BUENOS AIRES — Having served a stint in government service, Bruno Bettati has rejoined top Chilean company Jirafa Films, the company he founded and built, to produce and also create its new theatrical distribution operation. Bettati will work alongside Augusto Matte, who continues as a fellow producer-partner at Jirafa while also serving as general manager of Spanish-language cinema production at Pablo and Juan de Dios Larrain’s Fabula.
Jirafa has also tapped Daniela Camino as an executive producer with a special responsibility for Jirafa’s fledgling distribution division.
In production, Jirafa will continue to produce both renown figures in the Newest Chilean Cinema, such as Alejandro Fernández Almendras, and new talent, having just pacted with Vania Catani for her Rio-based Bananeira Filmes to co-produce one of the most anticipated feature-debuts in Latin America: Francisca Alegría’s “The Cow That Sang a Song about the Future.”
Jirafa’s in-house distribution division will see it release “around three films” a year, both Jirafa and third-party titles, Matte said at Ventana Sur. First film up will be Raul Ruíz and Valeria Sarmiento’s “The Wandering Soap Opera,” produced by actress-director-producer Chamila Rodríguez, and a movie Ruíz shot in 1990. After a copy was discovered at Duke U., fellow director Sarmiento, Ruíz’s widow, has fashioned it into a finished film which world premiered to plaudits at Locarno. Ruiz’s 121st movie, “The Wandering Soap Opera,” which still has to find an international sales agent, screens at Ventana Sur.
As he took Jirafa into international co-productions and international production, such as Alicia Scherson’s Italy-set Roberto Bolaño adaptation “Il Futuro” starring “Blade Runner’s” Rutger Hauer, Bettati, one of Chile’s most articulate producers, was also one of the first to argue that the major challenge for Chilean movies is not financing, but distribution. Though one of world cinema’s most fest-prized production forces, Chile still has habitually the lowest domestic film market share of a major Latin American production power, 6.8% in 2016, according to the Cannes Film Market’s World Cinema Film Market Trends.
Working as a “boutique distributor,” in Matte’s description, Jirafa aims to translate filmmakers’ vision of their films into their release developing a close working relationship with them, he said at Ventana Sur.
At least one of its three distribution titles every year will be a non-Jirafa title, he added, saying that as a director-driven production company, Jirafa will look to acquire “director driven films or titles with a bold vision or new language.”
He added: “We will start trying to give movies a special release, not trying to reach for 20-40 screens, but releasing on screens that will get an audience.”
Filmmakers will be encouraged to present their new works to audiences: “The only way we can compete with big films is having the director talking to the audience. We believe that the most important thing in releasing a film is generating a dialogue between the artist and his audience,” Matte said.
Bananeira will co-produce “The Cow That Sang a Song About the Future” via a Brazil-Chile bilateral co-production fund, where it has just won funding. It already served as a core producer of Lucrecia Martel’s “Zama,” lead producing with Argentina’s Rei Cine a multi-lateral co-production of enormous complexity.
“Vania Catani has an expertise in international co-production and produces a lot of edgier female directors. It’s great to work with someone that is bringing such interesting female talent to screen,” Matte said.
“The Cow That Sang a Song About the Future” expands on the magical realist universe, poetic symbolism and shooting style – fluid dolly shots, a realist treatment of supernatural elements – of Alegria’s Columbia U. School of the Arts MFA degree short, 2016’s “And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow’s Eye.”
World premiering at Telluride, it went on to see extraordinary success, playing the Toronto and New York Festivals and winning the Short Film Jury Award for an international feature at this year’s Sundance. Gabriel García Márquez battled all his life to translate magical realism from his novels to the big screen. Alegría, by critical consensus, cracked it.