Ventana Sur, which wrapped Friday, was, on many counts, quite extraordinary. With Buenos Aires, the market’s normal location, still under COVID-19 lockdown, Latin America’s biggest movie mart-meet spread out film screenings over five cities in two continents – Madrid, Mexico City, Bogotá, São Paulo and Santiago de Chile – complemented by digital screenings for the rest of the world. Following, five takes on that bold gambit and the market itself, organized by Argentina’s INCAA Film Institute and the Cannes Marché du Film and Festival:
It Was Remarkable – But Did It Work?
Ventana Sur’s five city spread marks a revolution. But did it work? Global attendance held stable at 2,957 participants from 61 countries. 188 online screenings, complimented by 118 theatrical screenings, and the loss of a single on-site event in Buenos Aires, sparked a dramatic increase in non-Argentine attendees with delegates rocketing up to 78% in Europe to 546, 49% in the U.S. to 110 and 185% to 134 in Mexico, where on-site attendance was particularly strong, said Cannes Marché du Film head Jérôme Paillard.
Some of the online elements – Ventana Sur’s conference strand snagged 7,000 views – and multi-city spread may well remain in 2021. The 13th Ventana Sur will return to Buenos Aires from Nov. 29 to Dec. 3, 2021. If events can achieve it, there is nothing like a major on-site edition.
France’s Ventana Sur
“The party’s over,” Ventana Sur co-director Bernardo Bergeret sang at the end of the market’s industry awards ceremony on Friday. In many ways, however, for Ventana Sur, it may have just begun. Ventana Sur will screen over Dec. 15-16 in Paris its Primer Corte lineup of six Latin American works in progress, plus Sergio Machado’s “Anaira,” the winner of Copia Final, another pix-in-post section, and Iuli Gerbase’s character-driven sci-fi thriller “The Pink Cloud,” one of the hottest properties brought onto the Ventana Sur market. Paris play seems essential. The French city is the world’s art film capital with its largest critical mass of sales agents – some 40 – and theatrical distributors. A hot title at Ventana Sur can command eight to 10 distribution suitors from France, only three or four from most from other countries.
Of just a few of Ventana Sur deal announcements, Germany’s Picture Tree Intl. unveiled deals for Mexican comedy “Go Youth,” including a pact with HBO for U.S. rights, Cannes Official Selection label “Enfant Terrible,” Norwegian romantic comedy “Diana’s Wedding,” Finnish biopic “Helene,” Florian Ross’ “Takeover” and Steven Wouterlood’s “My Extraordinary Summer with Tess.” It also picked global sales rights to Raúl López Echeverría’s debut “Domingo.”
Latido Films introduced “From the Shadows,” from “Patria” director Felix Visacrret. U.K. horror label Jinga Films closed deals on a raft of genre titles including “Scavenger,” “Exquisite Corpse,” “Infection” and “The Quarry.”
Cine Sud Promotion boarded Cesar Augusto Acevedo’s Colombian project “Horizonte.” Film Factory announced new pick up “Nest” an Argentine-Italian psychological thriller.
Paris-based Axxon Films confirmed it had picked up international rights to two Basque thrillers in Imanol Rayo’s thriller “Death Knell” and Mireia Gabilondo’s comedy “The Hive.” Italy’s The Open Reel secured international rights to Iranian documentary “A New Day.”
Most of these deals announcements came in the first part of Ventana Sur reflecting pacts struck before the market. Overall, the international sales market at large remains slow. Despite a COVID-19 vaccine promise, distributors still have little visibility about when and how theaters will re-open, with the pandemic most likely roiling for most of next year.
In Proyecta, Ventana Sur’s project forum, there was good word of mouth on Ariel Rotter’s parenthood drama “El Hilo Deseado” and fellow Argentine María Alche and Benjamin Naishtat’s university faculty-set “Paum.” Of movies set to screen in Paris, four of the eight are from Brazil. “The Pink Cloud” and two of the Primer Corte titles that won prizes on Friday – Flavia Neves’ “Fogaréu,” a magic realist tinged Brazilian sticks film noir, and Thais Fujinaga’s “The Joy of Things,” a probing portrait of pressured motherhood – belong to an exciting generation of young Brazilian women directors which was one highlight of 2020 Ventana Sur.
The OTT Revolution
Huge news broke during Ventana Sur, but very often in the streaming platform space: Warner Bros.’s simultaneous release of its 2021 slate in theaters and on HBO Max; Disney Plus’ first Latin America production lineup; “Money Heist” getting a Korean remake.
Increasingly, film sales announcements at Ventana Sur itself mixed deals with theatrical distributors and others in the streaming space. First Look Media’s streaming service Topic acquired North American streaming rights, for instance, to Oscar entry “Once Upon a Time in Venezuela.” At Ventana Sur, The Open Reel announced both international theatrical and VOD rights deals for two features, “Boy Meets Boy” and “Guardian Angel.” Mixed theatrical and OTT dealing is consolidating as the new normal.
