Today I am writing from Cartagena, Colombia where I attended FICCI, the Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena de Indias.
This former colonial jewel in the crown of Spain offers a huge array of delights, film-wise, art-wise, food-wise and people-wise. Gorgeous arts and gorgeous people, sweet, polite and proud. As much as I love Havana, Cartagena is how Havana should look.
And as much as I loved Careyes where I was last week, the art and artisanal scope here is so wide; from the Colombian painter and sculptor, Botero to indigenous palm weaving – décor for homes (not cheap!), bags, designer clothing, linen and rubies.
Aside from films, my big discoveries of the day are Ruby Rumie, a Colombian artist who spends much of her time here in her studio in the Getsemaní section of town and in Chile. Coincidentally (again) Gary Meyer (Telluride Film Festival) and his wife Cathy who are here with Gary on the Documentary Competition Jury (I just left them in Careyas!) also just discovered her as well. The other artist, Olga Amaral, works in indigenous styles of weaving and textile production and now is favoring gold leaf displays of woven wall tapestries. Stunning. Both are available at the NH Gallery, a place I just happened to wander into as I was walking from the theater to my equally stunning hotel Casa Pestagua.
The courteous and helpful people here are a proud mix of white, brown and black. They say the blacks will never follow the orders of a white. They say the blood of slaves is embedded in the wall fortifications of the city. The Inquisition here was very powerful, and they say the Jews (Conversos) coming in the conquistadors’ ships went to settle Medellín and the Catholics to Bogotá. Cartagena was the last city to be free of the Spanish crown and as such, it was extremely conservative.
It would take days to visit all the museums throughout the city. The Art Biennale is now in many of them (free entry) including the Museum of the Inquisition with its torture machines. The Museum of Gold with pre-Colombian gold artworks is astounding. All the gold of Latin America (and emeralds, diamonds and silver) went from here in the Spanish galleons back to Spain until the city declared its independence in 1811. We in the North know this history but from a different perspective. Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America and Gonzalo Arijon’s documentary Eyes Wide Open, an update of Galeano’s ideas are good starting points for understanding this part of the world. Eye opening indeed!
The beauty of the city and its people is matched by the food. There is great food here here and some very haute cuisine restaurants. Ceviches of many kinds, new sweet fruits like the pitaya and the drink mixing limeade and coconut milk delight the palate. The festival invites enough but not too many industry folks so it can host lunches and dinners in wonderful venues along with cocktail hours where we can all meet and talk. Talk among us is of food and film, film and food…even of food film festivals that are cropping up from Berlin, San Sebastian, here and in Northern California…stay tuned.
The Colombian government is aware of the need for the public to rediscover their own stories and to this end all the festival screenings are free, and all
are packed SRO. The government also supports filmmakers with a deliberate, well-planned and well executed strategy to increase production and create an
Colombian films’ biggest challenge is to increase their share of their rapidly growing domestic market, worth $182.3 million in box office in 2012. One way forward is international co-production, where BAM (Bogotá Audiovisual Market) July 14-18, 2014 plays a large role. There is a mini version of this here (Encuentros Cartagena), centering on French and Colombian co-production, but not limited to that, with guests like George Goldenstern from Cinefondation (Cannes), producer/ international sales agent Marie-Pierre Masia and and the ever present Thierry Lenouvel of Cine-Sud whose film Tierra en la lengua aka Dust on the Tongue won the Best Picture Award in Competition. Vincenzo Bugno of World Cinema Fund of the Berlinale is always here too as is Jose Maria Riba on the Jury of the Competition and programmer for San Sebastian and Directors Fortnight. Also on the jury are Wendy Mitchel and Pawel Pawlikowski whose film Ida (ISA: Portobello Film Sales) is playing (outside of the Competition). A look at the winning competition films shows the strength of co-productions today.
Cinema in Colombia continues its steep ascent in the international production world. The reasons, according to Bugno, lie in “new political decisions, funding structures, and the developing of a new producing environment that also has to do with new emerging young talent.”
A visit to the festival headquarters proves the point of the extensive government support of film not only for its own sake, but for the sake of all the
people, dispossessed, abused, LGBT, children and women. It is a beautiful sight to see such support, and the people seem to reciprocate; I hear more praise
than complaints about the government and everyone seems cautiously optimistic, aware of its current position vis à vis what has
thankfully become recent history with the guerillas who had been waging war with the government for the past 40 years and the current elections and
competing points of view between the former President Uribe and the current President Juan Manuel Santos.
AECID , Association Espagnola de Cooperacon Internacional para el Desarrollo (The Spanish Association for International Cooperation for Development), a festival sponsor supports social cohesion, equality of genders, construction of peace, respect for cultural diversity and the reduction of poverty.
Currently in Colombia, national cinema holds a 10% share of the Colombian market and 8% of the box office. In 2012, 213 films were produced in Colombia, a huge increase since 2009 when 19 were produced according to Ocal, the Observotario del Cine f nCl [sic]. In 2012, 23 of the 213 domestic films were released theatrically, a tremendous increase from the 6 Colombian films released in the year 2000. , This number surpasses every record in Colombia’s film history
This 10 day spectacular film festival gives free entry to all at 8 theaters and, proving the point that people love the movies, every single screening is packed solid, SRO. More than 135 films come from 27 countries. 48 daily screenings include 14 open air screenings in great locations. There are 40 world premieres and 26 Latin American premieres.
