BUENOS AIRES — There are new kids on Latin America’s block, and they’re shaking up its art film business: In a first move by the production fund just launched by L.A.-based LA Panda and Axel Shalson’s Bad Boy Billy Productions, the partners have boarded Lila Avilés’ “La Camarista” as a co-producer.
In a separate move, Shalson will co-produce “Buenaventura Mon Amour (Somos Calentura),” bring with him director-producer Rodrigo Bellott as a producing partner.
Shalson and LA Panda’s Jana Diáz-Juhl will join “La Camarista” lead producer Tatiana Grullera at Ventana Sur to present the movie. Shalson will also also be on for the long-awaited sneak peek of “Buenaventura Mon Amour (Somos Calentura)” which, like “La Camarista,” screens in Ventana Sur’s now classic Primer Corte pix-in-post competition.
The feature debut of director-actress-dramatist Avilés, “La Camarista,” which won the Labo Award at Los Cabos Festival Work in Progress section, “La Camarista” cuts two ways. Deeply grounded in Avilés’ research on and befriending of the workforce at Méxican hotels, it is a fiction film which follows the daily grind of a chambermaid at Mexico City’s chic Hotel Presidente Internacional. But it also charts the search for identity of a person who seems invisible to some clients, is already a mother, but not yet her own person.
“The Chambermaid” is exactly what we were looking for when creating this partnership. The film shows a new voice and in such diverse society such as Mexico, it has a delicate and unique vision of the female protagonist,” said LA Panda producer Pau Brunet.
“We believe in a certain way of making films that implies long-lasting relationships, you need to have a connection with the people you are working with and probably share certain values,” added Diáz-Juhl.
Colombian director Jorge Navas’ follow-up to 2010’s “Blood and Rain,” “Buenaventura Mon Amour (Somos Calentura)” is a passion project of Steven Grisales at Bogotá’s Mon Amour Productions. Co-produced by Buenos Aires’ Magma Cine, it is set in Colombia’s Buenaventura port city, turning on a group of salsa and hip-hop dancers – caught in extensive dance act footage – looking to win a dance contest which will buy their ticket out of one of Colombia’s most violent cities.
“Buenaventura Mon Amour (Somos Calentura)” “is exactly the kind of project I want to be involved in,” said Shalson.
He added: “It’s entertaining; it’s beautifully shot; it has incredible commercial potential; but it also tells a really important and serious story about the struggle and pain of living in a community that is completely at the mercy of the very dangerous and politically complicated drug war.”
Already producing “Tierra Firme” (Anchor and Hope”), a parenthood drama with Oona Chaplin, Natalia Tena and David Bereguer which world premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in October, as well as Bellott’s “Tu me manques,” starring Oscar Martínez (“The Distinguished Citizen”) and Rossy de Palma (“Julieta”) and now in post, adding “La Camarista” and “Buenaventura” doubles the number of titles on Shalson’s burgeoning slate of socially-relevant Spanish-language indie titles made out of the U.S. or Spain, or combinations of both, and now Latin America,
Breaking out with Carlos Marques Marcet’s SXSW winner “10,000 Km” and a producer on Julia Solomonoff’s “Nobody’s Watching Us” as well as “Anchor and Hope” and “Tu me manques,” LA Panda’s co-production of “La Camarista” is one of six 2017 features which take in “Grimsey,” directed by Richard García and Raul Portero, Molly Hewitt’s “Holy Trinity” and the upcoming “The Chain,” directed by Luis Martín Porras.
Business on high-profile Primer Corte titles is common, with specialist Spanish language sales companies such as Film Factory swooping in on titles at Ventana Sur. But it is rare when titles have yet to play in the movies-in-post-production showcase.
The moves by LA Panda and Shalson represent a new evolution of Latin American business as it continues to attract private sector finance, but now in straight equity investment from sectorial players rather than the tax-break driven finance common in Mexico and Brazil.
For “La Camarista” and “Buenaventura,” LA Panda and Shalson’s involvement bring valuable, if not necessarily large, completion finance to these projects.
But it’s importance goos further. Bringing risk equity to the table, it flags for the market private investor confidence in movies’ ability to break out of domestic markets to larger festival slots and sales.
Targeting films fit for festival participation, the partners’ participation will also, as Brunet put it, “push the films into the international arena” where LA Panda and Shalson have a large network of sales agents and distributor contacts as well as expertise in choosing and safeguarding festival appearances until a sales agent is on board.
Co-producers’ input can range, however, across a whole gamut of aid, from securing extra finance to distribution deals, or marketing and out-of-the-box promotion. Snagging a sales agent, maybe triggered by big festival selection, would be the next natural step for both titles. Here, Ventana Sur may see some traction.