From Buenos Aires to Bogota, the film sectors in these five locales struggle to fend off studio tentpoles while simultaneously making inroads with acclaimed art house titles, a rich talent pool, attractive shooting incentives — and one game-changing black-and-white Oscar contender set in Mexico City.
The fall of film admissions since 2015 continued, taking a 6 percent dive in 2018, a drop that still was not as steep as expected amid an ongoing economic crisis and soaring inflation rates. Concentration remains an issue, with the top 10 films grabbing 46.4 percent of attendance. Still, while Argentinian moviegoers are buying fewer tickets overall, local films were able to carve out a slightly bigger slice of the pie last year, amassing 14.6 percent of the market against 2017’s 12.8 percent. “The powerful market share last year was based on an unusual amount of local mainstream films that grabbed most of the attendance,” says producer Axel Kuschevatzky, head of Viacom’s Telefe Films, whose films accounted for 70 percent of all tickets sold for domestic productions. “It’s easy to tell that next year will probably be the best year for Disney, particularly in Latin America, where family movies have a lot of weight. In a region with higher birth rates than, say, Europe, family movies perform very well, and they will surely have a great impact,” he adds.
Talent to watch: Benjamin Domenech
A producer and co-founder of indie production company Rei Cine, Domenech recently raised his profile by partnering with Pedro and Agustin Almodovar’s El Deseo as well as Canana (founded by Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal) for the Argentine Academy best-picture winner Zama. Rei Cine also partnered with K&S and Viacom’s Telefe for the Venice Film Fest Gold Lion contender The Accused.
Box Office Stats
Overall Box Office For 2018: $149M
Highest-Grossing Domestic Film: El Angel – $5M
Highest-Grossing Foreign Film: Incredibles 2 – $ 11.7M
Key Films In Berlin: Los miembros de la familia (Panorama), Far from Us (Forum), Breve historia del planeta verde (Panorama)
Key EFM Titles: Rosita (Kafilms), Vergel (Kafilms), All Inclusive (Kafilms), 4x4 (Latido Films)
The three year-long economic recession contributed to a 10 percent box office drop in 2018, fueled by the small-but-growing influence of streaming services in Brazil. Holllywood blockbusters concentrated their releases in June and July, resulting in an array of normally popular local comedies underperforming. While the 2019 scenario is still unclear, recent policies by the new president Jair Messias Bolsonaro appear to tilt the balance in favor of mainstream distributors and exhibitors and global streamers, relegating local filmmakers to the sidelines. “Expectations remain high,” says Filme B analyst and director Paulo Sergio Almeida. “But undeniably the change of government in such an ideologically radical way could dismantle the whole process of construction of the main body of cinema in Brazil by Ancine and the Sectorial Fund of Cinema, the institutions responsible for the policies that have boosted Brazilian cinema for the past 20 years. The risk of a paralyzation is imminent.”
Talent to watch: Gabriel Mascaro
A filmmaker and visual artist, Mascaro won a special mention in Locarno with his first fiction film, August Winds (2014). His follow-up Neon Bull (2015) premiered in Venice, where it won a Special Jury Award. His futuristic drama Divine Love just premiered in Sundance and is playing in this year’s Panorama section of the Berlinale.
Box Office Stats
Overall Box Office For 2018: $672M
Highest-Grossing Domestic Film: Nothing to Lose - $32.5M
Highest-Grossing Foreign Film: Avengers: Infinity War – $65.2M
Key Films In Berlin: Marighella (Out of competition), Divine Love (Panorama), Homing (Forum), Greta (Panorama), Waiting for the Carnival (Panorama), The Blue Flower of Novalis (Forum), The Rehearsal by Tamar Guimara?es (Forum Expanded), Your Turn (Generation 14plus)
Key EFM Titles: The Father’s Shadow (Stray Dogs), Long Way Home (Figa Films), Landless (FIga Films)
On the one hand, Chilean cinema in recent years has been thriving, with local filmmakers like Pablo Larrain successfuly transitioning to Hollywood with the Natalie Portman starrer Jackie, or Sebastian Lelio landing a foreign-language Oscar for last year’s A Fantastic Woman. At home, however, local films remain unable to attract large audiences. Chilean cinema only accounted for around three percent of film attendance in a highly concentrated market. Producer Juan de Dios Larrai?n (Jackie, Gloria Bell) argues that while it’s admirable that local filmmakers aspire to make movies that will have an impact at the art house or on the festival circiut, it’s time for the local industry to pay more attention to the commercial tastes of Chilean moviegoers. “We the producers must recognize that the films we are bringing to the theaters are more what we — producers, directors, cinephiles — enjoy rather than what the audience wants to see,” he says.