150 invited guests included Abbas Kiarostami, Clive Owen, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Pavel Pawlikowsky with his film Ida, John Sayles with whom I had an interesting talk about U.S. current distribution and of Return of Seacaucus Seven and Sunshine State. The screening of his film Go For Sisters has received an enthusiastic response from the audiences.
Since 2013, coproductions between the U.S. and Colombia with variations on the theme are on the rise. With its 40% cash rebate, Colombia is proving to be a great place to make movies.
Colombians such as Simon Brand are making English language genre films such as this year’s festival debuting Default (ISA: Wild Bunch). For budgets under US$1 million, action, thrillers and horror genres can cross borders, and can recoup costs and even profit.
The reverse is also notable. Four films screening here are Colombian films made by Americans. The winner to three prizes here for Best Director, Best Documentary and the Audience Prize, Marmato by Marc Grieco was workshopped twice at Sundance where it premiered this January 2014. It is represented internationally by Ro*co and its U.S. representative is Ben Weiss at Paradigm. The other three remarkable debut films are Mambo Cool by Chris Gude,Manos Sucias by Josef Wladyka (a Japanese-Polish American) and Parador Hungaro by Patrick Alexander and Aseneth Suarez Ruiz. Look for upcoming interviews with these four directors who came to Colombia and, because of their experiences here, decided to make these exceptional movies. My next blog will be interviews with each of these films’ directors.
Secundaria , the first film I saw here was not shot here although it too was directed by an American who made 21 trips to Cuba to make it. Documenting the high school ballet training and competitions held by Cuba’s world famous National Ballet School -- Watch the trailer here -- it was not only beautiful but it magically captured the ever-present economic issues of Cuba. I can’t wait to see Primaria about the grade school of the NBS.
Director and coproducer Mary Jane Doherty has been an Associate Professor of Film at Boston University since 1990. Proud of her lineage as a student of iconic documentarian Ricky Leacock, she developed B.U.’s Narrative Documentary Program: a novel approach to non-fiction storytelling using the building blocks of fiction film. Lyda Kuth , the coproducer, is founding board member and executive director of the LEF Foundation, which supports independent filmmakers through the LEF Moving Image Fund. In 2005, she established Nadita Productions and was producer/director on her first feature documentary, Love and Other Anxieties.
A cocktail party is given daily at the festival where we can all meet up. It was there I met Gail Gendler VP of Acquisitions for AMC/ Sundance Channel Global (international not domestic) and Gus
Dinner one night was with the jury for Nuevos Creadores (New Creators). Cynthia Garcia Calvo, Editor in Chief of LatamCinema.com, a Latino equivalent to Indiewire.com out of Chile and Argentina and I spoke of possible ways to cooperate. The third member of the jury, Javier Mejia, director of Colombia’s best film of 2008 Apocalypsur also has a documentary here, Duni, about a Chilean filmmaker who left Chile during the dictatorship and came to Colombia where he made political films in Medellin but never discussed his reasons for coming or even his Chilean roots. How happy I was that I had seen and enjoyed the films of the third jury member, Daniel Vega, who with his brother Diego made The Mute aka El Mudo (ISA: Urban Media) which played in Toronto and San Sebastian and his earlier film October, both dark comedies or perhaps dramadies dealing with subjective realities in unique environs of Peru we have never seen. He promised to help me with the Peru chapter of my upcoming book. Peru is in the lower middle of countries which support filmmaking. Their film fund is a rather laid back affair administered by the Ministry of Culture who receives money from the Ministry of Finance when they “get around to it”.
Jury for New Creators: Javier Mejía, Cynthia García Calvo and Diego Vega,displaying the winner for the Best Short Film: Alen Natalia Imery (Universidad del Valle) who won a SONY video camera, 2,000, 000 pesos of in kind services from Shock Magazin, and a scholarship for graduate Project Management and Film Production at the Autonomous University of Bucaramanga
Second prize went to The murmur of the earth Alejandro Daza (National University) - Win a SONY camera, and a Fellowship for Graduate Record Audio and Sound Design of the Autonomous University of Bucaramanga.
Other winners are:
OFFICIAL COLOMBIAN FILM COMPETITIONJurors: David Melo - Alissa Simon - Daniela MichelBest Film: Marmato by Mark Grieco (Colombia, USA) Winner of the I.SAT Award for $30K and the Cinecolor Award for $11k in deliveries
OFFICIAL DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION
OFFICIAL SHORT FILM COMPETITION
JurorsOswaldo Osorio -Pacho Bottia - Denis de la Roca
André Novais Oliveira (Brazil)Best Director: Manuel Camacho Bustillo for Blackout chapter 4 "A Call to Neverland" (Blackout capítulo 4 "Una llamada a Neverland") (Mexico). Winner of a SONY photographic camera.
Jurors: Mauricio Reina - Manuel Kalmanowitz - Sofia Gomez Gonzalez
Best Film: Like Father, Like Son by Hirokazu Koreeda (Japan). Winner of the RCN Award for $50 to promote the release of the film in Colombia.