BAL Holds 14th Edition with New Director

By Richard Shpuntoff

The Buenos Aires Lab (BAL), a production lab for Latin American independent film, held its 14th edition this past weekend at BAFICI, the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Film, and for the first time ever with a new director. Founded in 2002 by Ilse Hughan of Fortuna Films and Violeta Bava of Ruda Cine, BAL was the first program of its kind to support Latin American films at their various stages of production. After 13 years of running the program they founded, Hughan and Bava have passed the torch on to Agustina Costa Varsi, also a producer, whose most recent film Il Solengo had its U.S. premiere at Art of the Real earlier this month.

Costa Varsi is taking the reins at a moment of great changes and challenges in the region. On one front, BAL inspired the creation of many similar programs in other Latin American nations and in recent years the program has been looking to meet more specific needs for producers and filmmakers so as not to make itself redundant. And on the other, after over a decade of increased governmental support for Argentine film, the future looks very uncertain for Argentine filmmakers. The new presidential administration that came in this past December and marks a 180 degree opposition to the outgoing administration, is reviewing the policies Argentine Film Institute (INCAA) and considering funding cuts or, at the very least, a restructuring of priorities.

Nele Wohlatz, a German filmmaker who has lived in Argentina for six years, and whose film El futuro perfecto / The Perfect Future (pictured right) about a young Chinese immigrant in Argentina won two awards at the BAL (see complete list of films and awards below), talked about the importance of federal funding for filmmakers in Argentina: “My first two films were funded in large part by the Film Institute. For a lot of filmmakers here, this funding has offered us possibilities for taking important first steps in our careers.” Alejandra Grinschpun, who is one of two producers of Soldado / Soldier which also won two of the Work-in-Progress awards, noted that “in the last ten years, Argentine documentary film has grown in quantity, as well as quality and diversity (in large part due to the “digital fund” which provides funding for low budget digital films), but that currently the filmmaking world, and the world of culture in general here, is in a state of alert.”

BAL Director Costa Varsi stated that “BAL’s role is to complement what already exists, so as the new director I am focusing on what already exists and not trying to second guess the new government.” Along with the traditional Work-in-Progress competition which was the central event of this year’s BAL, Costa Varsi put a new focus on distribution. Wohlatz said she was particularly excited about the new “distribution tutorials”. BAL invited Aranka Matits of Featurette and Tom Davia of Cinemaven to sit down one-on-one with all the participants to discuss festivals and distribution. Costa Varsi explained, “Next year I plan to expand the program on distribution, but I want to keep the one-on-one meetings we started this year as a confidential space where filmmakers and producers can ask questions they might feel uncomfortable about making in front of a group of peers: Can I ask a festival about transportation and lodging if they haven’t offered? How much do different festivals pay for screening films out of competition? How much do cable channels pay for rights? BAL started exclusively as a production lab, but we need to expand what it can provide to producers and filmmakers to help them not just finish their film but bring it to broader audiences."

Selected projects and awards

1922 (Argentina / Francia / Alemania)
Director: Martín Mauregui
Producers: Agustina Llambi Campbell y Fernando Brom

Al desierto / To the Desert (Argentina)
Director: Ulises Rosell
Producers: Ezequiel Borovinsky, Alejandro Israel
Winner:  Lahaye Award

António um dois três / Antonio one two three (Brazil / Portugal)
Director: Leonardo Mouramateus
Producer: Gustavo Beck
Winner: Estudio Ñandú Award

El futuro perfecto (working title) / The Perfect Future (Argentina)
Director: Nele Wohlatz
Producer: Cecilia Salim
Winner: Audiovisual District Award and Cinecolor Award

Elon não acredita na morte / Elon Doesn’t Believe in Death (Brazil)
Director: Ricardo Alves Jr.
Producers: Thiago Mac êdo Correia, Michael Wahrmann

Fin de semana / Weekend (Argentina)
Director: Moroco Colman
Producer: Sofía Castells
Winner: Marché du Film Producers Workshop Award

Los decentes (Argentina / Austria / Corea)
Director: Lukas Valenta Rinner
Producer: Ana Godoy

Los territorios / Territories (Argentina / Brasil / Chile / Palestina)
Director: Iván Granovsky
Producers: Ezequiel Pierri, Jerónimo Quevedo

Soldado / Soldier (Argentina)
Director: Manuel Abramovich
Producers: Gema Juárez Allen, Alejandra Grinschpun
Winner: Talkbox Award and Universidad del Cine Award

Viejo Calavera / Dark Skull (Bolivia)
Director: Kiro Russo
Producer: Pablo Paniagua
Winner: Pomeranec Award, Sinsistema Award and Marché du Film Producers Workshop Award