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Europe and Latin America co-prods at high point

In recent years, co-production has made it possible to complete a significant amount of internationally-recognised films. KFTV takes a look at how an increase in opportunities has transformed the Latin American market. 

The 56th Cartagena International Film Festival (FICCI) really promoted the international in its name this year.

The oldest film festival in Latin America is set in the beautiful Colombian colonial town of Cartagena and was abuzz with international guests, panels and roundtables discussing Colombia and Latin America as fertile terrain for filming.  

Co-production and the wave of new talent across Latin America make this smaller-but-similar-to-Cannes festival popular among international players. 

In recent years co-production has made it possible to complete a significant amount of internationally-recognised films and the 56th FICCI promoted this heavily.

A roundtable on French-Colombian co-productions culminated with the launch of the 2016 CNC-Aide Aux du Cinèmas du Monde. The roundtable gathered a number of producers from both countries to discuss the consolidation of France-Colombia co-productions. 

Thierry Lenouvel, from Ciné Sud Promotions, joined the panel and shared his thoughts. After working with a focus on Mediterranean film for many years, he turned his attention to Latin America in the mid-2000s. “Coming to Colombia was a breakthrough. I was astounded at the new wave of talent that exists in this country.” 

Since then, he has co-produced films with Colombian production companies Diafragma and Burning Blue, taking films to Cannes and Venice. “FICCI is a place where I can meet my next favourite director,” he says. “William Vegas, Juan Andrés Sarango. The last one was César Azevedo.”

Colombia is just one of a number of countries making big strides in international cinema. Throughout Latin America, a remarkable young generation of new directors has broken through.

The diversity of Latin American cinema is now dizzying, and much closer to the more mature and varied industries of other regions. Films that deal with government and police corruption, economic inequality and corporate irresponsibility are hitting local theatres and emerging at festivals like Toronto, Venice, Ventana Sur - Latin America’s biggest market - and San Sebastien, the biggest showcase of Latin American and Spanish films in the world. 

In 2012, the San Sebastien International Film Festival launched the first European and Latin American Co-Production Forum. In addition to a Co-Production Award, the Forum includes initiatives to prompt informal meetings between industry professionals hoping to match up over projects. Its success lies both in the quality of films and what the companies behind them can bring to the table. For example, a 2012 San Sebastien project, Colombian Carlos Moreno’s Que Viva la Musica! (pictured above), played at Sundance’s New Frontiers in 2015. 

To match that diversity of genres, there has been all manner of combinations of countries collaborating to get films made. Clara Sola, Nathalie Alvarez’s feature debut, was designed as a Sweden, Colombia and Denmark co-production. It was pitched by Ciudad Lunar, which won Directors’ Fortnight with El Abrazo de la Serpiente at Bogotá Audiovisual Market in July. Refugiado, Diego Lerman’s 2014 Argentine drama, was a co-production between Germany, Argentina, Colombia, France and Poland. 

Not unsurprisingly, Spanish and Latin American co-productions are at an all-time high. The partnership is predictable perhaps: they share language, heritage, colonialism and a faltering economy. In times like these when it is hard for anyone to get enough money together to make a movie, co-production is key.

Relatos salvajes (Wild Tales, pictured right) was Argentina’s nominee for the 2014 foreign film Oscar and was a co-production between Spain and Argentina; Alberto Arvelo’s historical drama The Liberator, also 2014, was a co-production between Spain and Venezuela.  

France and Germany feature strongly too. The benefits of co-production are a clear marker here: pooling financial resources, better chances of entering each other’s markets, risk reduction and more government incentives and subsidies. 

However, as Gerylee Polanco Uribe, a producer at Contravía Films, is quick to point out, the creative exchange that co-productions bring about is also of critical importance. 

“Co-production is a strategy that allows films to grow and develop both artistically and financially,” Uribe told KFTV. “Naturally, by working with other countries you can count on the artistic participation of professionals that bring strong experience and new perspectives to the table. In that sense, co-production is a very generative endeavor. It is fertile ground for films.”

Contravía’s most recent film, Los Hongos, which premiered at Locarno, is a clear example of this. A co-production between Colombia, France, Argentina and Germany, it benefited from funding and creative cross-pollination from four different countries. 

Funding for co-productions has ramped up across Latin America. In addition to the previously mentioned French funds, Spain’s CAACI (Conference of Ibero-American Audiovisual and Film Industries), is an important resource. CAACI brokers the creation of conventions and co-production treaties amongst its member countries - Central and Latin America, as well as Spain and Portugal. 

Ibermedia is another source of funding that pools financial contributions from Central and Latin American countries and Spain and Portugal. The majority of the money comes from Spain and mostly goes to production costs, but it’s also channeled into development, distribution, exhibition and promotion. Another player is the Hubert Bals Fund, which recently received funding from Creative Europe to help support co-productions from Latin America, amongst other regions. 

Major funds are helped by generous tax incentives. Led by Colombia, Latin America has introduced some of the most aggressive programmes. In Colombia, producers can save up to 40% on production and post-production services and an additional 20% on lodging, meals and transportation. Similar incentives exist in Panama (15%), Puerto Rico (40%) and the Dominican Republic (25%). Brazil, Chile and Mexico also have filming incentives in place.

As a result, certain Latin American movies are acquiring a new ambition and scale. In 2010 José Padilha’s Brazilian film Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (pictured left) was the highest-grossing film in Brazil, more successful even than Avatar, with a box office take in excess of $70m. Last year saw box office breakthroughs in Peru, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia.

Challenges remain. Critics warn of reproducing dependencies on Europe, especially Spain. Few go far enough to call it neo-colonialism, but the sentiment is one of weariness, of not reinforcing economic disparities between the two regions. Some fear that outside funding will affect content and precipitate a loss of editorial control. By allowing a European country to bankroll a project, which audiences will be prioritised? Local ones or those of Europe?

Already the whole of Latin America is faced by the challenge of its national cinemas finding a public. In that regard it was heartening to see a strong presence of CineColombia, Colombia’s largest cinema chain, at FICCI this year supporting homegrown projects and committing to distribution.

These and other issues were discussed at FICCI’s roundtables and post-show bars over the weekend. Despite the criticism and certain qualms, European and Latin American co-productions continue to increase. For many smaller Latin American countries, where a weak film industry makes finding professional crews difficult and funding opportunities scarce, a co-production with a European country is a no-brainer. But even for more robust film industries, the offer of European-Latin American co-production is an offer just too tempting to ignore. 


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