‘Harpoon,’ ‘Rifle,’ ‘3 Zene’ Play Ventana Sur’s Copia Cero

John Hopewell
Variety

BUENOS AIRES — Argentine Tomas Espinoza’s “Harpoon,” Brazilian Davi Pretto’s “Rifle” and Mexican Sergio Flores Thorija’s “3 Zene or (Waking Up From My Bosnian Dream)” play Copia Cero, a new section at this year’s Ventana Sur Latin American market focusing on more open arthouse or mainstream titles still apt for festival play.

“Accesible, theme-driven films from writer-directors with strong stories and something to say,” said Jose Maria Riba, who curates the section with Eva Morsch,  the titles were selected for their chances of snagging a sales agent’s pick-up, he added.

They also deliver a telling portrait of  “the preoccupations of adolescents or just twenty somethings” in Latin America and beyond, said Riba, pointing out that two productions are set in secondary schools.

Five of the six feature projects indeed offer visions of youth, their highly-challenged or dead-end futures (“Rifle”), struggles for education (one part of “3 Zene”), confrontation with the laws of their land (“7 Semanas”), need to emigrate (“3 Zene”), nihilist mind-sets (“Minezota,” “Harpoon”) and worldview aeons from their parents’ generation (“Harpoon”).

“It’s not easy to own anything, there’s only one owner here,’ laments a near-to-death rebel farm labourer who has been evicted from his land by big landowners. The idea of getting good education, a job, owning a home and raising a family, seems a pipe-dream or at best a huge battle. Families, if they appear at all, are often broken, or their possibility of staying together fast receeding.

“Harpoon” may surprise. It comes to Copia Cero with a good buzz but little track record, having just been seen as a project at Produire Au Sud, a workshop at Nantes’ 3 Continents Festival in France. The first feature of Argentina-bred Espinoza, it enters on a school director (German de Silva, star of Cannes Camera d’Or winner “Las Acacias”) who steadily goes off the rails as he struggles with rebellious students and his own conscience when the prostitute he frequents floats the idea of his selling one of his students into prostitution. In Argentina, around 13 kids a day are victims of prostitution rings, exploitation and slavery, Espinoza has commented. Martin Aliaga, who helped develop Pablo Fendrik “Blood Appears” and Adrian Caetano’s “Francia” while at Magma, produces this “harsh film which makes no concessions,” said Riba,

“Rifle,” from Brazil’s Davi Pretto, his awaited follow-up to Berlinale Forum player “Castanha,” is a Western, but centres not on how the West was won, but how Brazil’s countryside is being lost to large landowners buying up penniless farmers’ lands to plant vast plains of soya and rice as the dream of social advance and immigration to a big city breaks down.

Set up at Porto Alegre-based Tokyo Filmes, run by Paola Wink and one of the standard bearers of Brazilian regional cinema, “Rifle” builds towards violence as a young, half-witted sheep-hand takes up his rifle, feeling that a landowner is trying to run the family he works for off their land, and begins to shoot at vehicles hurtling down the country dirt tracks.

“Something between a road movie, Western and suspenser,” Pretto has said, “Rifle” won critics’ awards for best film, screenplay and sound at September’s Brasilia Film Festival. Produced by Bela Tarr’s Sarajevo’s Film Factory and Mexico’s Lucia Films, run by director Michel Franco (“After Lucia,” “Chronic”), “3 Zene” expands on Sergio Flores Thorija’s “Bosnian Dream,” which won best fiction short at 2015’s Morelia Festival. It takes in three young women in Sarajevo and their life dreams which chafe with the hide-bound city. All turn implicitly on immigration: A Brazilian girl working in a bar at night to pay her studies; a Bosnian student in love with her best g.f.; a kitchen help who cares for her sick mother while dreaming of emigrating to the U.S

Shot largely in b/w, a working class tale of a conflicted couple in Mexico’s Ciudad Nesa, the music-drenched “Minezota” proved the biggest winner at Mexico’s Impulso Morelia last year, where it screened in rough-cut. World premiering in competition in October, once more at Morelia, the second movie from Carlos Enderle (“Chalango Chronicles”) turns on Ismael who wants to front his nihilist techno-pop band, a Mexican answer to Depeche Mode, and Violeta. his girl friend, who dreams of starting a family and enrolls a mormon for the purpose.

Chilean Constanza Figari’s debut, and inspired by real events, “7 Semanas” (pictured) turns on a 23-year-old university student which decides to abort. A graduation feature from a new all-woman team at Universidad del Desarrollo in Chile, where abortion is illegal and opposed by many Chileans, “7 Semanas” focuses on “a subject which can interest in a lot of countries, the decision of having or not a child,” said Riba.

‘The most mainstream of all the section’s propositions,” said Riba, “Carpinteros” presents a love story between the inmates of a men and women’s penitentiary. It is helmed by the Dominican Republic’s Jose Maria Cabral who spent nine months in jails developing the movie.

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