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Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass Attendance, Structural Growth

BUENOS AIRES — Celebrating its 10th anniversary with a huge hike in attendance to over 4,000 accredited delegates, the 2018 Ventana Sur will go down in history on multiple counts: Sales and pick-ups on movies which combined social comment and entertainment value, increasingly the new foreign-language movie standard; new sections, led by a Proyecta co-production forum and in-house doc Incubadora; and a reinvigorated conference strand.

Thierry Fremaux’s Cannes Festival Cinema Week also sold out, some sessions in just two hours, a sign he said in his opening keynote to Ventana Sur of a resilient theatrical audience for films.

With three Netflix executives in attendance, plus Amazon’s Pablo Lacoviello, 2018’s Ventana Sur suggested how the function of major film events is expanding in an OTT age. The battle for OTT supremacy will be fought over talent.

Much of the real industry dealing at Ventana Sur was and will be in the future where that talent can now be found. To date, OTT platforms have relied on Latin America’s film industry to supply some of its biggest hits from the region: Manolo Caro’s Netflix hit “La casa de las flores,” Gabriel Ripstein’s Amazon series “Un extraño enemigo.”

“This is a growth economy, it’s not only culture, which it is, but potentially about talent that could sell to the world, and Ventana Sur is key for that,” Ralph Haiek, president of Argentina’s National Institute of Film and Audiovisual Arts (INCAA), told the international press on Friday.

At the same time, one the biggest questions raised by this year’s intense market-forum is how the irreversible impact of the OTT revolution can accommodate movies in general and in particular the Argentine film industry, the most artistic and auteurist of Latin American movie industries.

A joint venture of the Cannes Festival, Cannes Film Market and Argentina’s INCAA, Ventana Sur kicked off with a broad coalition of Argentine industry bodies protesting INCAA cuts in subsidy lines. It went on to show a spirited reaction from the independent industry in works-in-progress screenings, industry moves and movies on display.

Of Argentine titles, Mariano Cohn’s thriller “4 x 4,” sold by Latido Films, made a large market splash, clinching a weighty deal for France, one of the biggest territories for foreign movies.

CREDIT: Latido Films

“The Good Intentions,” a spirited father-daughter drama picked up by Film Factory Ent. for world sales, was the biggest winner at Ventana Sur’s pix-in-post Primer Corte competition. Gender abuse drama “Do You Like Me?” had admirers in sister section Copia Final.

Drawing critical raves off Toronto and San Sebastian, Benjamín Naishtat’s “Rojo,” a caustic and stylish chronicle on Argentina’s complicity in murder, and Alejandro Fadel’s “Murder Me, Monster,” a supernatural horror movie marking a reflection on monstrosity of social relations, both saw sales to the U.S. announced at Ventana Sur, acquired by 1844 Ent.

Film Factory Ent. announced its acquisition for sales of Chilean Andrés Wood’s “Araña,” co-produced by Argentina’s Magma, and some of the big Latin American titles of early 2019.

One of the glories of Argentine filmmaking has been the most fulsome state support of any country in Latin America, bar arguably Brazil. That has allowed production levels to sky rocket to by far the highest in the region: 220 features in 2017, up 10% on 2016, and up on Mexico (176) and Brazil (160).

The question is how much of that, and in what production conditions, will survive the plunge in the peso and industrial re-conversion, driven by INCAA and OTT.

What seems undeniable is that Argentina has more writing talent, the Holy Grail for OTT original series and movies commissioners, than any other country in Latin America.

Multiple deals went down or were confirmed at Ventana Sur. Of unannounced trading:

*Peter Marai’s Mirada has acquired rights for Argentina, Chile and Uruguay to Spaniard Celia Rico’s observant mother-daughter drama, the Loco Films-sold “Journey to a Mother’s Room,” a hit feature debut which world premiered at San Sebastian’s New Directors section, winning the festival’s Youth Award. The film received four Spanish Academy Goya nominations yesterday. Wide Management has pre-sold “”The Father,” by Petar Valchanov and Kristina Grozeva to Mirada.

*Bac Films closed four territories At Ventana Sur on Paolo Virzi’s “Notti Magiche”: Colombia (Babilla), Argentina (Zeta Films), Puerto Rico (Weisner) and Romania (Independenta).

