By Stephanie Zacharek
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For most films made in Latin and Central America, chances of stateside distribution are slim. Mexico's Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu and Walter Salles and his boys from Brazil are anomalies. "It doesn't help that there are so many Spanish-speaking people in the U.S.," Krysanne Katsoolis, acquisitions/co-pro veep of Wellspring until last week, told a baffled Pablo Trapero (Crane World). "The market that reads Spanish subtitles is not the same one that speaks the language."
Their conversation took place during "Encuentros," an initiative funded by a $25,000 grant and held over three days in a South Beach motel at the recent Miami International Film Festival (February 21March 2). This forum for intimate meetings between selected Ibero-American talent and North American suits is modeled on Rotterdam's longstanding Cinemart. The astute Diana Sanchez, who programs Latin American films for Toronto, selected seven projects (besides Trapero's, others are by Argentina's Lucrecia Martel and Eliseo Subiela, Brazil's Beto Brandt, Mexico's Valentina Leduc, Chile's Andres Wood, and Spain's Montxo Armendariz). Potential norteamericano investors included reps from Sony Pictures Classics, HBO, Fox Searchlight, and the new Global Film Initiative. Also on hand were companies oriented solely toward Latin American product, like Venevision International and HBO Latino.
"Sometimes the public expects films from Latin America to be film renunciaalways talking about social problems," Trapero said. He described to Katsoolis his planned Rolling Family, a road movie in which a family of 12 drives through Argentina in a motor home. Brandt (The Trespasser) and producer Renato Ciasca, meanwhile, are planning to adapt Marcal Aquinos novel Love and Other Sharp-Pointed Objects. Cultural branches of their governments provide seed money to jump-start productions, but Ibero-American filmmakers are used to groveling for completion funds in France, Germany, and Spain. Trapero's budget is $788,000, less than a Friends star earns per episode; Brandt's, a mere $920,000.
Fest director Nicole Guillemet plans to expand Encuentros next year, adding first-time directors to the mix. If it goes as smoothly as this first, modest effort, the situation for this neglected talent pool could improveand our reward would be access to the finished films.
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