Mexico’s Piano Bows Foreign Film Distribution (EXCLUSIVE)

First Piano Distribution pick-ups, ’The Square,’ ‘I’m Not a Witch,’ form part of plans for broader international expansion at Piano

Andrea Castex and Julio Chavezmontes

Having carved out a reputation for its distribution of edgier Mexican fare, Piano Distribution, the auteur art pic distribution operation of Julio Chavezmontes’ production house Piano, has moved into international acquisitions, picking up Mexican rights to two high-profile Cannes titles: Ruben Ostlund’s 2017 Palme d’Or winner “The Square” and Rungano Nyoni’s first feature “I’m Not a Witch,” a Directors’ Fortnight standout.

“A thrilling milestone for the company, said Chavezmontes, the entry into international acquisitions dovetails, however, into plans for a far larger international expansion at Piano, kicking in over the next months.

Sold by The Coproduction Office, “The Square,” a social fable underscoring the valuelessness of modern life, marks final consecration for Ostlund, whose “Force Majeur” already topped Cannes Un Certain Regard in 2014.

Set in a small Zambian community, the Kinology-repped “I’m Not a Witch,” turning on a small girl who’s branded a witch, was one of the most talked-about titles of this year’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, an “exciting if challenging debut,” said Variety.

Headed by Andrea Castex, Piano Distribution will open “The Square” in Mexico at the beginning of 2018.

“Mexican audiences will be drawn to ‘The Square’s’ mordant humor, razor-sharp social critique, and the stellar performances of Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, and Dominic West,” said Castex.

She added, about “I Am Not a Witch”: “A touching and often hilarious feminist fable, with incredible cinematography, the film showcases a distinct sensibility from one of the emerging talents of the new wave of African cinema.”

From 2014, Piano has distributed nine Mexican movies, led in terms of bold auteur cinema by Emiliano Rocha Minter’s “We Are the Flesh,” lead.produced by Piano and a vision of contemporary Mexico filtered through a neo-futuristic fable which was co-produced by Carlos Reygadas and endorsed by Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro G. Iñárritu.  Starting in 2018, Piano Distribution will handle eight films a year, of which minimum three will be international titles, it said in a statement Tuesday.

U.S. movies still dominate Mexico’s market, Hollywood’s studios accounting for 84.5% of revenues from its top-100 movies, according to a recent study, Panorama Iberoamericano Audiovisual.

Mixing direct subsidies and tax breaks, including for distribution, Mexico boasts, however, one of the most advantageous of public-sector-engineered support systems for national films. There is also a small but growing market for art films in Mexico.

“Andrea Castex has quickly established an impressive business model for theatrical releases in Mexico, that will make these films thrive with arthouses audiences in the country,” Chavezmontes said of “The Square” and “I’m Not a Witch.”

He went on: “The expansion of Piano Distribution into foreign acquisitions is part of a broader strategy to establish Piano as an important platform for independent contemporary cinema beyond Mexico,” anticipating that, “in the coming months,” Piano would announce “a slate of international co-productions with important European and Latin American partners, that will bring world class Mexican talent and services to foreign projects.”

With more than 100 films produced a year, recurrent selection at top festivals, and “unmatched public funds,” “the Mexican film industry is poised to be an important player in joint international ventures,” Chavezmontes anticipated, saying that “Piano will be part of this trend with releases in 2018 and beyond.”