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In a historical first, the Cannes Festival and its market, the Marché, hosted the inaugural Venezuela Film Hub (VFH), surprising many international participants by its presence, given the mostly abysmal news coming from the South American country, crippled by the government’s economic mismanagement and U.S. sanctions.

Spearheaded and fully financed by The Visionist Advisers, a New York and Paris-based creative agency founded by strategic advisor Valeska Hernandez, VFH brought close to a 100 Venezuelan projects to the Marché in a booth that offered a networking platform for Venezuelan filmmakers as well as a chance to promote the country as a filming location and the sampling of Venezuelan products.

To kick off VFH, the event dubbed ‘[RE]Discover Venezuela’ was held May 19 at Cannes’ La Plage Restaurant. It featured a classical music concert conducted by Glass Marcano, winner of the La Maestra competition organized by the Paris-Mozart Orchestra and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Paris, and also included the tasting of products, liquors and cuisine of Venezuela. Venezuela’s most renowned star, Edgar Ramirez, was in attendance.

“When we first made a call for projects, we were expecting 15 to 20 but we received 160 in all,” said Hernandez. Three completed films, “Mi Tia Gilma” by Alexandra Henao, “One Way” by Carlos Malavé and Alejandro Bellame’s “Direccion Opuesta” were screened between May 21 and 24. Others were in the script stage, in development or deemed Works in Progress, which were presented at pitching sessions.

“Most of Venezuela’s filmmakers have emigrated and rely heavily on co-productions to get their projects off the ground,” said screenwriter-producer Diana Lichy, who together with her filmmaker-husband Atahualpa Lichy, as well as young filmmakers Miguel Ignacio Rodríguez and Joanna Nelson, teamed up with Hernandez to form VFH.

Some 15 years ago, when Venezuela had a box office-funded film institute, CNAC, helping directors finance their films, the country had a robust film community. With the country’s economy in tatters, funding for culture and in turn, cinema, was the first to be cut, said Lichy. Films from across Latin America don’t play in Venezuela anymore, she added. “We don’t even have any new books in circulation,” she lamented.

So, while it has been harder to get funding, the good news about securing co-production partners from other countries is that their films get a wider distribution outside of Venezuela, Lichy noted, who added that many local films got made by talent and crew deferring their salaries.

“It’s been 15 years of bad news, we felt it was time to reactivate Venezuelan cinema,” said Hernandez, who plans to bring the Hub to various festivals worldwide.

“The hub has served as a trampoline for Venezuelan cinema, hopefully next year will be even better,” said Lichy.

LINK to projects

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Boca Dragon – Belen Orsini Courtesy of The Visionist Advisers