Cartagena Film Festival Appoints New Director

AP Images

Producer Diana Bustamante takes the lead in the region’s oldest fest

RIO DE JANEIRO – The board of directors of the Cartagena de Indias International Film Festival (FICCI) appointed Diana Bustamante as the new artistic director, replacing Monika Wagenberg, the fest announced on Thursday.

“Due to family circumstances I’ve had to make a tough decision and leave the FICCI’s direction," said Wagenberg, who championed and expanded the fest since 2011 after serving as the head of the Miami Film Festival. "The festival has given me the biggest professional satisfactions, but my close environment forces me to refocus my energies temporarily. I’m sure the 55th edition will be great in the hands of Diana Bustamante, who is also one of the finest film producers in the country and knows the festival in detail, having worked in it on a couple of editions.”

Read more Hollywood Salaries Revealed, From Movie Stars to Agents

One of the main producers in the Colombian industry and a former head of the film department of top local network Caracol, Bustamante is responsible for several of the country’s recent festival hits, like Ciro Guerra’s The Wind JourneysWilliam Vega’s La SirgaJuan Andres Arango’s La Playa D.C, and Oscar Ruiz Navia’s Solecito, as well as Ruiz Navia’s FIPRESCI winner at Berlinale Crab Trap and Los Hongos, which picked the Special Jury Prize at Locarno this year. A strong promoter of regional co-productions, she was also involved in Nicolas Pereda’s Greatest Hits (Mexico) and Diego Lerman’s Refugiado (Argentina).

Bustamante talked to The Hollywood Reporter and revealed some of the new goals for FICCI, such as attracting larger crowds to the theaters.

“We’ve seen beautiful things already, like 2,000 people every night at the screenings, but our goal is to recover the collective experience of cinema and get more people to the theaters,” she said.

FICCI will add seven more theaters and expand beyond the walled limits of Cartagena’s old quarter, a former colonial fort. “We want to pack the theaters and be like an octopus, penetrating the city, since on the other side of the walls of the more touristic Cartagena there’s another city, more representative of the country,” she explained.

The new administration won’t perform significant changes in terms of structure, other than enlarging the programming team and incorporating Pedro Adrian Zuluaga. “He’s a scholar and an important film critic whom I respect and love,” Bustamante said.

The incorporation responds to another one of the new director’s main goals. “We will focus on strengthening the quality of the Colombian competition,” she revealed.

More attention will also be placed on Latin American documentaries. “A lot of interesting and vertiginous things are happening there,” she explained.

Parallel to the Encuentros Cartagena industry sidebar, Bustamante aims to welcome and contain the growing amount of professional guests. “Last year we went from 250 to 850 in 2014,” she detailed, and said FICCI will have to be “a bit more formal, contributing and giving space to keep the industry coming and attract more film professionals.”

“We’ll need to invent the proper structure to contain them. Personally, I believe the best way relates to the exchange dynamics that are generated by a physical location where people can meet, tools like video-libraries, and eventually, maybe a work-in-progress section, which is always useful to help films that are out there rolling and maybe need to get finished,” she described.

An overall aim, according to Bustamante, is to help Latin American films find distribution within other markets in the region, usually refractory to films from neighbor countries. “For me, this is kind of a political commitment. Ours is a very large market, and we all speak the same language, so we need to strengthen the chances for Latin American films to circulate within the region, and I believe this would be a cool place from which to contribute to that.”

The 55th edition of the Cartagena de Indias International Film Festival is scheduled for March 11-17, 2015.