanish-language foreign film at the Goyas. Kuschevatzky will be crossing his fingers this year for Oscar entry “The Distinguished Citizen,” which won male lead Oscar Martinez a best actor Volpi Cup award at Venice in September. The new board’s mandate runs through October 2018.