New films from Oscar laureate Vanessa Ragone (“The Secret in Their Eyes”) and Camera d’Or winners Edher Campos (“Leap Year”) and Juan Pablo Miller (“Las Acacias”) are among attractions at this year’s Ventana Sur’s Primer Corte and Copia Final, the pix-in-post industry centerpieces at Latin America’s biggest film-TV market.
Ragone co-produces “The Face of the Jellyfish,” from Argentina’s Rotterdam-prized Melisa Liebenthal. Campos unveils “Journey to the Land of the Tarahumara,” Mexican Federico Cecchetti’s follow-up to the multi-prized “Mara’akame’s Dream.”
Miller introduces “Sublime,” one of the section’s buzz titles, along with “Diogenes,” from Peru’s Leonardo Barbuy, and two titles from Brazil: Gregorio Graziosi’s “Tinnitus” and Gabriel Martin’s “Mars One,” winner of Ventana Sur’s prestigious Paradiso WIP Award.
Titles brim with talent, observes Eva Morsch-Kihn, curator of Primer Corte and Copia Final along with Mercedes Abarca and Maria Nuñez. Two cases in point: “Journey…” had as script consultants Luis Buñuel’s later-career co-scribe Jean-Claude Carrière and Bertha Navarro, a producer on Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth”; “Tinnitus” is co-written by Marco Dutra, a Locarno best director winner for “Good Manners,” and its DP is Rui Poças, whose credits include Lucrecia Martel’s “Zama” and upcoming “Tabu,· and its score IS from David Boulter, a frequent composer for Claire Denis.
Themes, forms and tones range far and wide, from exquisite thought-through art house (“Diogenes”) to film essays (“Jellyfish”), broader audience plays (“Sublime”), hybrid fiction-documentary (“The Flood”) and genre blending (“Tinnitus”).
Most probably for the first time ever, there are three comedies in selection, Morsch-Kihn notes: “History and Geography,” “The Face of the Jellyfish” and “Nora’s Place.”
The sections also work as a new talent focus: Six of the 12 films are solo debut features, five sophomore outings. Eight titles turn primarily on women.
Family also has a large presence, Morsch-Kihn says. Acting is near uniformly impressive, whether from professional thesps or non-pros, she adds.
If anything, however, really traces as through-line between titles, its their characters’ battle for inner change, notes Morsch-Kihn.
Often at the heart of projects’ stories are “characters who are exploring in an intimate fashion, searching for identity, trying to find legitimacy or their own path in life or go back to who they were.”
Other figures “look for new ways to see the world, or want to change something, or fight to conquer a fear or problem,” Morsch-Kihn observes. “The individual is still connected to the collective, be that his family and/or a society. They’re individual trajectories impacted by society in terms of a social, cultural or political and family context,” she adds.
A breakdown of the 12 titles:
“I Am What I Never Was,” (“Soy Lo Que Nunca Fui,” Rodrigo Alvarez Flores, Mexico)
The debut feature of both Alvarez Flores and Tijuana’s Californias Internacional U. as a production house, backed by Mexico’s Imcine film agency in a push to decentralize filmmaking in Mexico. A portrait of a middle-class family torn apart by its member’s egocentric emotions which can stand as broad allegory for Mexico at large.
“Diogenes,” (Leonardo Barbuy, Peru, Colombia)
Diogenes, a painter heir to ancestral traditions raises his children in isolation in Peru’s high Andes. When he dies, daughter Sabina descends to the local village for the first time.
Shot in B/W, inspired by traditional Peruvian photography, by DP Mateo Guzmán whose credits include César Acevedo’s 2015 Cannes Critics’ Week and Camera d’Or winner “Land and Shade. Acevedo and Laura Mora (“Killing Jesus”) serve as script consultants. A Vitrine Filmes distribution award winner at BRLab, the film’s produced by Barbuy’s Peru-based label Mosaico Productora, Colombia’s La Selva Cine and France’s Dublin.
“The Face of the Jellyfish,” (“El rostro de la medusa,” Melisa Liebenthal, Argentina)
A fiction essay from the rated Liebenthal whose first feature, 2016’s “The Pretty Ones,” won Rotterdam’s Bright Future Award and best Argentine director at Buenos Aires’ Bafici. In her “Jellyfish” – a mix of fiction, doc footage, photos and voiceover – Maria, around 30, in a Kafkaesque nightmare, suddenly discovers her face has changed. The polished production is produced by Zona Audiovisual, headed by Vanessa Ragone (“The Secret in Their Eyes”) and Gentil Cine, the go-ahead company also behind Clarisa Navas’ third feature, “The Prince of Nanawa.” Ilse Hughan (“Jauja”) co-produces – a powerful combination.
“Journey to the Land of the Tarahumara,” (“Viaje al país de los Tarahumaras,” Federico Cecchetti, Mexico-U.S.)
