Several talented film producers and directors were in New York at Lincoln Center last week for the 19th annual Latin Beat Film Festival showcasing extraordinary films from all around Latin America. Program Director, Marcela Goglio, has been curating an eclectic mix of incredible Central and South American dramas, comedies and documentaries since the beginning of the popular film fest. This year’s 10-day fest featured particularly hot topics of gay love, obesity, drugs, etc. Joining the lineup were productions from most every country in the region: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela as well as an intra-regional co-pro between Ecuador & Argentina.
Goglio discussed her choice of films and filmmakers for this year’s festival as well as the “New Voices in Latin American Cinema” panel, saying, “The search for new, personal forms of storytelling in film has kept Latin American cinema vital and exciting even if a lot has changed in the 20 years since its rebirth. Each of the films in this year's slate represent this search, whether for their innovative storytelling or their boundary-pushing themes. With this year's panel I wanted to explore the filmmakers' challenges in finding funding while trying to stay close to their original vision, considering the fact that there is more money for filmmaking in Latin America than 20 years ago. I’d also like to thank the Mexican Cultural Institute of NY and Consulate General of Argentina in NY for helping to bring some of our filmmakers to New York.”
Since the 1990s the Latin American film industry has enjoyed exponential growth. Increased government and private funding has resulted in greater, and more varied, film production, along with more support from national cinemas. Another big change in the industry is the huge influx of young filmmakers joining award-winning, filmmakers who have made a mark on the world like Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel); Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), Walter Salles (Motorcycle Diaries), Juan José Campanella (The Secret In their Eyes), etc. There are also now several regional film festivals for artists to show their work locally. The quality of Latin American films are on par with rest of the world, and many are winning prizes at festivals such as Berlin, Cannes, etc.
President of MGC, MJ Sorenson, saw several films and attended the discussion “ New Voices in Latin American Cinema” moderated by Program Director Goglio. Panelists were: Diego Araujo/Director & Hanne-Lovise Skartveit/Producer of Holiday from Ecuador; Mariana Chenillo/Director of Paraiso from Mexico; Neto Villalobos/Director, All About the Feathers from Costa Rica; and Jose Luis Valle/Director, The Searches from Mexico.
Production volume has dramatically increased from 20 years ago. Mexico had about 20 films a year being produced in about 1990 to over 150 today; Ecuador had only 1 film being made in about 2-3 years and in 2013, there were 13 Ecuadorean films made. Directors on the panel worked with a wide array of budgets. In Mexico, two films showed a vast budget difference: The Searches was made for only $1,500 while Paraiso cost $2+ million and enjoyed some government funding. Filmmakers discussed their challenges to be seen theatrically in their own country, competing with major US blockbusters. There were some exceptions -- Paraiso recently played to a Mexican audience of 350,000 people within its opening two weeks – a major coup for a national film (recouping $1.3 million of the $2 million budget). All About the Feathers got 20,000 Costa Ricans to the theatre in a 7 week span -- a big number as well for a smaller country. Feathers was financed by crowd-funding and received $16K of its $14K initial request.
Paraiso (Mexico) and Holiday (Ecuador) received some government funding which came along with some compromises. The panelists described their challenge to stay true to their original vision, with input coming from funders. Holiday dealt with teenage gay love affair and had to fight to get an acceptable rating for wider distribution (finally received an R rating although it didn’t depict sex or violence). When producers were asked if they had bigger budgets, how would their films have changed, Villalobos (Costa Rica) said nothing would have changed except he would have paid his crew and talent more money. The beauty of the films were mainly in the complex stories and intriguing characters – showing that casting was very important.
NYWIFT was a co-sponsor of the panel. Paula Heredia, an award-winning filmmaker from El Salvador and International Board Member of NYWIFT said, “Latin Beat is known around the world as the number one place to see the best of Central and South American films. Over the years, I have seen the production quality improve dramatically and am pleased to support the Latin Beat Festival who shine a spotlight on our talented filmmakers from the region.”
A full list of the films can be found here. To learn where you can view some of the films or reach the filmmakers, please contact Marcela Goglio.