* Jinga has closed an all rights Latin America deal with Dexterity for “The Cleaning Lady,” “Living Space” and “Big Bad Wolves.” Jinga has also acquired world sales rights for the erotic dominatrix film “Red Latex,” which will be launched in Berlin.

*Meikincine has sold to HBO Latino for U.S. broadcast the Argentine comedy “Recreo” (Break) by Hernán Guerschuny and Jazmín Stuart with Carla Peterson, Juan Minujín, Fernán Miras, Pilar Gamboa, Jazmín Stuart and Martin Slipak, produced by HC Films, Benteveo and Chinita Films. It also closed a deal for “Re Loca” (“Super Crazy”), directed by Martino Zaidelis, for Taiwan with Av-Jet Intl. Media. The film is produced by Aeroplano and Viacom-owned Argentine broadcaster Telefe.

*Blockchain-supported Cinemarket announced Friday a partnership with Miami-based sales company FiGA Films, the Latin American sales company and distributor, to make FiGA Films catalog available for licensing for registered Cinemarket buyers across multiple rights and territories. Negotiated by Cinemarket’s director of content, Jordan Mattos, and FiGA Films VP of sales, Lidia Damatto, the deal kicks off with Claudia Priscila and Kiko Goifman’s Berlinale Panorama hit “Bixa Travesty,” which won the festival’s Teddy Award for best documentary.

*Polish LGBT specialist Tongariro Releasing has acquired “Hamam,” by Ferzan Ozpetek from Minerva, as well as a package of four films from Shoreline including Colombian “Eva and Candela,” directed by Ruth Caudeli.

There could be multiple reasons for Ventana Sur delegate growth this year, said the Cannes Film Market’s Jerome Paillard, Ventana Sur co-director: “The new programs and activities on one hand, the Mexican Focus, and maybe a sustainable need of more opportunities to network and widen the landscape of contacts, partners and projects, for which Ventana Sur proved to be the perfect event.”

Of new programs, Ventana Sur’s Animation! strand, now in its third year, underscored the theatrical resilience of animation with Peruvian feature “Ainbo” hitting Ventana Sur with its sales company, Edward Noeltner’s Cinema Management Group, unveiling he had pre-sold half the world on the Amazon-set adventure, closing 23 distribution deals to date.

CREDIT: Animation!

The biggest prize in the section – La Liga of Latin American Animation consisting of invitations to the Quirino Awards market in Spain’s Tenerife and Mexico’s Pixelatl Festival – went to “Two Little Birds” from “Anina’s” Alfredo Soderguit and Alejo Schettini. The animated feature project is again Argentine.

Argentines are survival artists. Ventana Sur saw both the INCAA and Argentina’s film industry reacting to economic crisis. The INCAA’s Haiek said production incentives for foreign shoots in Argentina was now “on the agenda.” Some producers are exploring co-production with the currently vibrant Mexican industry, energized by production incentives.

At Ventana Sur for a Mexico Focus, Marco Antonio Salgado announced three co-productions with Argentina. One of their Argentine co-producers, Paola Suárez, announced she had created a company in Mexico, Jaque Content Mexico, to produce, co-produce and provide production services to a industry which, in TV at least, is struggling to meet the demand to produce new drama series.

Meanwhile, during Ventana Sur, both Argentina’s PCI Film Directors’ Assn. and Juan Villegas and Rodrigo Moreno at the Universidad de Cine presented works in progress showcases.  Of the 15 or so PCI members attending their Wednesday night event, one is a Martin Scorsese-produced Berlin competition contender (Celina Murga), another last year’s San Sebastian best director awardee (Anahi Berneri), yet another a Cannes Camera d’Or winner (Pablo Giorgelli).

Javier Van de Couter’s “7h35,” co-scripted and produced by Berneri, turns on two real survivors of a school shooting who, 15 years after the fact, embark on a journey to find the former classmate who shot them. Even seen in brief excerpt, the fiction-reality double take  exercises a complex fascination.

Ventana Sur exists in part to highlight such talent. How it adapts to a new OTT scenario, in Argentina and the world at large, is one of the largest conundrums of the international film industry.

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