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Three Things Impacting Latin American Cinema 

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By Stephanie Ornelas 

All eyes are on cinema in Latin America. If you watched films The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future (2022) or Dos Estaciones, winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, it’s evident that the industry is really honing in on Latin American cinema. Sundance Collab and the Sundance Institute International Program are teaming up with New York nonprofit Cinema Tropical to offer a brand-new free webinar series in Spanish. During its first conversation, distinguished producers came together to discuss their own professional experiences as successful producers — the first time they discovered their passions, why they wanted to become producers in the first place, and how they got started. 

Carlos A. Gutiérrez, co-founder and CEO of nonprofit Cinema Tropical, joined established producers of Latin American cinema: award-winning producer Benjamín Domenech from Argentina, Nicolás Celis, producer and founder of Pimienta Films from Mexico, and producers Fernando Epstein and Agustina Chiarino (Monos, Las herederas). 

The group talked about important topics like finding the right director to work with, managing inflated egos, and how the Latin American region has created a vital and dynamic cinematography style. Throughout this inaugural webinar, these producers shared a few takeaways from their experiences working in Latin American cinema.  

Working with Directors 

Domenech started his career in programming. Growing up with insomnia, he was unsure what he wanted to do, but knew he loved film. He studied filmmaking in college and would soon become a respected producer. Over the years, he developed several takeaways when it came to picking directors for the films he produces. 

“[The director] has a distinct form or perspective of transmitting some ideas to the world, so it’s about trying to accompany that type of decision with what sort of film to pursue and what kind of idea to impart,” says Domenech. “What ideas are appropriate for the correct moment in the market in which we find ourselves, now or later?”

“Esa persona por allí tiene distinta forma o distinto perspectivo de transmitir algunas ideas al mundo, entonces también se trata un poco de acompañar ése tipo de decisión de qué película perseguir, qué idea apartir, que idea tiene el futuro, cuáles son apropiadas para el momento correcto en el mercado en que se encuentra el mundo ahora o después.”

“[The director] has a distinct form or perspective of transmitting some ideas to the world, so it’s about trying to accompany that type of decision with what sort of film to pursue and what kind of idea to impart,” says Domenech. “What ideas are appropriate for the correct moment in the market in which we find ourselves, now or later?”

 

The Need for More Producers 

 

The group talked about some major cinematic achievements in Latin America and how historically, cinema has always been an art form looked at purely through the eyes of the artist — and it needs to stay that way. But producer Agustina Chiarino talked about one thing that’s lacking in Latin American cinema: producers. 

 

“I think the proportion is a bit unbalanced. There are a lot more people to direct/directors and so many others [in different roles] than producers,” says Chiarino. “I’m not talking about directors who also produce because they have no choice. In general, the profession of a producer — good, trustworthy ones who are capable of having confrontations with the directors… I think they are truly needed.” 

“Creo que la proporción está un poco desbalanceada, qué hay mucha más gente para dirigir y mucha más gente de eso que los productores, PRODUCTORES. No estoy hablando de productores, o sea, directores que se tienen que auto producir porque no les queda de otra, ese tipo de cosa. Pero en general, la profesión de productor- bueno, confiables, que sean capaz de tener esas confrontaciones con los directores, no…creo que si faltan.”

“I think the proportion is a bit unbalanced. There are a lot more people to direct/directors and so many others [in different roles] than producers,” says Chiarino. “I’m not talking about directors who also produce because they have no choice. In general, the profession of a producer — good, trustworthy ones who are capable of having confrontations with the directors... I think they are truly needed.”

Team Collaboration 

 

Gutiérrez highlighted the fact that working in the world of cinema can affect a person’s ego, and asked the producers how [or if] that impacts the way they work with directors. 

 

“We live in a world of inflated egos, but there are those who recognize that when it comes to filmmaking, there are many members working towards the same goal,” Chiarino explains. 

 

“[The best directors] recognize that their film is a project of many people and for me, directors who recognize their work exists because of that is so important. This collective concept is the basis of cinematic art.”

“Los productores buenos se cuentan con los dedos de la mano. Realmente, es difícil encontrar esa sinergia, Y los directores casi siempre tienen esa charla, también de ‘che, con quien puedo producir’ porque, o sea, les cuesta a veces, hablando de este mundo del cinema independiente. Yo como reafirmando lo que había dicho antes, siento que obviamente vivimos en un mundo súper ego, no? Pero también está como esa cosa de la personas educadas, que también reconozcan que la película es una película de varios, de varias personas empujando para hacer lo mismo, y para mí los directores que reconocen que su obra está porque tiene eso equipo que los rodea, para mí es fundamental a la hora de trabajar, porque la película crece…entonces para mí ese concepto colectivo es uno de las bases del arte cinematográfico.”

“We live in a world of inflated egos, but there are those who recognize that when it comes to filmmaking, there are many members working towards the same goal,” Chiarino explains. “[The best directors] recognize that their film is a project of many people and for me, directors who recognize their work exists because of that is so important. This collective concept is the basis of cinematic art.”

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