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REPORT: VI Europe-Latin American Co-Production Forum, San Sebastián 2017

by David González

(© Iñigo Ibañez/Festival de San Sebastián)

The San Sebastián International Film Festival remains the number-one channel for collaboration between film industry professionals in Europe and Latin America. As part of its 65th edition, which drew to a close this weekend, the VI Europe-Latin American Co-Production Forum ran over four days, under the auspices of the festival’s Industry Club. The event once again attracted a large number of film professionals from both continents, eager to share and/or catch a glimpse of the new projects in development selected for the occasion.

Among the sixteen to make this year’s cut, the prizes in this section recognised a cluster of particularly promising titles (find out more here).

One interesting case is Akelarre (Witches’ Sabbath), directed by Argentine filmmaker Pablo Agüero (whose last film, Eva Doesn’t Sleep, was also selected for the competition at San Sebastián) but produced by Spain (Iker Ganuza and Koldo Zuazua for Sorgin Films) and France (Fred Prémel for Tita Productions and Jokin Etcheverria for La Fidèle Production). “The project was developed out of France; that’s where Pablo is living at the moment and it was through French producers that the film was able to secure public funding. Pablo came to San Sebastián when he was involved in the competition and returned with the specific intention of finding Basque producers for this project, because the story is very much tied up with the Basque Country,” said Iker Ganuza, whose company subsequently approached Agüero as majority producers. The film is based on Pierre de Lancre’s Tableau de i’inconstance des mauvais anges et démons (published in English as On the Inconstancy of Witches), a 1612 treatise on the mass witch-hunts of the seventeenth century. “Pablo took an interest in this book — his other films are all to do with power and the freedom of women, matriarchal societies, and all those elements are here in this story,” Ganuza continued. The project is currently on the lookout for backers and is making approaches to potential financial partners. “It was a very natural decision to come to the Forum; it’s a homecoming for us and there’s nowhere better to look for co-producers from Argentina,” he concluded.

Another project bringing together talent from Latin America (Constanza Sanz Palacios for Argentina’s Constanza Sanz Palacios Films) and Europe (Paulo De Carvalho for German company Autentika Films), is Argentine director Santiago Loza’s latest film, Breve historia del Planeta Verde (Brief History of the Green Planet). “We co-produced an earlier project with Autentika Films (Memory Exercises, by Paz Encina) and I know both Paulo de Carvalho and Gudula Meinzolt; there’s already a good synergy there and together we made a successful bid to the Berlin World Cinema Fund,” said Sanz Palacios on the origins of this transatlantic project. The film recounts the curious story of three friends (a trans woman, a gay man and an aging waitress) who find themselves in need of a way to dispose of an alien corpse. The project is coming to the end of its search for backers and hoping to complete financing soon. “I took part in a Latin American co-production event last year, and I think that the festival provides an ideal opportunity for Latin American films to find funding. We’ve now secured around 70% of our budget, and we hope to close financing with another co-producer and to talk to potential sales agents,” the director added.

Meanwhile, Mother Lode is a joint effort between Italy (Alessandro Legnazzi for Malfé Film) and France (Alexis Taillant for Wendigo Films). Its presence at the forum was partly due to Italy’s recent admission to the Ibermedia programme, opening up opportunities for films from the other side of the Alps to collaborate more easily with the film industry in Latin America. “As Italy has just joined the Ibermedia programme, the San Sebastián Festival seemed like the perfect time and place to forge new contacts with Latin America,” said a representative from Malfé Films. “Our project is being produced entirely in Peru, all of the shooting will take place there and the film will be in Spanish, so we felt it was natural and necessary to approach the industry in Latin American in our search for new partners; not only to ensure the executive production of the project, but above all to bring in people whose perspectives and insights could give the film a boost.” Now in the final stages of its development, the film concentrates on a young man living on the outskirts of Lima, who, in order to earn the money he needs to fulfil his dream of opening his own garage, descends into the mines of La Rinconada.

Chile’s Alicia Scherson, familiar from her previous films Tourists and The Future, also unveiled her latest project, entitled 1989. Co-produced by Isabel Orellana Guarello for Araucaria Cine and Scherson herself for La Ventura, it’s an adaptation of Roberto Bolaño’s novel The Third Reich and follows a young German on holiday with his girlfriend in a Chilean beach resort in 1989, whose obsession with a board game becomes tangled up with the mysterious case of a tourist who disappears into the sea. The first draft of the script has now been completed.

Borderless, a co-production between Mexico (Edgar San Juan for Film Tank) and the Netherlands (Julius Ponten and Sander Verdonk for New Amsterdam Film Company), is being directed by Fernando Frías. The film accompanies three young Mexican Americans on a road trip through America’s heartlands north of Mexico, and is currently seeking funding.

Brazilian director Fábio Baldo is hard at work on his second feature-length film, Doce inferno na galáxia (Sweet Hell Throughout the Galaxy), about a small-time farmer and his family who gradually find themselves drawn into the political and economic transformation brought to rural Brazil by the agribusiness industry. Produced by Andy Malafaia for Glaz, the second draft of the script is now under way.

