Backed by the Cannes Film Market and Argentina’s INCAA film agency, the 15th Ventana Sur and its much anticipated works in progress sections, Primer Corte and Copia Final, unspool over Nov. 27-Dec. 1 in Buenos Aires.
This year’s crop of films, either in post-production or completed, make scant reference to the region’s brutal historical past, perhaps with the exception of “Pepe” by Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias, which begins with the capture of drug lord Pablo Escobar who sowed terror and chaos for years in Colombia, or José María Cabral’s “Tiguere,” set in a ‘90s Dominican Republic.
In contrast, they focus more on human interest stories as in the territorial dispute in “El Casero”; family clashes in “November” and “Una casa con dos perros” – also a reference to Argentina’s economic crisis – as well as issues of identity and intergenerational relationships.
In Mexican filmmaker Rigoberto Perezcano’s poignant black-and-white drama, “Los Amantes se despiden con la mirada,” parents force their will on their daughter to marry an older man.
“Los Ahogados” (“The Drowned”) by Juan Sebastián Jácome and Víctor Mares is a slickly done suspense thriller that also reflects on the social divide among the haves and have-nots.
Three out of the six films in the Copia Final section are from Central American and the Caribbean, reflecting the upsurge of local cinema from those small territories.
They are represented by lauded filmmakers from the Dominican Republic, led by Cabral, whose “Carpinteros” (“Woodpeckers”) was the first Dominican film to compete in the official selection of Sundance, and Costa Rica’s Antonella Sudasassi, whose debut feature “The Awakening of the Ants,” repped Costa Rica at the Oscars. Her second feature, “Memories of a Burning Body,” is a lyrical portrait that has actors freely intertwine and recreate the lives of three anonymous elderly women who narrate their life stories.
“Five of the films in the two sections have elderly leads, which is quite unprecedented,” said programmer Eva Morsch-Kihn, who cited “November,” “Memories of a Burning Body,” Una casa con dos perros,” “Semillas” and even “Gloria,” where the grandmother is a disembodied voice on the phone but still a key character.
Out of the 180 films the programmers viewed, they noted that none of the films delved overtly into their respective countries’ troubled pasts. “Perhaps this new generation of filmmakers is not as impacted by their countries’ history,” Morsch-Kihn observed.
PRIMER CORTE/ FIRST LOOK
“O Deserto de Akin,” (“The Cuban Doctor”), Bernard Lessa (Brazil, Rede Filmes, Ladart Filmes)
Filmed in Espírito Santo, Brazil in June and July this year, the drama explores a Cuban doctor’s dilemma when political changes threaten his life in Brazil. Bernard Lessa, known for “The Woman and the River,” which participated in VS’s Primer Corte in 2017, and “The Night’s Substance,” directs this upcoming film with early-stage editing, sound yet to be added.
“El Regresado,” (“He Who Returns”), Armando Capó (Cuba, Gato Rosa Films)
In Gibara, Cuba, aspiring painter Mandi returns amidst wartime. His art challenges the political system but is stifled by absurdity, bureaucracy and budding love. Capó’s pics have long gained international recognition, with his debut feature “August” winning accolades at Cannes, San Sebastian and Amiens, as well as premiering at the Toronto and San Sebastian Film Festivals.
”Gloria,” Felipe Sholl (Brazil, Syndrome Films)
In Rio, Gabriel falls in love with escort Adriano and befriends Monica, Mateus, Roger, and Laila. When Adriano vanishes, Gabriel joins the escort world to find him. He faces a choice between life and death but finds a new family with Monica and friends. Felipe’s directorial debut, “Fala conmigo” snagged top awards at the Rio Festival, “Gloria” is his second feature film.
“Los Ahogados,” (“The Drowned”), Juan Sebastián Jácome and Víctor Mares (Ecuador, Uruguay, AbacaFilms S.A., Rain Dogs Cine SRL)
Shot in Ecuador, Marcela, a wealthy novelist, faces a maid’s murder and escalating harassment of her family. She investigates the incident as she struggles to maintain her sanity. Jacome’s feature debut, “Ruta de la Luna,” garnered international recognition, while his “Cenizas” is among the most acclaimed Ecuadorian films in recent years. He is directing animated feature “Norma” in Panama. Backed by Ibermedia and Ecuador funds.
