“Matria,” with “A Fantastic Woman” star Daniela Vega, and Raul Camarena’s “The Bus,” with Meraquí Pradis from “Dani Who?,” have both made the cut for December’s Blood Window Lab, the feature project competition at Latin America’s biggest genre movie market.
Part of Ventana Sur, a film-TV market-meet run by the Cannes Festival and Market and Argentina’s Incaa film-TV agency, the Blood Window Lab will be held online for the first time, running Nov. 30-Dec. 4. As state film funding plunges in Brazil and Argentina, 2020’s edition received a record 214 project submissions.
2020’s lineup shows Latin American fantasy genre at least holding up, despite the economic battering taken by many Latin American countries before and during COVID-19.
“Producers and directors are developing strategies to tell stories which are shaped to production realities but still maintain a freshness and do not ignore their social context,” Javier Fernández, head of the Blood Window program, told Variety.
“There’s a bevy of directors who are scoring festival berths and sales to specialist platforms,” he added, citing, among others, Juan Diego Escobar, whose second movie project, “Searching for the Black Rainbow,” will pitch at 2020’s Blood Window Lab.
The Lab, however, takes in a newer generation. Some projects are backed by experienced producers: “Carla’s Body” is set up at Crudo Films, headed by Jimena Monteoliva, a director (“Matar al Dragón”) and producer (“Cryptonita”); Chile’s Lucio Rojas, who produces “Matria,” wrote and directed 2015’s “Sendero,” the first Chilean horror film acquired by Netflix.
All but three of the projects, however, will be the directors’ feature debuts. Of helmers, only Argentina’s Marcelo Schapces (“Necronomicon”) has directed more than one fiction feature.
A new generation entails more gender balance. Six of the Lab projects are directed by women. Over half the features forefront feminist issues, such as the legacy of abuse (“Flowers in the Backyard”); gender relations down the century (“immortal Fear”); the difficulty in shrugging off patriarchy (“The House of the Doors and Windows”); and the nuanced complexity of female desire (“The Mermaid of Monterrey”).
Directors themselves forefront this female focus. “The Bus” portrays “the nature, reality, magic and horror of the condition of women in our country, and most probably the whole world,” says director Raul Camarena. Director Sandra Arriagada proclaims “Matria” a “feminist splatter movie.”
Following, short profiles of the 15 projects which made this year’s Blood Window Lab cut:
“The Bus” (“El Camion,” Raul Camerena, Mexico)
Starring Arantxa Ruiz, Jimena Luna (“Ingobernable”) and Meraquí Pradis (“Dani Who?”), a found footage film turning on three female film students who film a bus going up in flames with 13 girls inside, whose bodies then vanish. Investigating, they stumble on a millennial witches’ coven. Exploring the immediacy of video image, the films contrasts legendary horror and contemporary horror, the director explains. Camarena’s debut is produced by Mariana San Esteban, whose credits include 2020 Netflix original “Dad Wanted.”
“Carla’s Body Is Lying Next to Yours” (“El Cuerpo de Carla Yace Junto al Tuyo,” Bernardo Bronstein, Argentina)
A would-be novelist suffering a breakup and writer’s block retreats to the countryside, only to suffer a car accident that appears to offer him a second chance at life. But “What happens when our desire to live in the moment fails and the past and memory become our only possible shelters?” asks Bronstein. With a history of violence towards women, the writer is in danger of repeating the same mistakes over and over.
“Chuzalonga” (Diego Ortuño, Ecuador)
A priest in a late 19th century village adopts a small boy, discovers he is only nourished by human blood and decides to help him survive. A suspense horror film to be made with a mix of magical realism and classic German expressionist horror, says Ortuño, an alum of Barcelona’s Escac film school.
“The Concierge and Eternity,” (“El Conserje y la Eternidad,” Marcelo Schapces, Argentina)
Three critical periods in Buenos Aires’ history, 1955, 1982 and 2001, are seen through the eyes of a solitary night janitor working at several buildings in the city’s historic center. As time and trends change, the janitor never does, always middle-aged with a thirst for blood. Produced by María Vacas at Barakacine.
“Flowers in the Backyard” (“Flores en el Jardin,” Irene Romero, Colombia)
Weighing in as a dark psychological thriller plumbing the trauma of sexual abuse, the project which has a high-flying young lawyer, Juliana, return to her supposedly deserted family house, only to find it inhabited by two sexually-disturbed young girls, who claim to be her sisters.