Chilean director Maite Alberdi, who has gained wide recognition for films including The Grown-Ups, is currently immersed in the pre-production research and development phase of her newest project, El agente topo (The Mole Agent). The film will be produced by Marcela Santibáñez for Micromundo Producciones (Chile), Denis Vaslin for Mandra Films (France) and Julie Goldman for Motto Pictures (USA), and follows a team of private detectives as they probe into everyday events that seem bizarre candidates for investigation.

El doble más quince (Double Plus Fifteen) is a new proposal from Spain’s Mikel Rueda, best known for his previous fiction film Hidden Away. It’s being produced by Carmelo Vivanco for Baleuko and Pako Ruiz for Sonora Estudios, and is currently on a race to close all required financing. The story focuses on a 45-year-old woman and 15-year-old boy who, after meeting in a sex chat room, begin to ponder their (very) different lives.

Attendees also got a first glimpse ofChilean director Segio Castro San Martín’s El gol más triste (The Saddest Goal), a film about the Chilean football team’s journey to Moscow for the qualifying round of the 1974 World Cup, held in West Germany, in the eye of a diplomatic storm between Chile and the USSR following Pinochet’s coup. Produced by Macarena López Bergeret for Manufactura de Películas (Chile), Rodolfo Cova for Lucía Films (Mexico) and Deborah Osborn for Big Bonsai (Brazil), the project is currently in development.

Also on display was Ese fin de semana (That Weekend), an upcoming film from Argentine director Mara Pescio. It tells the story of a father caught between a reunion with his teenage daughter and a man’s death. Paula Zyngierman is on board as producer for Maravillacine (Argentina), and the project is currently seeking co-producers from Poland, while a script rewrite awaits completion.

Following the success of his previous feature Los nadie (The Nobodies), which triumphed at the Venice International Film Critics’ Week, Colombia’s Juan Sebastián Mesa is now fully engrossed in new project La roya (Rust). The film centres on a young peasant farmer battling a plague that is consuming his crops, and, concomitantly, everyone around him. Producing is Alexander Arbeláez Osorio,for Monociclo Cine (Colombia).

Las consecuencias (The Consequences), from Spanish-Venezuelan director Claudia Pinto Emperador, takes a dive into the impressions and secrets of one family’s members, as a woman begins to question the relationship between a father and his daughter. The film is being produced by the director herself for Sin Rodeos Films (Spain) and Rodolfo Cova for Factor RH (Mexico). It is currently in the process of securing remaining funding and finalising casting (read our interview with Pinto Emperador here).

Argentine filmmaker Mateo Bendesky is directing Limbo, a co-production between Argentina (Agustina Costa Varsi for Volpe Films), Chile (Roberto Doveris for Niña Niño Films) and Austria (Lukas Rinner for Nabis Film Group). It follows two teenagers who travel to a small coastal town to scatter their mother’s ashes, where they will have to confront the hole that her death has left in their lives. The project is currently pursuing funding.

Also from Argentina, Ezequiel Radusky (whose first film The Owners was selected for Cannes Critics Week) is working on Planta permanente (Permanent Staff), a tale about a female member of the cleaning staff at a government office in Tucumán, who tries to make a bit of cash on the side by stirring up jealousies and rivalries among her colleagues. Now well into the writing phase, the film is being produced by Diego Lerman (whose own directorial effort, A Sort of Family, was selected for this year’s official competition) and Nicolás Avruj for Campo Cine.

Veteran Chilean director Rodrigo Sepúlveda was also at the Forum to present his upcoming project, Tengo miedo torero (My Tender Matador), a co-production between Chile (Florencia Larrea for Forastero and Jorge López for Zapik Films) and Argentina (Hernán Musaluppi for Rizoma Films). Currently at the development and financing stage, the film is set in Santiago de Chile in 1986, as Pinochet struggles to retain control of his administration, and focuses on a reclusive transvestite who one day receives a visit from a young guerrilla fighter who wants to use her home as a hiding place for banned literature.

Finally, the project invited this year by the Ibermedia Programme (and as such not included in the competition) was A media voz (Whispering), a film directed by Cuba’s Heidi Hassan and Patricia Pérez Fernández and produced by Spain (Daniel Froiz for Matriuska Producciones), Cuba (Claudia Calviño for Producciones de la 5ta Avenida), Switzerland (Pierre André Thiebaud for PCT Cinéma Télévision) and France (Delphine Schmit for Perspective Films). An autobiographical film, it explores the relationship between the two directors, spanning many years and many different countries, and is set to conclude development soon.

In addition to the Co-Production Forum, the festival’s industry-side umbrella body the Industry Club presided over a number of other programmes aimed at supporting budding projects, with excellent results. The 32nd edition of Films in Progress welcomed six projects awaiting completion (read more here), the inaugural Glocal in Progress platform, dedicated to films produced in non-hegemonic languages, selected three (more here) while Ikusmira Berriak, organised in partnership with the Tabakalera cultural centre and now in its third year, highlighted four new audiovisual ventures (read more here).

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