An awaited title since it won the best pitch Talent On The Road Award at Los Cabos Film Festival in 2019, “Viaje” recounts French playwright Antonin Artaud’s life-defining travel to the Mexican highlands to experience shamanic healing, seen through the eyes of a Tarahumara boy. Lead produced by Edher Campos, also a Cannes Un Certain Regard winner with “La Jaura de Oro.” Cecchetti’s debut, “Mara’akame’s Dream,” scored 12 Mexican Academy Ariel Award nominations, winning best first work and score.
“Nora’s Place,” (“El lugar de Nora,” Silvina Ganger, Argentina)
Set up at Argentina’s 80/83 Films, the latest from actress-playwright turned director Ganger who helmed and produced web series “Palacio los gansos” in 2019. In “Nora’s Place,” a comedic drama, her place is a humiliation as, while still fantasizing about becoming an adventure writer, she breaks up with her boyfriend and penniless, returns to her parents home, and is forced ti work in her father’s real estate business.
“Saudade Became Home Inside,” (“Saudade fez Morada aqui Dentro,” Haroldo Borges, Brazil)
A frontrunner at Primer Corte, the second feature from Brazil’s Borges (“Son of Ox”) follows the heartbreaking experience of a young, father-less Brazilian teenager confronting a degenerative eye disease. A metaphor for Brazil which has to learn to re-see, says its director, the production swept Malaga WIP, BoliviaLab and Guadalajara Construye, claiming three prizes at each of the events including Malaga’s Jury Prize for best Latino project and Guadalajara’s WIP Paradiso Prize.
“Faraway Song,” (Canção ao Longe,” Clarissa Campolina, Brazil)
Produced by Belo Horizonte-based Anavilhana, one of Brazil’s most prominent regional production houses which has inherited talent and energies from the legendary Teia collective, such a Clarissa Campolina, co-director of “Swirl.” “Faraway Song” depicts the journey into adulthood of Jimena, a girl from the highly conservative Minas Gerais family and her battle establish her place in the world and satisfy her desires.
“The Flood,” (“La Crecida,” Ezequiel Erriquez, Argentina)
Winner of a Yagan Films 2020 Prize at Malaga WIP, a film which takes Erriquez to Argentina’s Misiones on the border with Brazil where a hydroelectric dam project forces a community to move to another neighborhood,. This is home to the Zuckers who cross a red line debating whether to emigrate to Brazil. The second feature from Erriquez, whose debut, “To La Cantabrica.” was selected for Rotterdam, “The Flood” is produced by Argentina’s Rita Cine, behind Ivan Fund’s “Night Stone.” Bomba Cine, Insomnia Films and Fila 3 co-produce.
“History and Geography,” (“Historia y Geografía, Bernardo Quesney, Chile)
A pix-in-post favorite, selected for WIP strands at Guadalajara, this week’s Sanfic Industria and now Copia Final, Quesney’s probing dramedy packs a powerful lead actress punch with Amparo Noguera, a Pablo Larraín regular (“Tony Manero,” “No,” “Post Mortem”) and Catalina Saavedra, star of “The Maid.” It turns on a TV comic (Noguera) who organizes a stage adaptation of a 16th century epic poem about Spain’s Conquest of the Mapuche in order to be taken seriously. A third feature from Quesney after “Efectos Especiales” and “Desastres Naturales,” all turning on representation, he explained to Variety, “History and Geography” is produced by up-and-coming Chilean production house Equeco.
“Mars One,” (Gabriel Martins, Brazil)
The winner of Ventana Sur’s Paradiso WIP Award for the best Brazilian film in post-production at Ventana Sur which, given the competition, is saying quite a lot. A portrait of the disparate member of a lower middle-class Black Brazilian family facing problems in the present while attempting to maintain their dreams of a better future, “Mars One” is produced by Filmes de Plástico’s Thiago Macêdo Correia. He’s had four films, no less, selected for Cannes, three in Directors’ Fortnight and “The Dead and the Others,” winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2018.
“Sublime,” (Mariano Biasin, Argentina)
Set up at Juan Pablo Miller’s Tarea Films, behind Cannes Camera d’Or winner “Las Acacias,” “Incident Light,” “The Good Intentions” and “The Sleepwalkers,” a C.V. which makes any new project one to track. In “Sublime,” Biasin’s debut, Manuel, 16. suddenly realizes he’s fallen in love with his best friend, Felipe. Coming out isn’t the problem, what is is the danger of destroying the bedrock relationship in his life.
“Tinnitus,” (Gregorio Graziosi, Brazil)
One of the big promises of Brazilian cinema whose debut, “Obra,” was selected for Toronto’s 2014 Discovery section, Graziosi’s long-in-the-works “Tinnitus” weighs in as genre-blending psychological thriller come sports film shot with millimetric precision. Co-written by Caetano Gotardo (“All the Dead Ones”), it turns on a 30-year-old high-board diver who suffered a grave accident making a wrong water entry from a 10-meters board, caused by tinnitus. Forced into retirement, five years later she determines to competes for the Olympics Games. But she still suffers from terrible buzzing in her ears.
“Tinnitus is a kind of monster that can grow inside you, a response to fear,” Graziosi told Variety.
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