Path to fest gets a push from Progress

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CANNES -- With the signing of the Three Amigos pact with Universal this week and a hefty dose of Spanish-language films in the Cannes official lineup, it's clear that Latin American films are hot. But what most don't realize is that the presence of six of those films here is thanks to an initiative called Films in Progress, designed to facilitate postproduction for certain films.

Ana Katz's "A Wandering Bride" (Una Novia Errante) and Enrique Fernandez and Cesar Charlone's "The Pope's Toilet" (El Bano del Papa) are included in Un Certain Regard, while Pablo Fendrik's "The Assailant" (El Asaltante), Lina Chamie's "The Milky Way" (A Via Lactea) and Ernesto Contreras' "Blue Eyelids" (Parpados Azules) are screening in Critics Week. And Ciro Guerra's "The Wandering Shadows" ("La Sombra del Caminante") is a part of the World Cinema showcase.

Films in Progress is a program created by the Rencontres Cinemas d'Amerique Latine in Toulouse, France, and the San Sebastian International Film Festival intended to facilitate the completion of films by independent Latin American and Spanish filmmakers at the postproduction stage.

The venture picks up the tab for postproduction services and delivering a 35mm copy to the filmmaker. It also ensures a coveted spot in the festival circuit, with an earmarked slot at San Sebastian.

"Not even the producers, directors or actors of the film could have dreamed of the path this film would take or the difficulties it would have had finishing," said Pascual Condito, president of Primer Plano, which is handling international sales for "A Wandering Bride."

Not only is the film screening at the world's premiere film festival, but it has found distribution in Spain (Mediapro) and France (Bodeda), with negotiations under way for Latin America.

For the first time, this year's edition of Films in Progress will take place in two locations and on different dates. It will be in Toulouse on March 22-23 and at the Guadalajara International Film Festival on March 27-29. Screenings to select the winner are exclusively reserved for producers, distributors, technical industries, TV channels, festivals, organizations and companies related to the different stages of the cinematographic process who, as a whole, can play a decisive part in helping these projects to reach the general public.

The finished products will be screened at the 55th San Sebastian International Film Festival on Sept. 25-26.

Despite the program's success rate, even its organizers are aware of its limitations on influencing world cinema.

"Films in Progress is not a factor in the industry," said San Sebastian's Jose Maria Riba, who coordinates the professional activities for the festival. "It operates on the creative level, allowing voices to be heard."

Even so, the effect shouldn't be underestimated. "It has a symbolic importance," Riba said. "This cinema exists. It's small, but it has a place at Cannes, which means it exists."

Condito goes further, pointing out that the films' inclusion breathes life into the sales sectors of the Latin American countries.

"It gave me a foot in," Condito said. "I've never had a film in the official lineup at Cannes, and it makes a big difference. It's not about new blood or old blood. It's about good films."
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