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Ventana Sur 2019: Big New Titles, Argentina-Mexico, Deals, Trends

BUENOS AIRES   —  The last few years have caught Ventana Sur – Cannes Festival and Market’s biggest initiative outside France – taking place as the industry debated radical change. This year saw the Latin American industries in a state of  transformation themselves, wracked by headwinds – Jair Bolsonaro’s government in Brazil – or looking to take advantage of negative scenarios, such as the Argentine peso plunge against the dollar.

But Ventana Sur is weathering these storms. Expanding from its film base into growth areas for the film industry – genre, animation, and now drama series and social media via a bolstered conference focus  under co-director Ralph Haiek – Ventana Sur has evolved into an invaluable fixture in a round-the-year sales and co-production movie business, accelerating trading and expanding companies’ contact bases. Here are 12 Takeaways from a robust 2019 edition:

1.THE DOUBLE MODEL

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The rise of global platforms played out throughout Ventana Sur, in sales and announced strategic moves, Ventana Sur itself however held strong. When it comes to film, platforms, at least for the coming future, are unlikely to meet the distribution needs, desires and interests of all producers at all times. For the immediate future, if Ventana Sur is anything to go by, the independent industry in film and TV, looks set to work a double model: Work for hire for platforms; traditional territory-by-territory distribution, often through co-production, sold on the open market.

2.VENTANA SUR’S BIG HITTERS

Far more far bigger new titles hit the year’s Ventana Sur than in any edition in recent memory: Colombia-set tragedy “El Olvido Que Seremos,” from Academy Award winner Fernando Trueba (“Belle Epoque); the lovingly crafted $19 million “Born a King,” starring “Midway’s” Ed Skrein and set in 1919 London and Saudi Arabia; “The Heist of the Century,” with Guillermo Francella, Argentina’s biggest bow of early 2019, also from Latido;  Film Factory Ent.’s “The Intruder,” a “psycho-sexual fantastic thriller,” with a to-die-for cast of Erica Rivas (“Wild Tales”), Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” Daniel Hendler (“The Lost Embrace”) and Cecilia Roth (“Pain and Glory”); Chilean political thriller“Jailbreak Pact,” set in 1990 Chile, again inspired by real events, from Meikincine. “Heist,” “Intruder” and “Jailbreak” represent a large step-up in scale for their producers or director. As theatrical box office contracts for art films around the world, even in France, Latin America is making films of far larger theatrical ambition. That could be said of world cinema at large. “Intimate tales,” framed by large historic events, was one tonic of this year’s Cannes Film Week, running parallel to Ventana Sur, Thierry Fremaux told Variety.

3.VENTANA SUR: THE FUTURE

Addressing a packed-to-the-rafters audience at Ventan Sur’s industry awards ceremony, Cannes Marché du Film head Jérome Paillard, also Ventana Sur co-director, announced dates for the 2020 edition 12th Ventana Sur of Dec. 8-12. Diplomatically, he did not say where. A pound will get you a penny, however, that the event will remain in Buenos Aires. Co-organized by Argentina’s INCAA film-TV agency, and backed by the European Union, Ventana Sur was one of the biggest achievements in cultural policy of a film-friendly Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, wisely continued by Mauricio Macri. Argentina’s future in film and TV depends on working with and in international.

4.ATTRACTING PLATFORM BUSINESS: THE STICK AND THE CARROT

The European Union is obliging OTT platform to release and, depending on individual countries, invest in local production. Latin America is, in a first phase at least, using less of a stick ands more of a carrot. At Ventana Sur, in a move set to enhance even more Sao Paulo’s status as Brazil’s film-TV capitol, and beacon of liberal values, Lais Bodansky, president of Spcine, Sao Paulo Town Hall’s film-TV agency, announced Brazil’s first ever cash rebates for foreign shoots, including OTT player original productions. Already, the city of Sao Paulo, home to 12 million inhabitants, the country’s financial hub and a beacon of liberal values, accounts for 25% of the national audiovisual sector. Meanwhile, Enrique Avogadro, Culture Minister at Buenos Aires’ Town Hall, announced that the city was relaunching the Buenos Aires Film Commission, one major aim to ensure big shoots. Considering Argentina’s large talent base, it is not a pipe-dream.