“The House of the Beast” (“La Casa del Monstruo,” Xavier Chávez, Ecuador)
Lucrecia, 30, suffers strange dreams where she is Sofia, 16 and abducted, and about to be sold into prostitution. Discovering Sofia exists, she travels to try and save the girl, who escapes from her reality dreaming she’s Lucrecia. A mordant social metaphor.
“The House of the Doors and Windows” (“La Casa de las Puertas y Ventanas,” Sabrina Moreno, Argentina)
In a dystopian future, Luisa, after a traumatic experience, builds a matriarchy removed from the world in which men are not welcome. But every system has its faults and Lucia, one of its descendants, will seek to change her legacy. The film “reflects on a warning from Rita Segato: ‘May the woman of the future not become the man she is trying to leave behind’,” says Moreno. The director caught attention when her debut, “An Ocean Blue,” won best screenplay at the International Filmmaker Festival of New York.
“Immortal Fear,” (“Medo Imortal,” Mariana Thome, Brazil)
Thome uses traditional Brazilian stories, updated and imbued with a horror twist, to examine gender relations throughout the country’s history. Thirteen tales are compiled in this anthology, each influenced by a different sub-genre of horror with the female characters, traditionally reserved as scene dressing, elevated to protagonists. A semi-finalist in the Festival de Roteiro de Porto Alegre’s screenplay competition.
“Kitsungi,” (Diego Lopes, Claudio Bitencourt, Brazil)
Luciano, a hacker, falls in love with his new neighbor, but can’t escape his obsessions in a relationship where the two are not who they claim to be. A “portrait of modern life, of a generation obsessed with its existence around digital social relations, this virtual vulnerability and the continued existence of a patriarchal society,” its directors say.
“The Master,” (“El Amo,” Antonio Maya Villarreal, Mexico)
Four bastions of the forces of order – a nun, bureaucrat, unlicensed doctor, and former soldier – are subjected to brutal tests in a deserted hacienda, which they must pass to get alive. A found footage thriller with social issue overtones.
“Matria” (Sandra Arriagada, Chile)
Itziar Castro (“Locked Up”) is attached to star in “Matria,” a darkly comic survival slasher that turns on an ex-military intelligence operative luring seven men, all guilty of severe gender abuse, to a house party. There a goddess of vengeance (Castro) organizes bloody revenge. “A Fantastic Woman’s” Daniela Vega and Gaston Pauls (“The Prince”) co-star.
“The Mermaid of Monterrey” (“La Sirena de Monterrey,” Marlene Grinberg, Argentina)
Nina, a dancer and sex worker at the Monterrey club in a small coastal town in Argentina’s Patagonia, is transformed into a cannibal mermaid. “I aim at exploring femininity in its rage, its violence, its wrath, its dark instincts. We women also bite and kill,” says Grinberg.
“Searching for the Black Rainbow,” (“El Arcoiris Negro,” Juan Diego Escobar, Argentina)
Fernando stages an expedition to avenge the death of his father in 1920 at the hands of an Indigenous community, unaware that its lands hide a dark secret. The film “aims to help close the chapter of some of the many wars that the world lives today: That of the white man against the Indigenous, that of white man against earth and environment and that of racism,” says Escobar, whose “Luz: The Flower of Evil” world premiered in competition at Sitges.
“The Suit,” (“El Traje,” Daniel González, Paraguay)
Developed and produced on an intentional shoestring budget by a team of young, local talent, “The Suit” turns on an aging former singer of a legendary rock back who mounts an impressive comeback with a shiny, updated look. His new suit, however, covers a dark past, revealed slowly through a series of paranormal occurrences.
“Where the Cold Wind Blows” (“Donde Sopla el Viento Frio,” Gwenn Joyaux, Argentina)
A sci-fi suspense drama set in a dystopian future where an ambitious neuroscientist goes on the run from a global government after her psychiatric illness healing app is misappropriated, becoming a viral weapon for ethnic cleansing. “A minimalist epic led by the premise: Ambition unveils identity,” says Joyaux.
Ventana Sur runs Nov.30-Dec.4.
(Pictured Above (left to right): Marlene Grinberg, Sandra Arriagada, Sabrina Morena and Irene Romero)