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Ventana Sur: Ibermedia TV Cancels 9th Edition (EXCLUSIVE)

Latin America’s economic crises claims a film victim

BUENOS AIRES — Venezuela’s rampant economic crisis has claimed a victim: Ibermedia TV, a program which saw public broadcasters around Latin America, Spain and Portugal huddle together to co-fund the purchase of movies from the region.

Ibermedia will meet in Costa Rica next week, over Dec. 6 and 7, to study how to rethink and re-float the support system after Ibero-American film agencies cancelled the 9th funding edition. The decision was taken at September’s San Sebastián Film Festival by representatives of the Ibero-American Audiovisual and Film Authorities (CAACI) but not made public.

Ibermedia TV’s cancellation leaves a clutch of sales agents who had expected their movies to slot into this year’s purchases now high and dry, seeking other TV outlets for the titles.

Moneys paid per title are not large: An average very low five-dollar sum maybe. But for boutique operations which live hand-to-mouth, this can still be a considerable blow especially if they thought they had more than one title chosen for this year’s funding.

Having gone through eight acquisitions rounds, the scheme was something Europe’s film industries would die for: the financial commitment by state-funded TV networks to acquire and air movies from all over the region. Acquisitions were paid to films’ sales agents or producers.

The initiative was designed as both a way of supporting the regional film industry and of accustoming audiences to see – and warm to – the best of its productions.

Over eight years, the program saw top-notch Latin American movies – Lucía Puenzo’s “The German Doctor” (pictured) Alicia Scherson’s “Il Futuro,” for instance – air once a week across the region under the title of of Nuestro Cine or Nosso Cinema.

Backed by CAACI but co-funded by the pubcasters, the scheme was maybe too fragile to last. Venezuela was not able to pay its part of the joint funding – said to be $200,000 to Ibermedia TV a year, $165,000 from Venezuela’s Cnac Film Institute and another $35,000 from its public broadcaster – in either 2015 or 2016. Once 17 TV channels, its network of public broadcasters had dropped to 11 by this year with both Cuba and Puerto Rico withdrawing from the scheme.

The future of the program will depend on a rethink of its structure, maybe opening it up to far more TV or streaming players in the region, said Ibermedia head Elena Villardell.

But, until its future is resolved, Ibermedia TV’s nixing points to a paradox in the region.Boosted by still growing cable TV subscriber bases in Latin America, and a huge interest of OTT players in original productions, Latin American TV production is enjoying what some industry figures describe as a Golden Age.

In contrast, driven by state funding, film finance is under increasing pressure in many parts of Latin America beyond Venezuela, Cuba and Puerto Rico. It has already plunged in Spain. Ibermedia TV is a sign of the times, and the major losers are Latin American audiences and smaller industry players.

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