5.BUZZ TITLES

“El Olvido Que Seremos,” “The Heist of the Century,” “The Intruder,” “Jailbreak Pact,” most certainly. But there were others: Lucía Puenzo’s “Impactados,” about lightning-strike victims, produced with Chile’s Fabula and France’s Pyramide; Julio Hernández Cordon’s “The Day is Long and Dark (My Friends are Vampires).” Of prize winners on Friday, “Karnawal” and “Restless” stood out in Primer Corte, Sundance-bound “Summer White” won Copia Final, and “Kurdulak Blood” and “The Containment” took most prizes at genre mart Blood Window.

6.VENTANA SUR BUSINESS

Beyond sales agents’ big new title announcements, more trade announcements at Ventana Sur:

*Argentina’s Aura Films has acquired international rights to breakup drama “The Shape of the Hours,” by Argentina’s Paula de Luque, which screened at the Cairo Fest.

*Primer Corte winner “Karnawal” has received multiple sales agent offers, said sources.

*Latido Films picked up international sales rights to musical comedy “Explota Explota” (“My Heart Goes Boom!”), from Madrid’s Tornasol Films and Rome’s Indigo Film, both Oscar winners.

*By market end at Ventana Sur, a clutch of buyers were circling Rodrigo Ruíz Patterson’s Sundance-bound “Summer White.”

*Having picked up standout films out by other young Latin American women directors, such as Mexico’s Oscar entry “La Camarista,” Paris-based Alpha Violet announced acquisition of sales rights to Fernanda Valadez’s San Sebastian Films in Progress winner “Identifying Features,” also selected for Sundance.

*Paul Hudson’s Outsider Pictures has taken North America on Jonas Trueba’s critically admired woman’s drama “The August Virgin”;

*Luxbox confirmed a swathe of new sales to Italy (Reading Bloom) and Europe (HBO Europe) on “Song Without a Name,” and on “Joan of Arc,” led by Kimstim for the U.S., New Wave in the U.K., Grand Film in Germany, Spain’s Pecker Audiovisual, and Interior XIII in Mexico and Colombia.

*Guido Rud’s FilmSharks Intl. added Colombia (CineColombia) and Central America (Las Guardas) at Ventana Sur to already-announced sales on Hugo Cardozo’s Paraguayan paranormal chiller “The Morgue.2 Prior deals include Japan (AT Ent.), Taiwan (AV Jet) and Peru, Chile and Bolivia (Andes Film). Rights for North America are under discussion, Rud added.

*Germany’s Media Luna sold to Somos TV U.S. pay TV and SVOD rights on teen dancer drama “Mosh,” from the Dominican Republic’s Juan Antonio Bisonó.

*Paris-based Loco Films told Variety it was closing on a Primer Corte title.

*Meikincine, a rising Argentina-based sales agency, licensed U.S. rights on Fernando Villarán’s “Papa YouTuber” and “Enterrados,” from Luis Trapiello, to Somos TV, and Ricardo Diaz Iacoponi’s “El Retiro” to China in an all rights deal.

7.THE ARGENTINA-MEXICO AXIS

Galvanized by the huge demand for series by Netflix, Amazon and now new platforms, Mexico’s TV industry is working at full capacity. Withered by crisis, Argentina’s is not. It also has many of the best screenwriters in Latin America: Think “El Marginal,” “The Bronze Garden.” So Argentine producers are looking to bring its talent and production capacity to Mexico’s table. Last year, Cordoba-Based Paola Suárez set up Jaque Content Mexico, based out of Mexico City. “Sr. Avila,” arguably HBO  Latin America’s biggest hit ever, was produced by Mexico-based Lemon Studios but written by Argentines Marcelo and Walter Slavich. Now at Ventana Sur, in a symptomatic strategic alliance, Argentina’s Magma Cine announced it was teaming with Mexico’s Chemistry Films to joint-produce series for platforms and studios. As Latin American studios and big production players look to sign up top showrunners to overall deals from pretty well anywhere in the Spanish-speaking world, expect more Argentine writers to be closed down in the near future.

