Cartagena Film Festival Kicks off With New Direction

New director Monika Wagenberg focuses fest on local, young filmmakers.

BUENOS AIRES – The International Cartagena de Indias Film Festival (FICCI) kicks of Thursday under new artistic management by former Miami fest programmer Monika Wagenberg. The fest’s new profile now focuses on local and new filmmakers from Spanish-speaking countries limiting official competition entries to first, second and third films. Also, the local competition 100% Colombia aims at widening exposure and opportunities for new Colombian filmmakers.

 “Limiting the official competition to first, second, and third films makes the profile clearer,” said Wakenberg, who has been involved with the festival as a programmer since 2009. She added: “Also, since we’ll now be using electronic subtitles in all theaters, we are finally able to bring foreign films without the need for them to have a local distributor so we can get subtitled prints.”
The 100% Colombia competition echoes the slow rising of Colombian cinema since the 2003 Film Law that was passed to promote local film industry with tax exemptions and a state-managed Film Development Fund. “I feel optimistic about the results that we’re starting to see and the ones that will follow,” Wakenberg said. “Up until 2003, film production had been erratic. Like most Latin American countries – except Argentina, Mexico and Brazil (and Cuba for some years) – Colombia has been a country with no film industry”.
The initiatives that have sprung around the new bill have provided local film production with some continuity and strength. It has also uncovered many new talents in recent years. “More and better films are being made,” Wagenberg said. “Different aesthetics and storytelling styles are being explored. This is a process, and there’s still a lot to do, but I have lots of faith in this young, fresh, auteur cinema that is being made.”
However, Wagenberg also feels there’s still a lot of work to be done for the local film industry to become precisely that, especially in terms of script development. “This year Guillermo Arriaga comes in to give a master class about scriptwriting and storytelling – I hope filmmakers can make the most out of it,” she said. The festival is also focusing on training, organizing conferences and activities that include a documentary rewriting and pitching workshop. 
For the sixth consecutive year, the FICCI will also hold an International Producers Meeting organized by the Colombian Film Office and Proimágenes Colombia, with the support of the Producers Network of Cannes’ Marché du Film. Eighteen Latin American film projects will receive special business training from guest film professionals who will also select a project to attend the Producers Network in Cannes.
The 51st edition of the FICCI kicks off Thursday with the screening of Carlos César Arbeláez’s The Colours of the Mountain, winner of the New Filmmakers Award in the last San Sebastian Film Festival. The closing night gala on March 3 will feature Goya winner for best animated feature Chico & Rita, a Spain/U.K. production directed by Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal and Tono Errando
The fest’s official fiction competition includes Diego and Daniel Vega’s October (Special Jury Prize at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard), Anahi Berneri’s 2010 Berlinale entry It’s Your Fault, and Pablo Larraín’s Post Mortem, which premiered in Venice last year.
FICCI’s regional focus also factored into the selection of Mexico as the fest’s Guest Country, with special screenings of recent Mexican indie festival hits like Yulene Olaizola’s Shakespeare and Victor Hugo’s Intimacies and Pedro González Rubio’s To the Sea; a retrospective of rising filmmaker Nicolas Pereda’s work,and the collective film Revolution, a special tribute to the Mexican Revolution Centennial that features short films by Rodrigo Garcia, Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal, among other Mexican directors. 
Other festival highlights include all-time Latin American box office hit Elite Squad 2, Diego Luna’s first fictionAbel, and a full Olivier Assayas retrospective. Assayas himself will attend the festival, joining other guest invites Willem Dafoe, Geraldine Chaplin, Carlos Reygadas, Spanish actor and Goya winner Luis Tosar and Mexican director Arturo Ripstein.