Talent to watch: Alex Andwandter
A pop singer, music producer, actor and director, Andwandter’s 2016 directorial debut You’ll Never Be Alone won the Teddy Award at the Berlinale, where he is now bringing the script for his next film to the festival’s 2019 co-production market.
Box Office Stats
Overall Box Office For 2018: $135.6M
Highest-Grossing Domestic Film: No estoy loca – $2M (first 2 weeks)
Highest-Grossing Foreign Film: Avengers: Infinity War – $14.6M
Key Films In Berlin: Lemebel (Panorama)
Key EFM Titles: The Prince (Patra Spanou)
Attendance and film production numbers have been on the rise in Colombia, currently one of the most attractive destinations for foreign shoots thanks to its tax incentives and locations. As the film market expands — it grew 2.2 percent in 2018 — so does the distance with local audiences. Colombian films only took six percent of the market, mostly around one single film, the com- edy Si saben co?mo me pongo, ¿pa’ que? me invitan? The saving grace for the local industry, according to producer Rodrigo Guerrero from AG Studios, which handled local production for Amazon’s Jack Ryan and Hulu’s The First in Latin America, is the experience film workers are getting thanks to the region’s popularity with foreign producers. Says Guerrero: “It’s like soccer: when you’ve been playing with teams in the international major leagues, you turn into a much better player.”
Talent to watch: Juan Sebastia?n Mesa
After his first film The Nobodies won the Audience Award at the Venice Film Festival in 2016, Mesa was selected for Cannes’ Cinefondation residence in 2018 and is currently developing his next feature.
Box Office Stats
Overall Box Office For 2018: $170M
Highest-Grossing Domestic Film: Si saben co?mo me pongo, ¿pa’ que? me invitan? – $1.1M
Highest-Grossing Foreign Film: Avengers: Infinity War - $13.2M
Key Films In Berlin: Lapu? (Forum), Monos (Panorama)
Alfonso Cuaron’s Oscar nominated, game-changing Netflix drama Roma may be the pride of the Mexican film industry right now, but when it comes to box office, an acclaimed black and white drama is still going to lose out to the enduring popularity of local comedies. “Dramatic content like Netflix’s House of Flowers or Roma worked great, but local comedies are still what works best in theaters,” says local director-producer Marco Polo Constandse. Despite the comedy genre’s dominance, Constandse sees a healthy amount of diversity in the industry, especially with Roma making such an impact as an unabashed art house release. “This year we had very healthy box office numbers, and it ended with a film like Roma, which was a good balance,” he says.
Talent to watch: Gary ‘Gaz’ Alazraki
Alazraki directed Mexico’s record breaking comedy The Noble Family which doubled the record for highest grossing local film ever in 2013, and in 2015 co-created the soccer-themed comic drama Club of Crows, Netflix’s first original series in Spanish. The show is now in its fourth season.
Box Office Stats
Overall Box Office For 2018: $883M
Highest-Grossing Domestic Film: Ya Veremos - $10.3M
Highest-Grossing Foreign Film: Avengers: Infinity War – $60M
Key Films In Berlin: La fiera y la fiesta (Panorama), Curupira, Creature of the Woods (Forum Expanded)
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Feb. 11 daily issue at the Berlin Film Festival.