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Ventana Sur 2022: Takeaways, from Buzz Titles, Deals, to Great Genre Ideas, Spain Powering On, Pandemic Blues

The Beasts
Credit: Latido Films

BUENOS AIRES — Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s “The Beasts,” Manuela Martelli’s “The Meltdown” and Demián Rugna’s Shudder co-pro “When Evil Lurks” were three highlights at 2022’s Ventana Sur. Wrapping Dec. 2, it offered a dazzling myriad of projects, bold initiatives in genre and from Spain and confirmation that the sector has still to emerge from the pandemic when it comes to independent distributors’ appetite for new titles. 

Following a brace of takeaways with more to follow: 

Ventana Sur Growth 

From an art film base, few markets have so cannily addressed potential international film market growth, whether genre/fantasy fare; animation, drama series, video games or established IP exploitation. Each now has its own distinct VS forum, often supported by some of the world’s most powerful players: France’s Cine+Club for arthouse Primer Corte/Corte Final and its Annecy Festival for Animation!, for instance. Various sections grew this year, genre platform Blood Window adding female director focused Fant.Latina, and SoloSeries prizes from not only Netflix but also BBC Studios. One reason why foreign non-Argentine attendance near doubled vs. 2019, according to Ventana Sur organisers.

Pandemic Blues

Against that, international markets are still struggling with COVID-19 aftermath, economics (inflation in Argentina) and politics (Bolsonaro’s war on Brazil’s film sector). This cut multiple ways at Ventana Sur. Variety announced multiple sales pacts (see below). Dealing is general, however, was, in one sales agent’s description, “tepid.” Many big distributors, who can pay middle to high five dollar figures for major foreign-language titles have yet to return to the table. 

Distribution Scenarios

Just how distributors react to pared revenues for all but breakout art titles is another question. One scenario, essayed by François Pier Pelinard Lambert, editor in chief, Le Film Français, could see distributors buying more, not less, films to compensate for decimated revenues per title, cross-collaterizing results. One independent distributor said she would go the other way, buying less but bigger films. “I have to take risks. It’s the only way to get a result,” she told Variety.

Latin America’s New Production Outlook

Federal film funding in Latin America either faces uncertainty (Mexico), has been savaged by the pandemic and now inflation (Argentina) or by a now departed government (Brazil). Latin America still has notable titles for 2023 – “Lost in the Night,” the Nicolas Celis/The Match Factory-produced next from Mexico’s Cannes and Venice best director Amat Escalante; and “Spencer” director Pablo Larraín’s vampire political satire “El Conde,” set up at Netflix, to name just two. Overall, however, at Ventana Sur there were “many very interesting titles but more middling or smaller films than last year in general and in Argentina in particular,” said San Sebastian Festival director José Luis Rebordinos.

Argentina: The Challenges

For many years last decade, thanks to crossover blockbusters from Juan José Campanella (“Underdogs”), Pablo Trapero (“The Clan”)  and Damián Szifron (“Wild Tales”), Argentina punched a local market share bigger than any other country in Latin America, apart from the Dominican Republic. Those days seem gone. INCAA funding, the New Argentine Cinema driver, has been decimated by the pandemic and inflation. The only way such titles can now get made is with streamer backing: Think “Argentina, 1985,” supported by Amazon’s Prime Video. “There’s a lot going on for professional crews and for some (six seven top) production houses here in Buenos Aires, due to the increase of the production by Netflix, Disney, Amazon, HBO, Paramount. But at the same time, INCAA has fallen way back in terms of support for Argentine films,” one senior producer told Variety. The result? “These series and original feature films are truly disrupting the industry, as both traditional (in opposition to direct to streaming) and indie productions cannot cope with the salaries and conditions they offer.” Many producers would back the introduction of a levy on platform revenues, financing the INCAA. Whether that will ever happen, however, is another matter. For the meantime, Netflix wants to open up to new production partners, Belén Piñeiro, manager & content, legal, Latin America, said at a Netflix presentation in Ventana Sur.

The Business

Yet business was done. 15 sales and production deals at Ventana Sur:

*Carlos Saura’s “Walls Can Talk,” a Spanish Screenings market premiere and deft doc-feature on art’s origins, has closed a first deal for Latido Films with Italy’s Movies Inspired.

*Film Factory Ent. has pounced on “The Blue Star,” the first feature from one of Spain’s most talked-up talents, Javier Macipe, produced by Mod Producciones (“While at War” “La Fortuna”) and Argentina’s Cimarrón Cine, (“Amsterdam).

*Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna’s La Corriente del Golfo are set to co-produce ‘Tesis Sobre una Domesticación,’ an Argentine trans woman drama from Camila Sosa Villada, directed by Javier Van de Couter. 

*At Ventana Sur, Alief closed Latin America on “Strawberry Mansion” with London-based DMD in an all rights deal. “We liked the film, a great lo-fi high concept,” says DMD’s Daniel Sandelson. Alief is now in negotiations for Latin America on Islandic breakout comedic actioner sales hit “Cop Secret.” Horror-political thriller “Matadero,” from “Fire Will Come” co-scribe Santiago Fillol, is sparking a lot of interest” from North American, U.K. and Latin American buyers, Alief’s Miguel Angel Govea told Variety.

*Among over a score of recent Latido accords, Somos TV has taken the U.S. on two Malaga bows, Imanol Uribe’s “What Lucia Saw,” about the 1989 El Salvador Jesuit killings, and Juan Miguel del Castillo’s hardboiled thriller “Unfinished Affairs”; France’s Wayna Pitch has swooped on doc feature “Alis,” a Colombian teen girl shelter doc; erotic crime thriller “Jezabel” has closed Germany (Busch Media), South Korea (Kidari) and Taiwan (Joinstar); France’s Outplay has picked up San Sebastian Golden Shell contender “Camila Comes Out at Night.”

*Having acquired “Frogs” by on-the-rise Brazilian talent Clara Linhart, at Ventana Sur, Sandro Fiorin’s FiGa Films closed this year its biggest deal ever at the market, selling a 54-film catalog to educational platform Pragda. 

*Peru’s Diego and Daniel Vega and Joanna Lombardi have boarded ‘Welcome Mr. Hollywood,’ an Iquitos-set comedy from Mar Coll and Aina Calleja, lead produced by Barcelona’s Funicular Films. 

*Buenos Aires’ Meikincine Ent. picked up sales rights to Tarea Fina’s latest features, Sabrina Campos’ debut  “Come to My Place This Christmas”  and “Alemania,” a coming-of-age tale by Maria Zanetti (“Furia”), as it sold Tarea Fina’s “Sublime,” a Berlinale Generation hit, for North America to Raymond Murray’s new shingle Cinephobia.  

Alemania ‘Alemania’ / Courtesy of Meikincine Entertainment

*l..A.-based Outsider Pictures closed the U,S. on the most recent two films by fast consolidating Spanish auteur Jonas Trueba, “You Have to Come and See It” and “The Romantic Exiles,” while also picking up Chile’s Oscar entry “Blanquita.”

*Moroccan and French family drama “Carved by the Wind,” by Layla Triqui, has been boarded by Gilles Duffaut’s Axxon Media which will produce with New Generation Picture and handle sales.

*Marta Buisán, Jordi Casado and Miguel Ibánez Monroy are writing “Gwendolyne, Diary of a Fan,” a series to be directed by “The Distances’” Elena Trapé, which was one of the highlights of Ventana Sur’s Spanish Screenings on Tour. 

*Strand Releasing closed the U.S. on “Pornomelancolia” from sale agent Luxbox, which also picked up international rights to San Sebastian 2022 Latam WIP winner “El Castillo.

*Alfredo Calvino’s Habanero Films has licensed to Jovita Mader at France’s Bobine Films the French rights of Cuban film, “Vicenta B.” The film will bow in French cinemas in 2023.

*’Under Pressure’s’ Marjorie Estiano is set to star in ‘A Mother’s Embrace’ from ‘History of the Occult’s’ Cristian Ponce, produced by André Pereira at Brazil’s Lupa Filmes and Grupo Mórbido’s Pablo Guisa. 

*Highlighted at Ventana Sur, Karim Ouelhaj’s Fantasia winner “Megalomaniac” has sold to North America (Dark Star Pictures), France (Factoris Films) and Scandinavia (Njuta Films.

Megalomaniac

The World’s Genre Sector Has a Very Good Idea: Cannes’ Fantastic Pavilion

Conceived by Pablo Guisa, Bernardo Bergeret and Daniel de la Vega, and backed, crucially, by the Méliès International Festival Federation which groups most of the world’s key genre/fantastic events, 2023’s Cannes will see a Fantastic Pavilion, a significant physical booth and exhibition space at the Marché du Film in the Palais des Festivals. Hailed by top genre auteurs, directors and producers, the move looks set to both accelerate and symbolize the ever more significant role that genre plays in independent international market dynamics. One large question is whether it could also signal the beginning of a more rational reorganisation of on-site markets, according to sector – think documentary, for instance –  as well as country. 

