The Cannes Festival and Film Market’s boldest international initiative outside France, as well as Latin America’s biggest movie mart-meet, Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur runs Dec. 2-6. Co-organized by Argentina’s Incaa film-TV agency, it provides a telling window into Latin American market trends. Here are 10 takes for 2019:
1. Latin American Headwinds
For most of the past decade, Ventana Sur channeled the energies of the region’s expanding film industries. That era is now over. “Latin America is the world’s worst performing region in terms of economic output,” the Financial Times proclaimed in October. That downturn, and sluggish growth, plays out throughout the region. Two of Latin America’s three biggest national film industries — Argentina and Brazil — have just hit rather hard walls: The plunging Argentine peso lost 37% of its value against the dollar in just 12 months; and in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro has envisaged a 55% cut in public-sector film funding for 2020. Film funding in Mexico, Colombia and Chile is holding, but hardly exploding.
2. Ventana Sur Builds
So is Ventana Sur hurting? Hardly. In good times, the industry has the money to travel; in bad, it needs to. Argentina’s Oct. 27 general elections saw a united Peronist front return to power, and the Vice President-elect Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner proved eminently film-friendly when she was president. “We don’t have any questions about the future. There are few chances of Ventana Sur not continuing in Argentina,” says Ventana Sur co-director Jerome Paillard. “The support level from Argentina’s film industry is very strong.” Submissions for the event’s two popular pics-in-post showcases, Primer Corte and Copia Final, are up 20% on 2018. The number of tables booked is also up, from 33 to 43, Paillard says.
3. Buzzy Titles
Lucía Puenzo (“The German Doctor”) and Julio Hernández Cordón (“I Promise You Anarchy”) present new movie projects in Proyecta: “Los Impactados” and “The Day Is Long and Dark (My Friends Are Vampires).” In Animation!, Chilean producer-director Álvaro Ceppi will produce Argentine stop-motion maestro Juan Pablo Zaramella’s sci-fi family fable “Coda.” Brazilian animator-illustrator Wesley Rodrigues (“Viagem na Chuva”) will pitch “The Bird Kingdom,” a 2D YA fantasy. In pics-in-post competitions Primer Corte/Copia Final, there’s good word on “Restless,” from Paz Fabrega (“Cold Water of the Sea”). Potential Blood Window standouts include Florencia Dupont’s Chilean noir thriller “Aracne” — a standout at Chile’s Sanfic Festival — and Santiago Fernandez Calvete’s “Vurdalak Blood,” a work-in-progress.
Ventana Sur’s core identity may, however, be evolving. It launched as a pure sales market. These days, however, producers can tap far more financing co-producing with international equity partners than through straight sales. Ventana Sur launched the successful Proyecta co-production forum last year, and it will repeat in 2019. In a touch of deja vu, Latin America is likely to look once more to Europe for production partners, even as lead producers on projects with Latin American directors. Ventana Sur will welcome producer delegations from the British Films Institute and France, the latter segueing from the market to Uruguay, which has just signed a co-production treaty with France, Paillard says. The market will also step up networking meets, he adds.
5. Connecting Talent With Demand
“Ventana Sur’s major virtue has been to evolve naturally from a film market,” says Ventana Sur co-director Ralph Haiek. Its major challenge is now connecting talent with demand. “There’s a scarcity of talent and a huge demand for productions,” he says. Ventana Sur’s conferences strand will highlight best cases of audience connection, such as YouTube, as well as highlighting Latino talent via prizes across its multiple categories.
6. More Hot Tickets
Of movies screening in Ventana Sur’s market, Cuban female friendship docu-feature “In a Whisper” won the top prize at IDFA last Wednesday. Ventana Sur also plays host to movies which have set Variety’s reviewers pulses racing. Two are reviewed in this issue: “Carice van Houten is on electrifying form in Halina Reijn’s risky, impressive debut,” Guy Lodge wrote of “Instinct,” and also called Jayro Bustamante’s “La Llorona” “of prime competition standard at any major fest.” Apart from “In a Whisper” – “,” dixit Variety – other notable Variety thumbs-ups – Mehdi M. Barsaoui’s “A Son” and Filippo Meneghetti’s “Two of Us” – can be read on Variety’s website or in later Ventana Sur Dailies..
7. Moving Towards the Mainstream
Latin American cinema is moving towards the mainstream. That could be seen in project announcements at Los Cabos in mid-November and in the two scaled up International Feature Oscar submissions at Ventana Sur: Andrés Wood’s Chilean entry “Araña” and Federico Veiroj’s “The Moneychanger.” Several factors are at play. A Latin American generation of directors which has three, four or five often highly successful art films under its belt wants to move out of its comfort zone, making films for broader audiences; OTT giants’ content demand is shaping what kind of movies film distributors want from the industry, with the idea of selling on to the global players; in most home markets, the theatrical audience for straight-arrow art films is contracting.
8. Ventana Sur’s Cannes Film Week: One Highlight
Two Argentine modern greats, Gaspar Noé and Lisandro Alonso, are scheduled for an onstage conversation at the Thierry Fremaux M.C.-ed Cannes Film Week, which brings the artist glamour and greatness of Cannes-selected world cinema – and world cinema does not get better than that – to Buenos Aires. Noé, whose “Climax,” at least in its opening stretches, was judged to deliver some of the best cinema at Cannes, gives a masterclass, moderated by Alonso on Dec. 5, before a screening of “Lux Aeterna,” a 50-minute film which shares some of his horrors and loves, far too candidly for many less libertine-minded critics, with the audience.
9. Argentine TV Builds in International
Is Argentine TV ready to boom? Some sense of this may be caught at Ventana Sur’s Fiction Factory, its upbeat TV strand – which features a presentation of Buena Vista Original Productions’ runaway hit “Monzon” by producer Pampa Films and distributor Tuner Latin America – among other highlights. It was Spain’s 2010-12 recession which super-charged its current boom, forcing producers to make scripted series of larger ambition which crossed frontiers, Spanish producer Cesar Benítez argued last week at Mip Cancun. President elect Alberto Fernández will take up office on Dec. 10 with Argentina bogged in recession. Already, however, and incredible but true, thanks to the good offices of Argentine network Telefe parent Viacom, Argentina saw more top 20 scripted formats exports last year than any other country in the world, according to a The Wit study. It also won more kudos at Mip Cancun’s Produ Awards than any other country in Latin America: 15 for Argentina played 10 for México, six for the U.S. and Colombia’s four.
10. Ventana Sur Debates the Future
“Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Disobedience” producer Frida Torresblanco kicks off Ventana Sur’s powered-up conference strand with a keynote on new business opportunities. Other potential highlights, among many: Two other drivers of Argentina’s TV scene, Sebastián Borensztein (HBO Latin America’s “The Bronze Garden”) and Daniel Burman (“Victoria Small,” from The Mediapro Studio and Viacom Intl. Studios), chew the cud on writing for TV; six animation event-heads discuss co-ordination of Latin American toons; top Spanish-language sales agents Antonio Saura (“Champions”) and Vicente Canales (“Wild Tales”) and producer Simon de Santiago (“While at War”) discuss distribution and exhibition in a panel moderated by “Wild Tales” and “The Clan” producer Matías Mosteirín; Italy receives a Spotlight; SXSW Jim Kalmar, San Sebastian’s José Luis Rebordinos and Locarno’s Lili Hinstin outline festival innovation with Jérome Paillard; Pampa Films’ Juan Pablo Buscarini and Pablo Bossi drill down on animation franchise “Turu, the Wacky Hen”; Malaga Festival presents part of its industry lineup.