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LatinoBuzz: Spanish-Latin American Co-productions Win-Win or Win-Lose?

Photo of Vanessa Erazo By Vanessa Erazo | SydneysBuzz June 13, 2012 at 9:24PM

Latin Americans have an iffy relationship with Spain. We get it, colonialism leaves scars. But, like it or not, they share language, culture, and DNA. They also share a faltering economy (along with the rest of the world). In times like these, when it’s hard for anyone to put together enough money to make a movie, collaboration is key. Spanish and Latin American co-productions are at an all-time high. This in part has led to a resurgence in the amount of movies produced each year in both Spain and Latin America.
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Latin Americans have an iffy relationship with Spain. We get it, colonialism leaves scars. But, like it or not, they share language, culture, and DNA. They also share a faltering economy (along with the rest of the world). In times like these, when it’s hard for anyone to put together enough money to make a movie, collaboration is key. Spanish and Latin American co-productions are at an all-time high. This in part has led to a resurgence in the amount of movies produced each year in both Spain and Latin America.

Why a co-production?

There are many benefits to collaborating: pooling of financial resources, more options for government incentives and subsidies, better chances at entering each other’s markets, and risk reduction. Particularly in smaller Latin American countries where a weak film industry provides few funding opportunities and finding crews with professional experience is difficult, a co-production with Spain is a no-brainer. But, this is not without controversy.

Spanish Conquistadors or Equal Partners?

There are critics who warn about reproducing dependency on Spain (some dare to use the word neo-colonialism) and reinforcing economic disparities between the two regions. There is also concern about the effect outside sources of funding can have on content. Many wonder how much editorial control comes with allowing Spain to bankroll a project. Despite the criticism and concern Spanish-Latin American co-productions continue to increase and can offer lots of lessons to U.S. producers looking to team up with their southern neighbors.

How does it work?

As a result of the creation of a film institute (the ICAA or Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales) and policy changes in the eighties, Spain spearheaded a multinational organization called CAACI (La Conferencia de Autoridades Audiovisuales y Cinematográficas de Iberoamerica, or Conference of Ibero-American Audiovisual and Film Institutes). Its members are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, México, Panamá, Perú, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela. CAACI brokered the creation of conventions and co-production treaties amongst its member countries. On top of these multilateral agreements, Spain has several bilateral agreements with individual Latin American countries. Depending on which agreement or convention is applied the conditions are:

(Taken from ‘Industry Report: Produce - Coproduce. How to coproduce with Spain”)

  • For bilateral agreements; the minor producer’s participation cannot account for less than 20%, while the main producer’s cannot account for more than 80%, only allowing co-productions with real creative participation.
  • For multilateral agreements, where the European or Ibero American Conventions are applied; the minor producer’s participation cannot account for less than 10%, while the main producer’s cannot exceed 70%. In this last case, certain financial co-productions are permitted.

Ibermedia is another source of funding that pools financial contributions from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, México, Panamá, Paraguay, Perú, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Although the fund receives contributions from each member country, the majority of the money comes from Spain and mostly goes to production costs. Ibermedia also grants financing for a film's development, distribution, exhibition and promotion. The main requirements are:

(Taken from ‘The New International Co-Production Scenario’ and ‘Co-Production and the Cultural Politics of Constructing an Ibero-American Audiovisual Space' by Tamara Falicov.

  • Co-productions must be among at least three countries.
  • Films must be in Spanish or Portuguese.
  • The director, actors, and technical crew must be from an Ibero-American country.
  • Beneficiaries are limited to independent production companies in countries that are members of the Ibermedia Program.
  • Repayable loans are allocated to each co-producer on the basis of their financial contribution in the co-production.
  • Up to 50 percent of the funding may be awarded by Ibermedia; the rest must come from additional financing sources
  • Films receiving funding are typically very low-budget, and Ibermedia’s contributions range from $30,000 to $200,000 per project

What about us in the U.S.?

It may be hard to believe but the U.S. has no co-production treaties. None! Still, Americans can enter as a third-party in treaty co-productions giving access to the same tax incentives and expanded market access as their partners. With an eye towards fostering collaborations in the absence of treaties, Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) offers the No Borders International Co-Production Market, “the oldest and most prominent co-production market in the U.S.” IFP also operates the International Alliance Program with partners in various regions, the Latin American Training Center (LATC) acts as the official partner for Latin America. And for Latin American immigrants and U.S-born Latinos who are eligible for dual citizenship, opportunities abound.

Written by Juan Caceres and Vanessa Erazo, LatinoBuzz is a weekly feature on SydneysBuzz that highlights emerging and established Latino indie talent and upcoming trends in Latino film with the specific objective of presenting a broad range of Latino voices. Follow@LatinoBuzzon twitter.

Notable Spanish-Latin American Co-productions

El espinazo del diablo (The Devil’s Backbone, dir. Guillermo del Toro, Spain-Mexico, 2001)

La ciénaga (The Swamp, dir. Lucrecia Martel, Argentina-Spain-France, 2001)

El crimen del Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro, dir. Carlos Carrera, Mexico-Spain-Argentina-France, 2002)

Whisky (dir. Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll, Uruguay-Spain, 2004)

XXY (dir. Lucía Puenzo, Argentina-Spain, 2007)

This article is related to: LatinoBuzz, Latino, Guillermo del Toro, Film Funding & Financing, International

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