Netflix: Open to Co-Production in Argentina

The prize for the longest queue at Ventana Sur went to Francisco Ramos, VP of content, Netflix, as he finished his presentation of Netflix on Thursday at Ventana Sur and about half the room’s audience suddenly morphed into a long line, eager to present their business cards. The double session was aimed at dispelling some myths about the U.S. streaming giant.

“Cases where Netflix retains 100% of rights are a minority,” Piñeiro said at Ventana Sur. The U.S. streaming giant also co-produces in the sense of co-financing a title against limited rights in time and territories, with producers retaining IP, she added.  Ramos, meanwhile, talked up the three documentaries Netflix has made in Argentina – “all with different business models, rights, co-pros” – which is one way of opening up to a broader cross-section of producers. “The content we make, each title, in a different way, has to be related to what happens or happened in the society in which it is produced,” Ramos said.

Buzz Titles

Latido reported more deals on Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s “The Beasts” – Japan with Medallion and French-speaking Canada with Axiom – which means it’s on track to shortly sell well over half the major territories in the world. “Chile, 1976” director Manuela Martelli enthused with project “The Meltdown,” envisaged as the second part of a trilogy set in Chile under dictatorship, and here, in 1992, grappling to emerge from a dark past. Demián Rugna’s “Where Evil Lurks,” Shudder’s first Spanish-language co-production, received a rousing reception at Ventana Sur’s Cinemark theater.  In Primer Corte, “Sahiri,” “León” and “All the Fires,” were exciting distributor interest by the end of market day. Gullane’s “River of Desire,” sold by CMG, looks set to receive further offers after a well-attended Ventana Sur screening, CMG’s Edward Noeltner told Variety.

When Evil Lurks Courtesy of Aramos Cine

Spain Powers On

Give English people sun, and they will behave like Mediterranean folk, Virginia Wolf once wrote. In film terms, give Spain money, and it will behave like France. That at least is the impression left by the Spanish Screenings on Tour, a bold big play for international attention bringing 150 titles to Ventana Sur including landmark movies which have helped power a Spanish film rally back home – “The Beasts” and Alex de la Iglesia’s “Four’s a Crowd” and some arresting projects:“Welcome Mr. Hollywood,” Elena Trapé’s “Gwendolyne” and Arima Leon’s “Perhaps.” As Ventana Sur rounded its final bend, Spain’s Malaga Festival, ICEX and INCAA unveiled projects for Spanish Screenings Content, three months before March’s event, and just as Latin America is looking to European co-production as a get-out-of-jail card countering sagging public sector funds in its own region.

Four’s a Crowd Credit: Diego Lopez Calvin/Filmax

Another Bold Genre Initiative: Tinta Oscura 

Ventana Sur’s jackpot kudo this year went to Mexico’s Juan Bernardo Sánchez Mejía for the screenplay of slasher thriller “Warrior,” winner of the first Tinta Oscura prize, backed by Guadalajara’s Agavia Studios, Blood Window and Filma Jalisco.The award is remarkable in many ways. A $25,000 cash prize, it is the biggest  ever given at Ventana Sur. It addresses the Achilles Heel of so much genre/fantastic cinema round the world: Screenwriting. There a large possibility the winner will get made. Indeed, Agavia Studios CEO Gustavo Castillón confirmed production on “Warrior” for 2023. It’s top dollar for a Mexican script. Five finalists get to go a Residencia whose tutors this year took in Axel Kuschevatzky, Alejandro Brugués, Luiso Berdejo and Pablo Guisa. Little wonder Tinta Oscura received 264 submissions. 

The International Shoot Business Grabs the Limelight

Spcine, São Paulo’s enterprising city film-TV agency, used Ventana Sur to announce it was just abut to launch a newly fortified cash rebate for São Paulo, quadrupling its funding to $8 million. Meanwhile, Spain Film Commission president Carlos Rosado and delegates from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Costa Rica signed a treaty at the market to ensure continued mutual support for their respective audiovisual sectors. Growth in the film-TV business has traditionally been associated with kids & family entertainment, genre or drama series. Another industry is booming, however, the international shoot business. Ventana Sur wrapped as, at the IFF Panama, Panamanian Culture Minister Giselle Gonzalez announced plans to build a new film studio in the Central American country. Expect more announcements in Spain. Portugal and Latin America soon.