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BUENOS AIRES  — Ruben Östlund’s “Triangle of Sadness,” Lukas Dhont’s “Close” and the Dardenne brothers ‘Tori and Lokita” screen at this week’s Cannes Festival Film Week in Buenos Aires, which runs Dec. 28 to Dec. 3. 

The Week saw another highlight this Tuesday in a masterclass by French actor Vincent Lindon (“The Measure of a Man”), this year’s Cannes jury president, who spoke with bracing honesty about he art and reality of acting in films. 

Lindon was interviewed on stage by Argentina’s Santiago Mitre, whose Argentine Oscar entry, “Argentina, 1985,” has had an extraordinary box office run in Argentina this fall, scoring 1.2 million admissions, despite playing simultaneously in the latter stage of its run both in cinema theaters and on Amazon’s Prime Video. 

Further titles in the six-pic Film Week lineup take in Jerzy Skolimoswski’s “EO,” Park Chan-wook’s “Decision to Leave,” and “Boy from Heaven” from Tarik Saleh.

Tickets for the Film Week, held at the Cine Gaumont’s biggest screen, sold out in one day. Little wonder. All of its films scored big at Cannes, from “Triangle’s” Palme d’Or and a shared Grand Prix  for “Close” downwards.  

Much of the Film Week was also presented in person by Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux, and it says a lot – sometimes unexpected – about a figure who exercises a huge influence on world cinema. 

First, Fremaux is best known for curation of Cannes’ Official Selection. The Film Week, and Ventana Sur, the Latin American film-TV market it forms part of, also catch him in not so well-known industry mode.

“I like to take care of our films. It’s part of Cannes duty, to accompany the films so that they can have a good distribution career in Argentina, but supporting them all the way to the end of the year and to the Goyas, Cesars or Academy Awards if necessary,” says Frémaux. 

Buenos Aires part made Thierry Frémaux. He first visited it 40 years ago, and lived there. But there are other reasons for Ventana Sur. It grew out of a meeting of Frémaux and Liliana Mazure, then president of Argentina’s INCAA film agency, held at Francis Ford Coppola’s hotel in Buenos Aires, where Frémaux was staying. The dealmaker, Mazure recalls, was that INCAA offered what Cannes wanted, a market. And INCAA needed Cannes as a partner because Mazure’s tenure at INCAA ran only four years, but it planned for a far longer-lasting event, Mazure explains. 

Ventana Sur did not launch in a vacuum. It caught Latin America as, over the 2000s, state funding for muscular national cinema was either being renewed (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico) or robustly launched (Chile, Colombia).

A new wave of auteurs – think Argentina’s Pablo Trapero, Mexico’s Carlos Reygadas, Chile’s Pablo Larraín – had emerged. What was lacking were export mechanisms. 

Triangle of Sadness Courtesy Image

When Ventana Sur launched in 2009, it was “very obvious that Latin America needed a local international market, which could be made with the help of Cannes, and [Ventana Sur co-directors] Bernardo Bergeret and Jerome Paillard did it well,” said Fremaux, on the eve of this year’s Ventana Sur.  

In 2022, Ventana Sur’s largest merit “is that it still exists, it has survived and it’s because of Argentinian professionals,” says Fremaux.

In fact, emerging from a pandemic, the mart-meet looks in rude health. Double-backed, it hosts a market and co-production forum, which take place at the Universidad Católica Argentina in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires’ swishest new district, By Sunday, the number of market participants from outside Argentina had near doubled compared to 2019. 

The Cannes Festival Film Week’s selling out in one day is not bad for a 600-seat theater, Frémaux admits with a grin, looking chuffed. 

Ventana Sur’s Cannes Film Week also embodies a sense of cinema close to Fremaux’s heart, as a live event and vibrant shared social experience. 

Ventana Sur’s Cannes Film Week also embodies a sense of cinema close to Fremaux’s heart, 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 tells Variety in Buenos Aires.

The Cannes Film Week is ripe for replication. Fremaux already held a Week in Hong Kong in November 2019. He says he would love to hold a Cannes Week in Lebanon. 

“The city and the country are so down, and it’s such a big city and big country, for cinema, all this area, We want to try to go there quite soon. Just to be on their side, just to be with them.” Fremaux says, expressing his admiration for Nadine Labaki who refuses to leave her native Lebanon. It’s a kind of resistance against catastrophe, to stay in the country, to stay with one’s people. It’s very touching.”

Ventana Sur, as from its second edition, is very much driven by new talent. The vast majority of projects playing out through its different main forums – Primer Corte/Copia Final, Blood Window, Animation!, for example – are first features or series.

“It’s important to create a new generation of professionals, producers, distributors. More and more, I think that cinema’s survival depends not only on artists, sure, but also on professionals.  

“In Lyon, for example, we have a project to teach what our jobs are, to teach a new generation, what does a cinema catheter owner do, or the head of a festival.”

Another future is cinema’s past. Shepherded by the late Bertrand Taviernier and Fremaux at Lyon’s Institut Lumière, the Lumière Festival – a heritage film festival galvanised by big name directors who bring their own recent films and talk up favourite heritage titles – saw this October an extraordinary 130,000 admissions for films, and 180,000 in total for the whole of the festival.

“I think the future is also in festivals which teach the history of cinema. The past teaches you, you can learn from it, maybe how to reinvent. What I like is that, in our world which hates the past, in cinema we love the past. We’ll be back in Buenos Aires with the Lumière Festival,” he adds, reading a future heritage film event in Argentina’s capital.