8.ARGENTINE DOCUMENTARIES

For many, one of Netflix’s finest achievements to date in Latin America has been a docu-series, Mexican Diego Osorno’s multi-voiced, engrossing “1994.” At Ventana Sur this year, PCI, Argentina’s directors’ guild, screened its traditional showreel of members’ latest productions. Documentaries dominated the offer: Juan Villegas’ docu-series on Argentina Junta’s machinations and murders during the 1978 World Cup; “Raul,” a probing analysis of the contradictions of Raul Alfonsín, Argentina’s first President in democracy – he set out to right a country’s economy, for instance, without being able to run his own family’s affairs; and, maybe most extraordinary of all, Daniel Rosenfeld’s “The Kaiser of Atlantis,” the true story of composer Viktor Ullmann’s chamber opera, completed by him  in Nazi concentration camp Theresienstadt and rediscovered, or so the documentary appears ro ,ake outt, thanks to a medium on a U.S. reality show.

9.DO CRY FOR ME BRAZIL

Friday’s industry awards ceremony started out with a clutch of protestors holding up handwritten signs: “Brazilian cinema on fire.” They did not mean that in any positive way at all. 2019’s Ventana Sur was the first year without Cinema do Brasil, the Brazilian promotion agency whose energetic support for Ventana Sur helped make it such a success from year one. CdB still awaits renewed Brazilian government funding. Meanwhile, back in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro’s is killing the local movie industry by one thousand cuts (see Variety recap, written by Marcelo Cajueiro), pushing the industry into the arms of global platforms. A week after Ventana Sur, Rio Fest will stage a valiant 2019 edition financed on a shoestring budget. Rio once ranked proudly, with Buenos Aires’ Bafici and Mar del Plata, as South America’s premier film festival. Argentina’s festivals will look to rebuild in 2020. If not, that crown may now pass to Santiago de Chile’s fast-growing Sanfic, set to expand even more in 2020

10. CHILEAN ANIMATION: ON THE RISE

Walking into Animation! industry executives were greeted by a barrage of noise, as producers energeticallly held one-to-one meeting, none maybe over 40. It is testimony to the energy coursing through Latin American animation, as is the 1.2 admissions chalked up last month by the CMG-sold “Salma’s Big Wish” in Mexico. Of titles at Animation!, “Cranston Academy, Monster Zone,” a pic in post lead produced by Mexico’s Anima Studios, looked like the title packing most commercial punch, sales agent DDI having lady closed CSI, Italy and Germany among major territories. Of winners at Friday’s prize ceremony, “Bird Kingdom” is Brazilian, set in a fantasy version of Brazil’s dirt poor North-East sertao uplands, and turning on “facing up to the sins of our parents,” producer Andrés Pereira, told Variety. The two other big winners, however, were either Chilean (“Firsts”) or co-produced by Chile: Argentine stop-motion maestro Juan Pablo Zaramella’s hugely-awaited “Coda,” produced by Alvaro Ceppi’s Zumbastico Studios). First in film, then in TV and now in animation, Chile is once again on the rise.

11.SMALL COUNTRIES: BIG AMBITION

High-end TV production has expanded fast in Chile, Colombia, Brazil. Rapid movie growth, in contrast, is now largely focused in Latin America’s smaller countries. Take Paraguay. Since Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori’s “7 Boxes” exploded on the festival circuit, winning  San Sebastian’s 2011 Films in Progress, the country has produced about four films a year. But it now  has many more in development, said Osvaldo Ortiz Faiman, at Asunción’s Pua Tarara Films. Seeking strength in numbers, Paraguay plans a market next July with neighbors such as North-East Argentina. For only the second time, it took a booth at Ventana Sur. The fascination of much Paraguayan cinema has been to lift the lid on one of Latin American’s least known national worlds. That gives it at least one competitive advantage over U.S. movies. The other is excitement at national cinema. Screened at Ventana Sur, Paraguayan horror hit “Morgue” outperformed “It: Chapter Two” and “Annabelle Comes Home,” at least in Paraguay.

12.THE HEART OF THE MATTER: THE FAMILY

What do Latin American movies talk about these days? Mexico’s tragic violence, if Mexican, of course, as seen in Los Cabos Work in Progress. That, however, must be related in some way, Gael García Bernal suggested at Cannes – talking Variety through “Chicuarotes,” his second film as a director – with family structures. Packing out Primer Corte and Copia Final, Ventana Sur’s pix in post strands, a swathe of films at this year’s market questioned the state of society portraying dysfunctional families, casting parent-offspring relations as conflictive (“Karnawal”), unhealthy (“Summer White,” “Perfect David”) or just absent (“Restless”). And if families don’t work in society, what else will?

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