MORELIA, Mexico — In 2010, Switzerland’s Locarno Festival, Europe’s biggest mid-summer movie event, held its inaugural Locarno Academy with the intent to develop emerging industry talents from multiple industry disciplines such as sales, distribution, exhibition and production. In 2014, Morelia became the first festival to partner with the Academy for what has since become a yearly event backed by the Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE).

“One thing we discuss here is that in Latin America we all do many things,” said Locarno Academy moderator and Interior XIII founder-director Sandra Gomez.

“We are producers, but also distributors, we try to make deals with exhibition companies and so we end up in many parts of the business because that’s how it has to be done here. We don’t have many sales agents in Latin America, for example,” she added.

Joining Gomez on the Academy team was Marion Klotz, who has long collaborated with Locarno as a project manager and member of the selection committee for its co-production lab, Open Doors.

FiGa’s Sandro Fiorin, one of the tutors at this year’s Academy, pointed out that in his case, it has become increasingly more important to board films at an early stage, not only as a producer but also as a distributor. He praised the virtues of digital platforms and their place in bringing international independent cinema to new places, while discussing the difficulties that exist when exhibiting in traditional cinemas.

Another key, according to Gomez, is to legitimize the industry to help it grow.

“We work hard to professionalize the work we do as distributors, exhibitors and programmers. This event is a really good way to do that. Latin America is a region that is very alive and many things are happening, many films are being produced. But, the exhibition and circulation is difficult because there aren’t enough places to show all the films being produced,” she explained.

Other hot-button topics covered by the Academy were strategies for programming international festivals, what to do with a film once it’s finished, how to market and promote independent initiatives and the challenges represented with the emergence of VOD platforms.

This year’s Academy tutors came from a wide range of fields, and feature high-profile industry figures such as Berlin European Film Market founder Beki Probst, Imcine general director Jorge Sánchez Sosa, and Cinépolis director of programming Miguel Rivera and head of distribution Leo Cordero.

Other contributors were Pimienta Films founder and “Roma” producer Nicolás Celis, Analila Altamirano from the Mexican Institute of Cinematography, Pierre Menahem – founder of France’s Still Moving, Autentika Films founder Paulo de Carvalho, Peccadillo Pictures and New Wave Films manager Diane Gabrysiak, Paula Gastaud from Sofa Digital in Brazil and Ambulante general director Paulina Suárez.

Carlos Sosa, a producer and founder of Mexico City’s arthouse cinema La Casa del Cine, and film festival heads Josué Méndez from the Lima Film Festival and Mirsad Purivatra from the Sarajevo Film Festival filled out the lineup of speakers.

Eight participants were selected to take part in this year’s Academy from a pool of more than 100 applicants, the largest response the Morelia-Locarno Academy has received since its inception. And although only eight were chosen to participate, the group represented a range of industry roles reflective of the Academy’s tutors.

This year’s attendees were Paula Amor, who runs La Corriente del Golfo, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna’s recently-founded production company; Priscila Andrade from Mutante Cine, a Uruguayan co-production powerhouse; Cine la Mina founder Leslie Alejandra Borsani Fernández; Buenos Aires Lab co-ordinator Facundo Lema; Miguel Ángel Mendoza Barrón, an exhibitor with the solar-powered Ecocinema Mexico; Imcine’s Louise Riousse; Isabel Rojas, a general director and co-ordinator of programming at OaxacaCine; and Salón de Belleza co-founder and film director Alejandra Villalba García.

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