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BUENOS AIRES —  Online in 2020, and sporting a boutique on-site edition in 2021, Ventana Sur, Latin America’s biggest film-TV market, is roaring back, attendance levels, especially from delegates outside Argentina, looking set to break all time records.   

“With all the sales companies, distributors and platforms coming back, it’s really great to find the same dynamism as in 2019,” Jérôme Paillard, Ventana Sur co-director, commented a week out from this year’s 13th edition, running Nov. 28 to Dec. 2. 

In some ways, in fact, there may be more. 10 takes on this year’s event, backed by the Cannes Festival, Market and Argentina’s INCAA film-TV agency:

Ventana Sur XXL

Three stats nail this year’s Ventana Sur. Delegates from outside Argentina had near doubled by Sunday, say organisers. Led by Primer Corte & Copia Final, Proyecta, Animation!, Blood Window, Punto Genero, Maquinitas and the Spanish Screenings, projects and pix-in-post pitched has sky-rocketed to a total of 120 just in major sidebars. Submissions for selections are even more impressive: 381 for just five berths at Netflix’s SoloSerieS Pitching Sessions,  262 for Blood Window’s Tinta Oscura prize, 203 for Animation! A large majority of projects are first features or series. In other words, by its 13th edition, Ventana Sur has become a vast new talent springboard, highlighting titles that have been put through massive filter systems.   

Netflix Puts Its Back Behind Ventana Sur

Netflix is making a powerful push at Ventana Sur. Its pitching session will highlight five series: Two drama thrillers – Dominican Republic’s “Wonderland,” Chile’s Mangata – plus an action thriller, Colombia’s Underdogs,” and Chilean drama “Gladys” and Argentine dramedy “Convince Me.” Two presentations, the second led by Francisco Ramos, Netflix VP of content, will reach out to a foreseeably broader range of Argentine producers, expounding Netflix’s large interest in Argentina and “addressing inaccurate perceptions.” Little wonder. Launching in 2011, Netflix has stolen a march on competitors, holding an estimated 72% SVOD market share in 2021, according to Digital TV Research. Brazil alone rates as the Netflix’s second largest market after the U.S. with a forecast year end 2022 forecast of 16.4 million subscribers, says Ampere Analysis. Netflix has a large market to protect and grow.

Cannes Festival Film Week: Thierry Fremaux Showing ‘What Cinema Is’ 

Running Nov. 28-Dec. 4, Ventana Sur’s 2022 Cannes Festival Film Week sold out all sessions in just one day. That’s hardly surprising. Highlights include a masterclass from French actor Vincent Lindon, Cannes jury president this year, in conversation with Santiago Mitre, whose “Argentina 1985” is a strong Oscar contender. The program takes in many of this year’s winners, including a double screening for “Triangle of Sadness.” With Fremaux introducing each film in his inimitable humor-laced style, the week also captures the essence of cinema as a live event and vibrant shared social experience. “We never wanted to make a market without showing films and filmmakers in a cinema theater. Cannes brings a certain idea of what cinema is, and Buenos Aires is a great city of movie buffs,” Fremaux told Variety in Buenos Aires.

Women Make Much of the Running

Ventana Sur screenings’ biggest auteurist B.O. hits look like Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s tense rural conflict drama “The Beasts,” fast selling out, and Alex de la Iglesia’s comedy of romantic exasperation, “Four’s a Crowd,” with a first four weekend €3.2 million ($3.3 million) in Spain. 

Of Animation! Projects, there’s good word on historical epic “The Flame of Blues,” from Argentina’s Blu Animation Studio, and doc series “The Imposible Future,” by Argentina’s Martin Haas and Antonio Balseiro. Further buzz projects take in father-daughter relationship tale “My Dad the Truck,” by Colombia’s María Cristina Pérez, and “Esther,” from Argentina’s Ezequiel Torres,  an action-packed coming of age adventure, and doc series “The Impossible Future.” 

