Sunday, January 4, 2015

VOXXI: 2014: A good year for Latin America’s film industry?

"2014: A Good Year for Latin America's Film Industry?"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
January 4, 2015

Originally published:

Latin America’s film industry had an interesting 12 months, with both hits and misses. No film company in the region can spend anywhere close to one of Hollywood’s summer blockbusters, but there were several new Latin American films this year with promising successes.
While Latin American films sporadically make a big splash in the U.S. market (The Motorcycle Diaries is a rare example), that does not mean that they cannot be highly profitable at home.
2014 productions
The departing year will end with some important milestones regarding Latin American films. Case in point is the Venezuelan mega-production about the South American hero Simon Bolivar. ‘The Liberator’ was very well received in Venezuela, it was also released in the U.S. and has made the short list for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2015 Oscars.
Meanwhile Cuba made headlines by producing ‘Meñique,’ its first animated 3D film. The movie was produced with help from a Spanish production company and did well for a kids-oriented film. (The Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodríguez wrote four original songs for the film).
As for Peruvian films, the most successful domestic production was ‘A Los 40,’ a comedy which revolves around a high school reunion. The second highest grossest film “hecho en Peru” was a suspense thriller entitled ‘Secreto Matusita.’
Additionally, the highlight of the Mexican film industry this year was ‘La Dictadura Perfecta,’ a controversial political satire of current President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration. The film opened on Friday, October 16, with a strong 1.7 million tickets sold on its debut. Nevertheless, there was one disappointment: ‘La Hija de Moctezuma,’ a comedy starring the renowned actress Maria Elena Velasco (aka La India Maria), which did not perform well upon its domestic release.
It is important to stress that Latin American countries are producing more films than ever before. For example, while it did not have any major domestic blockbusters, Colombia produced 28 films this year. According to the country’s Ministry of Culture, since 2010, Colombia has screened a total of 96 domestically-made films and 2014 set a record regarding how many movies were produced.
What do consumers want?
Certainly, apart from counting how many movies were made, it is important to know how many people went to see domestically-made movies.
Around 3.8 million tickets were sold for all Peruvian films screened this year, and ‘A Los 40,’ took the lion’s share with some 1.7 million viewers. In second place came ‘Secreto Matusita,’ with around 510 thousand. This would be a poor attendance record for a Hollywood production but they are fairly high for the Andean nation. In fact, ‘A Los 40’ is now the second highest grossing Peruvian film ever.
Nevertheless, in spite of a successful couple of movies, attendance has actually decreased: 4 million people saw Peruvian films in the past year, in comparison to only 3.8 million in 2014. A similar situation is occurring in Mexico: between January and October of this year, some 202 million tickets were sold for 516 movies, both domestic and foreign. This a drastic decrease to the 257 million tickets sold during the same period last year for when even fewer movies, 475, had been screened.
The question then becomes how will Latin American film producers, directors and script writers adapt to make their movies more competitive in the local market. One option is to make them more “Hollywood-esque:” with a focus on action, special effects, cheap jokes and simple plots instead of substance. It comes as no surprise, thus, that sequels are already being produced for ‘Asu Mare,’ the highest grossing Peruvian film ever, as well as ‘Cementerio General,’ a Peruvian successful horror film. Both movies came out in 2013 and while commercially successful, they did not have particularly intriguing plots.
Moreover, it is true that Latin American film industries are attempting to attract Hollywood productions to their countries. This would help local actors, directors and technicians learn from their more experienced American counterparts, and would also be a major boost to the local economy. One example of this is Colombia, which passed a law in 2012 that provides financial incentives to foreign directors if they film in that country.
Nevertheless, a concern regarding these initiatives is that future Latin American films will resemble Hollywood films and loose some of the Latin American style of directing, plots and themes.
It is unlikely that this will happen, at least not in the near future, as domestic films are still well received by the general Latin American population, though obviously not in the numbers that local film industries would like. Mexican actress Monica Huerta, who starred in 2014’s ‘El Crimen del Cacaro Gumaro,’ argues that “Mexican [film] productions are exciting and give diversity to the [film industry.]

Hopefully in 2015 more audiences will choose to watch domestically made films throughout the region instead of endless Hollywood sequels.

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