Report: Latin American Genre Rises at Blood WindowFearful Features,Movies/TV,News Samuel Zimmerman
It’s the question I arrived in a very warm Buenos Aires with, on the second day of Ventana Sur, the Latin American Film Market that’s just wrapped its fifth year. Nestled within Ventana Sur is the even younger, increasingly significant Blood Window, a market specifically focused on the development, co-production, and encouragement of Latin American genre film.
Aptly titled, Blood Window provides just that, a continents-spanning look into the Latin American genre filmmakers and filmmaking poised to breakthrough to more markets, festivals and release. Coordinated by Javier Fernández Cuarto, Blood Window encapsulates a scene that’s been building steam and recognition for some time now. In turn, it then attracts top sales agents and festival programmers—Raven Banner, XYZ, Austin’s Fantastic Fest, Korea’s PiFan and London’s Frightfest were all well represented to name a few—and provides the filmmakers with a look into actually breaking through to those international markets, festivals and releases.
Blood Window makes for a bustling and thrilling few days, indeed. Lively panels are resourceful and educating introductions, aided and perhaps dizzied by headsets directly connected to an indefatigable translator. Punctuating the panels are a series of presentations: a section of feature length work-in-progress screenings entitled “Bloody Work in Progess,” and another called “Beyond the Window,” in which a selection of filmmakers pitch intended projects to producers, sales agents and financiers.
It’s all incredibly current, witnessing films still forming, presented with concepts still on the horizon. Add to that the very nature or narrative of an emerging “scene,” and just attending Blood Window begins to feel like you’re out ahead of the game, privy to something about to explode. But that’s both slightly erroneous and a bit melodramatic. Some of these filmmakers, including Argentina’s Daniel de la Vega (JENNIFER’S SHADOW aka CHRONICLE OF THE RAVEN) and Ramiro Garcia Bogliano, and Brazil’s Rodrigo Aragão have been at it for years.
That’s not to mention those who’ve found their films far out in the world already, like Ramiro’s acclaimed brother Adrian Garcia Bogliano and HIDDEN IN THE WOODS’ Patricio Valladares. Last year, Blood Window produced what became one of my favorite fest films of 2014, the Argentinian vampire piece, DARKNESS BY DAY. Of course there’s the much publicized Eli Roth connection to Chile, where he’s set up shop with directors like Nicolas Lopez and Guillermo Amoedo and completed AFTERSHOCK, THE GREEN INFERNO, THE STRANGER and the upcoming KNOCK KNOCK. And then there’s Chile’s Ernesto Díaz Espinoza (who edited THE GREEN INFERNO and helmed BRING ME THE HEAD OF MACHINE GUN WOMAN and REDEEMER) and cult action star Marko Zaror, seen in the likes of REDEEMER, MANDRILL, UNDISPUTED 3 and MACHETE KILLS and at the likes of Austin’s Fantastic Fest, where dude is a Big Deal.
So while it isn’t exactly brand new, there’s certainly a contemporary flourish taking place and the sense it’s only getting bigger. More voices are making themselves heard, and some of them are terrifically exciting. Two days into Blood Window, I hosted a genre filmmaking panel with de la Vega, Aragão, EL INCIDENTE’s Isaac Ezban, INTIMATE WITNESS’ Santiago Fernández Calvete and HONEYMOON’s Diego Cohen, where I tried to get at the heart of why the industry was converging in Buenos Aires. One simple answer seems to lie in digital and easier access to filmmaking tools. Beyond that however, just as Blood Window’s directors span nations, they each had their own theories.
One was cultural support, with certain nations recognizing the value in Fantastic Film and subsequently awarding funds. Such is partly the reason I was able to already catch a sophomore feature from Ezban, whose strong, weird EL INCIDENTE found acclaim at this fall’s Fantastic Fest and more, and whose THE SIMILARS—though unfinished—continues to develop his warped, socially conscious, philosophical TWILIGHT ZONE-like style. Another was pure drive, as Aragão, whose long tenure in filmmaking conversely found little government backing for his horrific concepts, struck out on his own in a most DIY manner. His films, including MAR NEGRO and the in-post production anthology AS FÁBULAS NEGRAS, are entirely raw, homemade Brazilian splattershows with gonzo energy and a running political strain.
Both NEGRAS and THE SIMILARS played in the Bloody Works in Progress lineup, where the latter eventually took two awards. Also screening was SCHERZO DIABOLICO, the anticipated new film from HERE COMES THE DEVIL director Adrian Garcia Bogliano, which took the Morbido Fest Award. They were accompanied by the aforementioned INTIMATE WITNESS and HONEYMOON, and SED (THIRST), an outlier from Ecuadorian director Joe Houlberg that wasn’t overtly fantastical in story, but proved most impressive as an austere psychodrama.
Though only a few had true visual presentation, the pitches of Beyond the Window generated a mass of buzz in their own right. The teaser for previous Fantastic Market winner HAVANA, VAMPIRE TERRITORY heralds imaginative work out of Cuba from director Carlos Lechuga and producer Claudia Calvino, while de la Vega anticipates a playful, Hitchcockian tone for meta mystery DEAD END. Both ended up taking home awards. Also inspiring was DEMON DRIVEN, from Ramiro Garcia Bogliano, who co-directed PENUMBRA and WATCH ‘EM DIE with brother Adrian, and is looking to craft a stylish, youthful possession movie. That film’s concept teaser was colorful and pulsating, and its subsequent pitch promised a lack of demonic possession clichés, instead telling a raw, drug-fueled horror story.
Considering the genre fan’s discovery-based nature—one that yearns for globe-spanning terror tales—it’s easy to imagine a good portion of these films, those both nearing completion and anticipating production, getting before audience’s eyes. And there’s only more to come. Screening as part of the market was horror anthology MEXICO BARBARO, simultaneously meeting the country’s new breed of directors with ancient folk tales and legends. Meanwhile, the aforementioned panel featured aspiring and indie filmmakers in the audience as well—like DAEMONIUM producers Gabi Cominotti and Laura Sanchez Acosta, respectively—engaging and seeking their own answers on this emerging scene.
In the heat of said discussion, and the market as a whole, I watched filmmakers and producers and sales agents and distributors interact over a shared love and interest in genre and strong moviemaking. For once, a more analytical approach seemed moot. Why now? Why not?