Inaugural Campus Latino Launches at 2017 IFF Panama

Guest experts include Gema Juarez Allen, Maite Alberdi and Selina Ukwuoma

Bettina Walter and Gema Juarez Allen
Photo by Martin Dale

The first edition of Campus Latino, a joint initiative between Documentary Campus and the Goethe-Institut Mexico, is running April 3-5, during the 6th IFF Panama.

Coordinated by Bettina Walter, as Head of Studies, this first three-day workshop is integrated within a 13-month training program that will revolve between three locations: Panama City, Mexico City and Munich.

“This is a great time for documentaries from Latin America,” said Walter. At IDFA in Amsterdam, we saw a lot of projects from Colombia. Brazil is getting stronger and had several projects in the Berlinale. Gema Juarez Allen’s ‘Soldado’ also screened in Berlin. Over recent years, documentaries such as Tatiana Huezo’s ‘Tempestad,’ Marcia Tambutti Allende’s ‘Beyond My Grandfather Allende,’ and Eryk Rocha’s ‘Cinema novo’ have been winning major international awards.”

In its first edition, Campus Latino accepts projects from Central America, the Caribbean and Mexico. 13 projects will attend the workshop during IFF Panama, from which six projects will be shortlisted for the next workshop, to be held during DOCS MX, the International Documentary Film Festival of Mexico City, in October 2017. The same six projects will then return to IFF Panama in April 2018 to be pitched to a panel of experts, and a final shortlist of four projects will then attend the concluding workshop aimed at sealing coproduction and distribution deals, to be held during DOK.Fest München in May 2018.

Walter is a German producer based in Barcelona, who has co-produced projects such as “Falciani’s Tax Bomb,” “Google and the World Brain,” and “The Devil’s Miner,” with television and cable networks such as ARTE / ZDF, BBC, SFR, RTS, TVE / TVC and PBS. She has also participated in the Documentary Campus Masterschool and Eurodoc.

Argentinian producer Juarez Allen is one of the program’s experts and has also helped structure the first edition. Other experts attending Campus Latino at IFF Panama include Chilean film director, Maite Alberdi, who will present a case study of her most recent project, and U.K. script consultant, Selina Ukwuoma who has worked for Cuba Pictures/Curtis Brown and the EON Screenwriters’ Workshop in London.

The 13 selected projects include three from Mexico, three from the Caribbean and seven from Central America (three from Panama, two from Costa Rica and two from Guatemala).

The projects range from highly personal stories to subjects that address major political and social issues. “We want to help people to tell their story,” said Walter. “We will look at what kinds of stories can find an audience.”

Walter has been co-producing for several years, including the 2006 Chilean project, “My Life with Carlos” which she took to Documentary Campus and which went on to win a “Hot Docs” public audience award. She is currently co-producing “Veteranos,” with Allen about the Falklands War, which was pitched at the IDFA  Forum-Central Pitch in November 2016.

During the first three-day workshops, the participants will work on how to structure their projects, including the log line, synopsis, storytelling approach and possible narrative structures.

Walter says that she set up the program because she believes that there is considerable unexplored potential in Latin America for documentaries that explore innovative storytelling approaches and subjects. Financing structures are still very national and in regions such as Central America and the Caribbean funding is extremely scarce. Television stations in many countries also make very limited investments in documentaries. As a result producers tend to focus on circulation in festivals rather than exploring the market.

However, Walter believes that this situation is changing rapidly as foreign broadcasters, especially in Europe, are increasingly interested in Latin American documentaries, and new platforms in Latin America itself, such as Netflix, are also keen to screen documentaries.

“Netflix has a young team in Latin America, that is looking for documentaries. I would love to invite people from Netflix to future editions of Campus Latino.

“There is already a growing level of co-production within Latin America. For example, between Argentina, Chile and Uruguay because of shared cultures, stories and storytelling traditions. So I thought: Let’s work together to make a stronger network across all of Latin America.”

Documentary Campus is one of the longest-running documentary training initiatives in Europe, with workshops organized in Europe for more than 1 5 years, and with sister programs in Asia and the Middle East. Latin America was the logical next step and when the opportunity arose to cooperate with Goethe-Institut Mexico the basic structure was established. The partner festivals were also very keen to come on board.

Walter is also working on a second edition of the event, which is likely to embrace the entire Latin American region. She is in discussion with the Rio Content Market, with the Cartagena International Film Festival in Colombia and with potential partners in Argentina.

For future workshops she plans to invite Fernanda Rossi, an Argentinian pitching expert based in New York, who will attend the workshop in Mexico and help participants fine-tune their proposals. She would also like to invite documentary programmers from festivals to help people understand how they look at projects, and representatives from television platforms such as Netflix or from European broadcasters.

Juarez Allen concludes: “Initiatives based in Central America and the Caribbean such as the workshops carried on by Cinergia for many years and this new initiative involving the Goethe Institute must be supported and celebrated. It opens new windows and possibilities for learning, exchanging experiences, and networking. Of course all this will help strengthen new cinematographies, new voices, and new stories that we all will want to see and share.”