Latin American Co-productions

in 6th Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival

by Angel Comas Puente

12 of the 22 feature films screened in the “Primere Latina” section of the 2004 Rio Film Festival are co-productions, mainly with Spanish companies. Other European countries participate in only six of them.

Co-production is a tradition in the Spanish film industry. The first financial co-operation of a Spanish film company with a foreign one took place as early as 1930 when a French company shared risks in the production of one of the first Spanish sound films with a Barcelona film company, Orphea Films.

Later, at the end of the forties and during the fifties, Suevia Films / Cesáreo González discovered the benefits of Latin American markets (obviously with the same language) making co-productions (some of them unofficially) especially with Mexico — a country with no diplomatic relationship with Franco’s Spain — and Argentina. Stars like Jorge Negrete, Libertad Lamarque, Hugo del Carrill, Luis Sandrini, Maria Félix or Arturo de Córdova opened the way for constant cooperation.

Other producers followed Suevia Films. Ignacio F. Iquino or Balcazar Productions and many others made some co-productions with Latin American countries and at the end of the 50s official regulations promoted co-productions with French, German or Italian companies, as opposed to other Latin American ones. Comedies, thrillers and westerns (“spaghetti” westerns as they were called) took benefits from subvention laws in these countries. Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (Per un pugno di dollari, 1964) and For A Few Dollars More (Per qualche dollari di piu, 1966) were co-produced with Spanish, Italian and German companies. One of the few but most renowned films co-produced with Latin American was Luis Bunuel’s Viridiana, made by Gustavo Alatriste (Mexico) and Pere Portabella (Spain).

In the 80s, and thanks to Television Espanola, Spanish co-productions with Latin America arose and helped to save its cinema which was presently affected in general by political and economical crisis and conflicts. Unfortunately most of its films were not released in Spanish theatres, only on the TVE International channel.

Now in Spain, there are in general two kinds of official subventions before making the film: for new directors (the two first films) and experimental or artistical films; after releasing the film: a percentage related to the box office. With its legal requirements in that market, producers complete their budgets with TV rights and with co-producers.

The main reason for a Spanish company making films in co-production with a Latin American one is of course economical. Production costs are lower in Latin America and films have an assured release in current Spanish art houses (Verdi, Renoir, etc.) and some in the theatres devoted to mainstream films.

The twelve co-productions released in this year’s Rio Film Festival are made by Latin filmmakers and with Latin actors and the subjects are about Latin America. Let’s take a quick look at them:

The Holy Girl (La nina santa), Argentina, Italy, Netherlands and Spain, Lucia Martel (2004). Portrait of conservative Argentina society.

Lost Embrace (El abrazo partido), Argentina, France, Italy and Spain, Daniel Burman (2004). Unusual depiction of Buenos Aires Jewish community.

So Far Away (Aunque estés lejos), Spain and Cuba, Juan Carlos Tabio (2003). Differences between Spanish and Cuban idiosyncrasy.

B-Happy, Chile, Spain and Venezuela, Gonzalo Justiniano (2003). Portrait of a rural Chile teenager.

Cleopatra, Argentina and Spain, Eduardo Mignona (2003). Norma Aleandro’s tour de force.

Rolling Family (Familia rodante), Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Germany and France, Pablo Trapero (2004) Original portrait of an unusual family.

La puta y la ballena, Argentina and Spain, Luis Puenzo (2004). A woman in crisis tries to find herself in Patagonia.

Sumas y restas, Colombia and Spain, Victor Gaviria (2004). Thriller about narco traffic.

What the Eye Doesn’t See (Ojos que no ven), Peru and Spain, Francisco Lombardi (2004). The filmmaker closes his political trilogy.

Perder es una cuestion de método, Colombia and Spain, Sergio Cabrera (2004). Thriller about political corruption.

Salvador Allende, Chile, France, Belgium, Germany, Mexico and Spain, Patrizio Guzmán (2004). A new portrait of Allende.

A Day Without a Mexican (Un dia sin mexicanos), Mexico, United States and Spain, Sergio Arau (2004). A reflection on the role of the Mexican in the United States.

These films would have been impossible to make without the support of foreign partners. Besides Spanish investors we find minor participation from private French, Belgium, German and Dutch companies.

In my opinion, through these films, I can establish that the Spanish producers have not interfered with artistic creativity and the films can be considered like “films d´auteur”, that’s to say personal works, and above all, Latin American films.

Angel Comas