Behind most great national cinemas is a great promotion body.

Such far-reaching and successful agencies as France’s Unifrance set the standard for other countries to emulate.

Promotion agency CinemaChile has been working since its launch in 2009 to meet that standard.

Its functions reflect its status as an agency backed by a private-sector entity, Chile’s Film & TV Producers Assn. It serves an industry, not a government.

Although large growth opportunities remain abroad, Chilean cinema confronts a dire necessity at home: Growing a still lowly domestic market share.

“We’re totally protected against political appointments, political favors. We know what the industry needs,” says Giancarlo Nasi, an APCT board member.
Serving a collective, it forms part of an industry’s knowledge economy.

“Instead of pitting us one against the other, CinemaChile has helped put us together,” says producer Juan de Dios Larrain. “That’s so important because you start working together, getting ideas and contacts, sharing projects, sharing everything.”

Working the smallest of Latin America’s “big six” territories of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Peru, Chile’s $132 million total box office in 2016 was 17% of Mexico’s. Foreign markets, and access to them via festivals, is essential. Here, CinemaChile has proved a large facilitator.

“National agencies are a vital link between a cinema and festivals,” says San Sebastian Festival director José Luis Rebordinos.

Very good agencies such as CinemaChile “know festivals very well, their deadlines, programming; they can come up with ideas, give producer contacts, help festivals screen films, provide information,” he adds.

As Chile drives into larger, more accessible art films, many need to be made as international co-productions, whose number has jumped from two in 2010 to 13 in 2013. Here, too, CinemaChile plays a vital role.

Nasi recalls going to San Sebastian with “Raiz” in 2013. “It was the first festival in my life. Constanza [Arena, CinemaChile executive director] explained how everything worked. On a personal basis, I can say it is crucial to my career.”

Given its relatively low production output — 43 features in 2016, vs. 143-199 for Brazil, Mexico and Argentina — Chile punches far above its weight in festival presence. CinemaChile “works to find berths at festivals for not only its biggest titles, but also more modest films, and this helps a whole national cinema grow,” Rebordinos says.

CinemaChile is part of a virtuous circle, says Cannes Market executive director Jerome Paillard. “Chile has an agency that is supporting very well its industry and an industry that has the talent to take full advantage of that. Latin America’s big countries already have established agencies. Being newer, energetic and efficient, CinemaChile has been able to instantly take its actions to another level.”

Chilean filmmaking is now established as one of Latin America’s most prized auteur cinema brands.

But new market opportunities as well as challenges beckon. Chilean films hardly export to Asia. They still largely underperform abroad in Latin America. One way to address that is via co-production.

CinemaChile will sending seven producers to the Cannes Producers Network. It will stage a Fiesta Latina with other Latin American countries, another networking conduit.

“Co-production treaties have to be highly active,” says Arena.