One of Latin America’s biggest builds in movie production is the gathering emergence of regional hubs, outside countries’ megalopolis capitals. They have already borne fruit.
The highest-grossing foreign-language film in the U.S. last year, animated feature “Un gallo con mucho huevos,” distributed by Lionsgate’s Pantelion, was animated out of Guadalajara, not Mexico City. Kleber Mendonca Filho’s “Aquarius,” the only Latin American movie in Cannes competition in 2016, was produced out of Pernambuco, not Sao Paulo or Rio. Likewise, Argentine Moroco Colman “Fin de semana” (Weekend), the only Latin American feature in San Sebastian’s New Directors section last month, was made out of Cordoba, not Buenos Aires. None of these films are Instagram promos for local regional custom. In “Weekend,” a forty-something woman, Carla, returns to Cordoba to console late teen Martina, whose having an affair with her step-mother’s much older son. The two woman’s relations are strained, at best distant. There’s been a death in the family, though whose – and Carla’s exact relationship with Martina – are not immediately revealed. Though “Weekend” talks about women’s sexuality and family regeneration, a theme which runs through a growing corpus of recent Latin American films, when tackled by Variety at San Sebastian, Colman was more eager to talk about “Weekend’s” formal style, how plot, conflict and form should “carry on a conversation” constructing a whole which “evolves according to the internal feelings of characters and their bonds.”
“Weekend” world premiered at Spain’s San Sebastian Festival as Cordoba authorities prepare a Ley de Fomento Audiovisual. Its new tax breaks and hike in direct subsidies look set to fire up production levels in already one of the most active of regional production centers in Argentina. Variety talked to Colman and Sofia Castells, who produced “Weekend” for Cordoba-based Mas Alla Productora, the company she runs with Colman.
The big impact of “Weekend” is formal. You change the screen format and the cinematographer three times.
Moroco Colman: I first use a 4:3 format, to give a sense of a lack of image on both sides of the frame, suggesting a lack of bonds. In visual terms, we shot in chiaroscuro, with back lights, half of faces in shadows: The characters are still revealing their true natures; it’s as if half of a them is still unknown.The image is washed out, almost black-and-white. In the second part, we used a 2:35.1 ratio, with a cinematography dominated by the night and saturated blues and reds, because one of the characters diverges from the central story, goes off in another direction. It was important for this action to be felt as an expansion of and liberation for this character so the screen broadens frame by frame, coinciding with the moment of maximum tension. In the third block, the idea was to return to the central story with a 1.85:1 ratio, which is the most balanced, because the characters begin to achieve a certain closeness. In cinematographic terms, I wanted to film in a natural way to see how one really sees, using natural light sources, getting a bit more at the two women’s sense of inner balance, their own and between them. I used the same lens (50mm) and diaphragm (2.8) to give these very different parts a visual coherence.
The theme of the fractured family runs through contemporary Latin American cinema. You mentioned at San Sebastian that “Weekend” turns on the difficulties of reconciliation when family bonds are broken. I wonder if you could explain this in more detail.
Coleman: I don’t know if it is more of a Latin American theme. I think it is a universal theme. Family conflicts occur in many ways and for many reasons. Personally, it started [to interest me] after the death of my father but from another perspective, without falling into anything autobiographical, another challenge came from the female psychology. I was also interested in other types of issues but did not want to make an “exotic” movie for export where third world poverty is always present, there are differences in social classes, dictatorships, extreme misery.
You shoot Cordoba, and it will be recognisable to people from there. But there is no reference to this being Cordoba. It could happen pretty well in any place in the Spanish-speaking world.
Coleman: Indeed. The setting of the film will seem like it could be anywhere. It was filmed mostly on location at the house on the lake with a beach and mountains. I didn’t want to show the city or iconic references. It is mostly filmed in close-ups, avoiding precise landscapes. The idea was to stay close on the characters and conflicts without adding any local seasoning. The film, though not as much as it might be, is a reaction to local cinema. We try to avoid typical tropes (thematic and formal) of Latin American cinema. Despite this, it has a presence at an international film festival.
How was “Weekend” financed?
Sofia Castells: Argentina’s Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales de Argentina (INCAA) declared the film of national interest, which meant it gave it a subsidy. Meanwhile, we had to access credit and aid to finance the rest of the budget. We received a loan from the INCAA, underwritten by the Municipality of Villa Carlos Paz, the film location, which gave us permits, leases and agreements with local companies who gave their support. We also got a tax credit from the government of the province of Córdoba, without which the film would never have come to fruition.
Could you talk a bit about your company. What you produce, how you finance the company, if it is typical of the Cordoba production scene?
Castells: My company produces fiction film projects and “Weekend” is the second such film that I have produced. The first, “Miramar,” from Fernando Sarquis, was financed as a cooperative because we needed to start filming urgently and we couldn’t wait for more funding. I am currently working on producing the fifth film of Veronica Chen, which has already caught the attention of INCAA. We are already thinking about Moroco’s new film, which will be even more experimental than “Weekend.”
“Weekend” world premiered at San Sebastian as Cordoba is advancing on a new Ley de Fomento Audiovisual. Could you explain, Sofia, what state that law is in and what impact it could have on film production in Cordoba?
Right now, Cordoba’s Law for the Promotion of the Audiovisual Industry is at the state congress. Due to a broad support from all political forces, we are confident that it will be put through quickly and fully implemented by early 2017. The law, among other things, grants a package of tax rebates for local production companies as well as direct money support from the state for production and co-production of all kinds of audiovisual content and video games. It will undoubtedly have a large impact on the development of Cordoba’s audiovisual industry. It is a great incentive for co-production. Our goal is to attract international partners and investors as well as back regional production.