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Cartagena Film Festival: Chris Gude, One of Four Americans Who are Making Colombian Films

Photo of Sydney Levine By Sydney Levine | Sydneys Buzz April 11, 2014 at 9:06PM

The Cartagena Film Festival Revisited: Coproductions are increasing in Colombia.The French are participating as special guests at the Encuentros (Coproduction Meetings) this year but coproductions of the last four years are with Germany, Norway, Spain in Europe as well as with Argentina, Peru and Uruguay and in 2013 with the U.S. as well.
Chris Gude director of "Mambo Cool"
Chris Gude director of "Mambo Cool"

Reporting from Cartagena Film Festival.

Coproductions are increasing in Colombia.The French are participating as special guests at the Encuentros  (Coproduction Meetings) this year but coproductions of the last four years have been with Germany, Norway, Spain in Europe as well as with Argentina, Peru and Uruguay.  In 2013 the U.S. joined in as well. 

There is a special relationship and notable variations on the coproduction theme between U.S. and Colombia. It doesn’t hurt that there is a direct flight on Jet Blue from N.Y. to Colombia , making travel less difficult to Colombia from the U.S. than it is from Europe.

Simon Brand's "Default"
Simon Brand's "Default"

Colombian directors such as Simon Brand (who lives in U.S.) are making English language genre films such as this year’s festival debuting Default which Wild Bunch has already sold in Hong Kong, the Middle East and the Netherlands.  For budgets under US$1 million, action, thrillers and horror genres can cross borders, and can recoup costs and even profit because they are in English and as such are perceived as more “Hollywood”, a positive marketing point. 

There are other such coproductions: Gallows Hill coproduced with Peter Block’s L.A.-based A Bigger Boat, David and Angelique Higgins’ Launchpad Productions and Andrea Chung of Bowery Hills Entertainment which has the further distinction of being sold internationally by IM Global. And there is Out of the Dark, a coproduction with the prestigious Participant.  These are not represented at the festival, and so they are not really the subject of this blog.

The reverse is also notable. Four films screening at the Cartagena Film Festival are Colombian films made by Americans.  Each one has been created by unique and different types of Americans. They are the subject of this blog. 

The winner of three (3!) prizes here for Audience Favorite, Best Director and Best Picture, Marmato by Mark Grieco was work-shopped twice at Sundance labs and premiered at Sundance this January 2014 (ISA: Ro*co, U.S. contact Ben Weiss at Paradigm).  Manos Sucias by Josef Wladyka is a film with great pedigrees, directed, produced and shot by a team who have received the highest film and business educations from Tisch and Stern Schools at NYU,  Parador Hungaro by Patrick Alexander and Aseneth Suarez Ruiz a work of passion made with love and sweat, and Mambo Cool by Chris Gude and uniquely beautiful and soulful study of a small part of the underbelly of the underworld in Medelin.

Following is an interview with Chris Gude, the director of Mambo Cool. Interviews will soon follow with the other three directors who came to Colombia and, because of their experiences here, decided to make these exceptional movies. With its 40% cash rebate, Colombia is a great place to make movies.

Mambo Cool

Mambo Cool

While only 60 minutes long, Mambo Cool stirred great interest in the beautiful and packed theater Teatro Adolfo Maijia Cine Colombia (TAM). In a unique impressionistic style, the depiction of a micro-ecology of the underbelly of Medellin. Colombia. At the core of the film is the connection between the characters' passion for mambo dancing, music and history. Drug dealers and drug takers, whores and salsa dancers spend time in the shadows, in rat-hole apartments or in a dance bar which actually exists in Medellin under the name El Bururu Barara, talking poetically and philosophically about the meaning of friendship vs. loyalty. The main salsero of this film gave us 5 minutes of dancing which I am going to post here as soon as I can figure out how.

"Mambo Cool"

I interviewed the filmmaker Chris Gude, an American who in 2006 came here to work with an NGO for displaced persons, met and established a friendship with the people in this fiction film in Medellín. Chris lives in New York. He graduated from Middlebury and attended Columbia grad school in anthropology. Perhaps his anthropology interests were part of the inspiration for this work. He returned to make this film when his friends here suggested he return to make a movie that he wrote in close collaboration with the film’s protagonist, Jorge Gavidor and other protagonist-friends. Jorge, who is the bald guy in the film is self-described as an industrial mechanic and inventor. The dialogue is stylized to communicate the magic of the environment. Cinema veritè would not work to communicate what they wanted about the environment. Chris also says that the film does not come close to fully communicating the community and mythology of the place. But for me it captures an essential rhythm and soulful quality that kept me immersed in the story.

The film has shown in various festivals and has no sales or distribution representation. Fid Marseilles invited it to play and since then it has played at the Transinema Festival in Lima, Split Film Festival, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma de Montréal, , Free Zone Festival in Belgrade, Serbia, Mar del Plata in Argentina and the Museum of the Moving Image in New York.

This article is related to: Cartagena de Indias, Colombia , The Cartagena International Film Festival (FICCI) , Mambo Cool , Chris Gude, Simon Brand, Default, Marmato , Mark Grieco, Manos Sucias, Josef Wladyka, Parador Hungaro , Latin American Films, International Film Market, International Film Festival, International Sales Agent, International, International Film Business

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