‘Black Snow,’ ‘Rifle’ Play Ventana Sur Fest

John Hopewell

The 2016 edition of Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur, already Latin America’s largest movie meet-mart, will see the biggest makeover in its history, opening up its floors to television, animation, and VR.

Launched in 2009 by the Cannes Festival and Film Market and Argentina’s Incaa Film Institute, Ventana Sur will still screen dozens of movies, such as Ricardo Darin-starrer “Black Snow.”

Bernardo Bergeret, Ventana Sur co-director, says early accreditations were tracking more or less in line with 2015, but although it may or may not be bigger, it will certainly be busier, as it embraces radical change now forging a new content industry in Latin America. 

In TV, for example, Latin America is in the throes of change. 

“In Latin markets, there are more thrillers and less episodes,” the Wit’s Virginia Mouseler proclaimed at October’s Mipcom TV fair, screening excerpts from Globo’s 12-episode season of “Supermax,” “Justice” (20-episodes per sea- son) also from Globo, and Telefe’s “Love After Love,” a second-chance romance telenovela with only 60 segments. 

“There’s an evolution towards upscale, pay-TV style fiction,” says Mouseler’s colleague, Bertrand Villegas.

Encouraged by the success of Telemundo’s Super Series, a revamp of the traditional telenovela format, and competing more than ever with U.S. and international series, broadcasters are cutting season lengths from 100 episodes to 60 or sometimes less, he adds.

New SVOD services, such as Televisa’s Blim, which launched in February and plans five to seven original series a year, or the cut-price ClaroVideo, owned by Carlos Slim’s American Movil, are targeting younger audiences with a mix of U.S. fare, cop series, and thrillers.

Despite economic headwinds, Latin American pay-TV video subscribers will grow 17.4% from the second quarter of 2016 through to the close of 2020 to reach 70.4 million, according to an IHS Technology report.    

Latin American broadcasters are already making major investments in the exporting of flagship series. The Palais des Festivals in Cannes was emblazoned with a billboard for “Love After Love,” from Argentine TV network Telefe, though the series is months away from its broadcast.

As broadcasters and moviemakers — such as Argentina’s Daniel Burman and Lucia Puenzo, Mexico’s Gaz Alazraki and Gabriel Ripstein, and Brazil’s Fabiano Gullane — drive ever-more into TV series, Ventana Sur is responding with Fiction Factory, a two-day market and conference.

Among the first companies signed up are Argentina’s Underground, producer of “El Marginal,” an original prison-set thriller that won the top prize at 2016’s SeriesMania in Paris; Cisne Films, producer of “Perfidia” and “La Casa del Mar,” nominated for an Intl. Emmy; and Polka, a driving force behind “Love, Divina,” a digital-age, pan-Latin American teen drama, and a hot ticket at Mipcom.

Outside free-to-air broadcast, Latin America’s TV sectors are still not mature. Its animation production is niche but growing, boasting at least one animation studio of some scale, Mexico’s Anima Estudios. 

An exclusive area at Ventana Sur, called Animation, will hold pitching sessions for seven animated features and series, roundtables and presentations. The new mini-mart bows in a year when Chile’s “Bear Story” won an animated short Academy Award, Brazil’s “The Boy and the World” was nominated for an animated feature Oscar, and won the big prize at Annecy Animation Festival, as did Brazil’s “Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury” did the year before. Animation launches in partnership with Annecy’s Intl. Animation Film Market, giving Ventana Sur a second alliance with a partner based in France.

Latin America’s animation sector is driven, in part, by cultural concern. The region boasts an avid market for animation. From 2010-14, Mexico ranked as the third-biggest market by admissions for animation films in the world, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory. Its regional film producers fear its children will grow up on a surfeit of Hollywood animation. 

“Brazil lacks family entertainment produced out of Brazil,” said producer Fabiano Gullane, announcing “Rio 2096” a couple years ago. 

Five of the seven features in the Animation area present alternatives to traditional animation, mining indigenous cultures, rites, and offering strong ecological themes. “Aimbo’s” young heroine battles illegal mining in the Amazon, while “Imilla” features a Peruvian Heidi romping in the high Andes and rising up against dastardly plan to destroy its water reserves.

Just how successful Latin American animation can be in the face of the Hollywood juggernauts is an open question. But there have been some isolated encouraging results. Grossing $9.1 million for Pantelion, for instance, was Mexico’s “Un gallo con muchos huevos,” the highest-grossing foreign-language movie in the U.S. last year. If it is to grow, Latin America’s animation industries need more systematic state support.

Ventana Sur and its organizers are there to help build regional growth.

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