In down-to-the-wire deal announcements, Buenos Aires-based Meikincine sold Chilean political thriller “Jailbreak Pact” to Signature Entertainment for the U.K. and Ireland. Deal follows on the heels of announced sales to Swift Productions in France and SBS in Australia.
Berlin-based Pluto Film confirmed it had boarded sales on “A Vanishing Fog,” from Colombian director Augusto Sandino (“Gentle Breath”), set and shot in the Sumapaz Páramo, the largest páramo ecosystem in the world, and turning on the planet’s impending water shortage.
Pluto has also sold “Tailor,” by Sonia Liza Kenterman, to Japan (Shochiku), and Venice Competition player “In Between Dying,” by Hilal Baydarov, to Portugal (Legendmain Filmes), as well as Greek thriller-drama “All the Pretty Little Horses” to China (Hugoeast) and HBO Europe. “Sanctorum” has gone to Zeta Films in Brazil; “By the Name of Tania” will be released in Mexico with Bestiario Films.
The Threat of Online Events
In one way, by placing screenings, project pitches and a conference strand online this year – there was little alternative – Ventana Sur wasn’t so remarkable at all.
During COVID-19, online industry events and festivals have proliferated. But the pandemic merely accelerated a trend already building before coronavirus, San Sebastian director José Luis Rebordinos argued at a Ventana Sur festival and markets panel. The attraction of online events is obvious: they run up many more spectaors, are easier to organize and save festivals and media large travel expenses at a time when both are under final pressure.
But they are also a danger, Rebordinos warned. Films may be viewed, but for how long? San Sebastian’s experience was that one film it tracked at an online version of a major festival punched 38,000 views but was watched on average for just eight-and-half minutes. “The industry needs physical events to generate market knowledge and buzz, which accelerates dealmaking,” said Latido Films’ Antonio Saura. Currently, sales agents, distributors and the media suffers online market work wipeout. Yet just how many smaller events will be able to return to on-site events which command any real industry presence is a moot questions indeed.
Women Move More to the Fore in South America
Ventana Sur launched a new section, Punto Género, focusing on projects from women directors, won by Gwenn Joyaux’s “In Labour We Trust.” Multiple major production house in Latin America are driving into movies made by female directors. At Ventana Sur, “Zama” producer Vania Catani at Rio’s Bananeira Filmes talked up five new Brazilian films, four from young women directors. In Argentina, Magma Cine is lining up more female-driven projects with some of South America’s top talent: Paulina Garcia, Mercedes Moran, and Sandra Gugliotta. At Ventana Sur, Argentine genre powerhouse Crudo Films announced it is adapting hit novel “La Virgen Cabeza,” an iconic feminist publication. Nobody’s talking about achieving gender parity as yet. But at least it’s a step forward.
As most producers, commissioning editors, distributors and exhibitors will explain, nothing is hotter right now than specific, local content which can make an impact on international audiences. But, is it possible to be too specific? Chilean animator Fernanda Frick’s potential animation title “Raise the Bar” was picked up by Netflix for a development deal that eventually fizzled out. The series followed a trans-gender weightlifter from Chile, and while it captured the imagination of most who saw the pitch, in the end the series never got made. Now Frick was back with one of the hottest IPs in this year’s Animation! sidebar, video-game themed series “IRL Squad,” which has a built-in target audience of millions who enjoy multiplayer role-playing games.
Similar shifts towards more mainstream content can be seen in Vetnana Sur’s Blood Window sidebar as well. Once focused exclusively on bloody horror, the genre sidebar has in the past two years opened to a more diverse slate of fantasy, science fiction and psychological horror that does well with far larger audiences than the hardcore hack-and-slash fare that once dominated the showcase. Many of the projects and works in progress now included at Blood Window also have strong social elements, making statements on gender, class and race. Examples can be seen in winners “The Night Belongs to the Monsters” and “Matria,” both of which use fantasy to address gender violence.
More Big Names Are Piling Into Drama Series Production
For Argentina, drama series production is a lifeline for its film and commercials industry, and for other sectors, a chance to exchange diminishing returns from a domestic market with investment from global players. Also, producers can leverage the talents of Argentine screenwriters, renowned in the region. In the last big play, “La Jauría” director Nicolas Puenzo, brother and producer-director Esteban Puenzo (“Clandestine Childhood”) have joined forces with Pucho Mentasti and Carlos Barretta, two icons on Argentina’s commercials scene, to create La Sagrada Familia. First up: Bioseries “Fangio,” about the triumphant but tormented F1 World Champion.
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