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Why the Fenix Awards Matter and Los Cabos International Film Festival

Why the Fenix Awards Matter and Los Cabos International Film Festival

Closely followed by Los Cabos International Film Festival in early November, and soon to be followed by the Academy Awards, the Fénix Iberoamerican Film Awards, highlighting and celebrating cinema made in Latin America, Spain, and Portugal as well as applauding the professionals involved was inaugurated by Cinema 23 this October 30th.  This event’s importance goes beyond bringing together hundreds of figures from the Iberoamerican film community to celebrate the well-deserved recognition to their work and strengthening relationships among the diverse industries as it forges the region’s identity.  

It offers proof of the region’s vitality to the rest of the world based on the films’ impact upon the rest of the world.   This award ceremony shows the final product of coproductions.  The world film industry agrees that coproductions are the engine driving production today.  Regarding Latin America,  Ibermedia of Spain first initiated coproductions with Latin America in 1998, but in the sixteen years of its activity, coproductions with Latin America have proliferated beyond Spain and beyond Europe to include Asia, Arab Middle East, Israel, Canada and the U.S.

So. Korea’s Finecut was involved in Pedro Trapero’s 2008 film “Lion’s Den” and in his 2010 film,”Carancho,” a coproduction between Argentinian producers Matanza Cine, Patagonik Film Group and South Korea’s Finecut as well as French distributor Ad Vitam as investor and local distributor. Finecut handled world rights sales outside Latin America and France.)  Independent coproductions are now embracing North America as well and the place to discover this is the Los Cabos International Film Festival.  CAA has literally established a beachhead in this Mexican town so recently battered by hurricane Odile.

Arab Middle East
The supernatural thriller “Out of the Dark” (“Aguas Rojas”) is a coproduction with 

Colombian production house Dynamo (“Undertow” aka “Contracorriente“) and Imagenation of Abu Dhabi, cofinanced with Participant Panamerica who also cofinanced Canana’s “Chávez” and Fabula’s “No“, the Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language film which Canana distributed in México.

Strategic Film Partners is devoting two years to Latin American coproductions.  This year we presented a case study of “The Games Maker” (“El inventor de juegos”), a Canadian-Argentinian-Italian coproduction in English whose 

producers Tina Pehme and Kim Roberts were in Cabo looking or their next project at the Coproduction Forum.

For those who were at the Cabo International Film Festival this November 12 – 16, and who attended the Financing Panel to hear Variety’s John Hopewell moderate the stellar participants which included Jonathan King from Participant, Mark Musselman from 10x2yinc, CAA’s Micah Green, UTA’s Rena Ronson and Raul Del Alto of Mexico’s AG Studios or heard Reese Witherspoon, whose film “Wild” opened the festival and whose agent, coincidentally is CAA, know that Mexico and by extension, Latin America, are registering high on the scale for U.S. and Canada investment.  The unique positioning of the festival as the uniting force between U.S., Canada and Mexico ensures that the fourth edition’s growth will be huge next year.  Some are also calling it the Cannes of Latin America.

Recognition of the Exhibition Sector, awarded by the leading exhibitors in the region went to Mexican actor and producer, Eugenio Derbez, for “No se aceptan devoluciones” (“Instructions Not Included”).   The resurgence of Mexican films which began in 2001 with the all-time hit “Amores Perros by Alejandro González Iñárritu and which also introduced Gael Garcia Bernal to the public (U.S. box office $5,408,467, worldwide $20,908,467) and “El Crimen del Padre Amaro” in 2002 (U.S. box office $5,717,044, worldwide: $26,996,738) up until the hits, Nosotros los Nobles” (The Nobel Family”) and “No se aceptan devoluciones” had the highest number admissions than any other Mexican film.  Twelve years later, in six weeks “No se aceptan devolucions”  outgrossed both “Amores” and “El crimen” combined. México Televisa’s Videocine Mexican box office was US $44,882,061 and U.S. box office was $44,143,000.  This is truly an exhibitor’s dream movie.

No sooner had “Los Nobles” swept the Mexican box-office off its feet than another Mexican movie, independently produced by Monica Lozano’s México City-based Alebrije Cine y Video, “Instructions Not Included” was released — first in the U.S. by Pantelion on August 30, 2013, almost three weeks before its Mexican release on September 20, 2013. The two countries grossed an equal amount. Moreover, Videocine released the film on 1,500 prints similar to a major release of a film such as “Batman“.  Through the Cinepolis chain’s use of satellite, these 1,500 prints were able to show on 2,500 screens.   This represents both a new release pattern and a new type of Mexican film.  
Previously Mexican films which were meant for the Mexican and Mexican-American audience (as opposed to those targeted to the art house audiences) were perceived as too Mexican by their U.S. target and they were released in the U.S. only after the Mexican release, and by that time, piracy had done its work in the U.S. and the film lacked the prestige of an “American” film.  This film and the previous film, “The Noble Family“, are not typically Mexican.  Their storyline could be transposed anywhere, and in fact “The Noble Family” remake rights have been sold to U.S.  In addition, releasing the film first in the U.S. changes the perception of the film in México.  Being such a success in U.S. paves the way for its success in México as if it were validated as a “good” film.  Added to these two elements is the third key to success, Eugenio Derbez, the director and star of “Instructions”, is a major TV comedy star in México and is known by all Mexicans wherever they reside. Mexican TV is quite powerful, it has a duopoly made by Televisa and TV Azteca. Derbez comes from Televisa. The film was also shot in English and Spanish and takes place in the U.S.  Finally, Derbez himself and former head of production at Pantelion, Ben Odell, have now established a production company, 3 Spas, pronounced “Tres Paz” which funnily enough sounds like “tripas” or “guts”.  

When Reese Witherspoon, whose film “Wild” opened the festival, said that she had asked Eugenio Derbez to be in a picture, the audience at the press conference was visibly moved.  What a great worldwide success a comedy starring these two would be.

While all films cannot reach the heights of “Instruction Not Included“, the benefits such a successful film bestows upon the industry is encouraging to other producers and distributors looking for fertile ground to till and harvest.  Los Cabos and the Fenix Awards are witness to this phenomena which has been gaining ground for the past decade and is no longer below the radar.

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