Further Buzz Titles

“She Wolf” director Tamae Garateguy introduces ““Fuckin’ Sexy,” a sex doll slasher at Blood Window; Mar Coll presents Peru-set comedy “Welcome, Mr. Hollywood” and “The Distances’” Elena Trape “Gwendolyne, Diary of a Fan.” At SoloSeries, Dominga Sotomayor (“Too Late to Die Young”) unveils “Gladys,” about Communist Party leader Gladys Marin; Francisca Alegría, director of Sundance-selected “The Cow Who Sang A Song Into The Future,” will present “Mangata.” A third on-the-rise Chilean woman director, Manuela Martelli, whose Cannes Directors’ Fortnight breakout “1976” was co-produced by Sotomayor, talks up “The Meltdown” in Proyecta.

Arthouse Goes Crossover

Mexico’s “All the Fires” and “We Shall Not Be Moved” and Chile’s “Sariri” look like potential standouts at Primer Corte/Copia Final, traditionally Ventana Sur’s arthouse platform. Seven of their 12 titles feature young protagonists and coming of age narratives, a building trend in Latin America cinema, observes section co-curator Eva Morsch-Kihn. But something is also happening to Latin American arthouse at large. “You used to get mainstream local comedies and international arthouse titles. Now art pic directors are structuring storylines for larger audiences, without selling their souls to the devil,” says François Pier Pelinard Lambert, editor in chief, Le Film Français. “Directors are now making films often thinking of enrolling platforms in production but most certainly with one eye on reaching audiences,” agrees Bergeret. The end result: Arthouse is going crossover.

Bernardo Bergeret and Jérôme Paillard Courtesy of Bernardo Bergeret

The Get Out of Jail Card: Co-Production

Why the Ventana Sur attendance surge? For the last decade on so, Latin American art films of any ambition were made in international co-production. Think Lucrecia Martel’s “Zama.” Yet, as governmental funding sags across much of Latin America, bullish co-financing via international production partner equity, already important, has now become imperative, if a producer does not want to go down sizeably on budget. Stars, the prerequisite for much streamer interest, often do not come cheaply. “As we saw in Cannes, after two years of not being able to travel, when you are talking about projects you really need to sense the people you have around the table. That’s very important and so many Europeans are coming to Ventana Sur,” says Paillard. Additionally, Ventana Sur offers added incentives this year, such as BBC Studios’ offer of mentorships for winners in its strand of SoloSeries, Ventana Sur co-director Bernardo Bergeret notes.  

The Big Question

With “The Beasts” roaring to a first 10-day €1.2 million ($1.2 million), Spain is currently in the throes of a Spanish film revival with nine movies looking set to pass €2 million in box office by year end, a brace of large artistic ambition, such as Berlin Golden Bear winner “Alcarràs, “Four’s a Crowd,” “Prison 1977” and “The Beasts.” In France, another gaggle of arthouse crossovers – “The Beasts” again, Dominik Moll’s “La nuit du 12”– have posted notable results. In Argentina, “Argentina 1985” has driven national box office, with 1.2 million admissions, despite playing Amazon’s Prime Video for the latter part of its run. With streamers recalibrating ever more as general interest TVs, one big question, says Latido Films Antonio Saura, is whether the old world of theatrical distribution followed by a TV window could return once more. “I think some distributors could be looking at what’s happening and thinking: ‘Maybe we have a chance of survival,’” he adds.

Genre: Ever More a Major Market Proposition

Five finalists for the $25,000 Tinta Oscura genre screenwriting award attended a five-day workshop at Agavia Studios in Jalisco, Mexico. The winner will be announced during Ventana Sur, says Bergeret. Never before has Ventana Sur offered such a weighty cash prize. The award will come in a year when arguably Variety’s most lauded Spanish-language first features have both been genre pics from women: Huesera,” by Mexico’s Michelle Garza Cervera, and “Piggy,” by Spain’s Carlota Pereda. Genre looks set to build all the more. A Ventana Sur panel, Fantastic Portal, will analyze that growth and still roiling challenges.

Video Games: The Pending Challenge

Pumped by players from Spain and France – think Spiders (“Of Orcs And Men”), Plug In Digital (“Old School Musical”) and Shiro Games (“Evoland”) for the latter – Ventana Sur’s vidgame platform looks fully established in its sophomore outing. It’s also taking one bull by the horn. In the U.S., vid games and fiction production work a two-way street. In the Spanish-speaking world, there’s hardly any crossover. Until now: Juan Manuel Dartizio, at Fabula, will attend Ventana Sur with the express intention of seeking a vidgame IP which could yield a scripted series makeover.