“Los Amantes Se Despiden con la Mirada,” (Lovers Bid Farewell”), Rigoberto Perezcano (Mexico, Tiburon Films, Paloma Negra Films)
In the Oaxaca valley, Elida resists an arranged marriage with older man Damián, choosing love for young Olivo over tradition. Director Perezcano, known for “Northless” (2009), a festival winner, explored similar themes in “Carmín Tropical” (2014), which won best film at the Morelia Film Festival. Drama won the Premio de Estudios Churubusco Azteca in the 2020 Impulso Morelia.
“Semillas,” (“Seeds”), Eliana Niño (Colombia, Spain, Nino Visual, MGC Marketing)
Shaira aspires to join a horse-riding festival, but her horse vanishes when her grandfather sells it during a crop drought. He shares a belief that animals are held in the sky until rain returns. Determined, Shaira seeks magical seeds to restore her horse. “Semillas” is Niño’s debut feature and has won script development and production support from Colombia’s FDC and the Spanish Film Institute, ICAA.
COPIA FINAL/ FINAL CUT
“El Casero,” (“The Landlord”), Matias Lucchesi (Argentina, Uruguay, Amada Contents / Twins Latin Films / Nadador Cine)
Marcela and Claudio return to their family home after 20 years, intending to transform it into a boutique hotel. The property manager, Ramón (70), occupied it in their absence and rented it out since he never received his salary and tax payments from Marcela. As they clash over reclaiming their property, a battle ensues, each asserting their rightful ownership. Lucchesi, is known for “Ciencias Naturales,” “El Pampero” and “Las Rojas.”
“Memorias de un cuerpo que arde,” (“Memories of a burning body”), Antonella Sudasassi Furniss (Costa Rica, Spain, Sub.stance Films / PlayLab Films)
In their twilight years, Ana (68), Patricia (69), and Mayela (71) open up about their hidden sexuality, breaking the silence they shared with mothers, sisters, daughters, and granddaughters. Backed by Costa Rican Fauna Fund, Ibermedia, Hubert Bals Fund. Presented at the San Sebastian CoProduction Forum. Sudasassi gained acclaim for her feature debut, “El despertar de las hormigas,” the first Central American film to be Goya nominated.
“Noviembre,” (“November”), Milena Times (Brazil, Ponte Produtoras / Espreita Filmes
In northeastern Brazil, 18-year-old Janaína, the first in her family to pursue a college degree, grapples with a surprise pregnancy. Three generations sharing a cramped apartment navigate love and conflict. “November” is director Milena Times’ debut feature. She is known for her award-winning short films, “Dam” (2016) and “Au Revoir” (2013).
“Pepe,” Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias (Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Namibia, Monte y Culebra, 4A4 Productions /Pandora Films)
In Colombia, three hippos, abandoned after the death of their owner, drug lord Pablo Escobar, continue to thrive. Pepe and his brother are born. A power struggle follows; Pepe loses to his brother and is banished. In the Magdalena River, he encounters “two-legged” beings. The fiction, narrated by Pepe’s ghost, explores unknowing souls. Carlo de los Santos found early success with short “SheSaid HeWalks HeSaid SheWalks” and docu “Santa Teresa and Other Stories.” “Cocote” won a Signs of Life Golden Leopard at Locarno.
“Tiguere,” (“Tiger”), José María Cabral (Dominican Republic, Tabula Rasa, Trukemer)
In a Caribbean community, wealthy parents enroll their teenage sons in a boot camp led by Alberto, an Alpha male, where they’re trained to become “real” men. Pablo, Alberto’s own son, a budding artist, embarks on a journey of self-discovery. The Dominican Republic’s most renowned filmmaker, Cabral is known for socially relevant works like “Carpinteros” and “Hotel Coppelia,” lauded at national and international film festivals, including Sundance.
“Una casa con dos perros,” (A House with Two Dogs”), Matías Ferreyra (Argentina, Gualicho Cine SRL / Vega Cine SRL)
In the 2001 Argentina crisis, 9-year-old Manuel’s family moves in with his grandmother La Tati, causing conflicts with Uncle Raul and a deceased dog. Amid the turmoil, Manuel finds an unexpected bond with his grandmother. Filmmaker Ferreyra co-founded Osa animation studio and won awards for his work, including for the script of “Una casa con dos perros.”