Doc Buenos Aires Stakes Its Claim in Latin America

This past October, Doc
Buenos Aires
put its eighth edition under its belt, establishing it as one
of the most solid forums for Latin American documentary production. The forum's
basic goal is to "stimulate the creation and development of original projects
with potential for international screening," but it also serves as a space for
exchanging ideas through the production forum as well as the screenings of
international works and presence of filmmakers. This year's edition included
Avi Mograbi with his most recent film, Z32; Thomas Heise with Children.
As Time Flies
; and Helke Sander with a retrospective of her work.

Yves Jeanneau, founder and director of France's Sunny Side of the Doc, returned to
serve on the jury for the first time since 2001, when the forum included 14
films, two from Chile and 12
from Argentina.
This year's forum truly represented the event's growth and diversification,
with 19 films from ten Latin American countries: Argentina,
Bolivia, Brazil, Chile,
Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador,
Peru, Uruguay and Chile.

Jeanneau, who has had a direct relationship with Latin
American filmmaking going back to 1990, notably co-producing works by Chilean
Patricio Guzmán such as Obstinate Memory and The Pinochet Case, was
very pleased with how the forum has grown. "I am very happy eight years later
to see that we are working with almost all the countries from Latin
America. The projects are better. They still have some training to
do and some experiences to get, but I can feel a very strong desire, a very
strong need for these films.

Debora Diniz's The House of the Dead (A Casa dos Mortos)

"I feel here much
more conviction: the desire and the need for making that film," Jeanneau
continues. "[And this] is not something I feel anymore, at least so strongly,
in Europe, or in the US or
in Canada.
[In those places] it's about making a documentary film as part of the business;
it's how to pay the rent, it's how to be famous. So, here I feel a stronger
will, a stronger determination, and I think it's necessary for documentary."

The forum included a two-day pitching workshop and a one-day
clinic, and ended with a pitching competition for 11 awards (in the form of
cash prizes, pre-sales and products and services). The projects selected to compete
revealed a broad diversity of subject matter. For example, the award for "Most
Creative Project," given by ARTE France, went to Brazilian filmmaker Debora
Diniz's The House of the Dead (A Casa dos Mortos), a portrait of the day-to-day life
of two men, intimate friends, who have lived for more than 30 years in one of
Brazil's psychiatric prisons-institutions that have been completely forgotten
by the rest of society. The EICTV Award, provided by the Escuela Internacional
de Cine y Televisión de San Antonio de los Baños, the famous and very
influential Cuban film school, went to Grandfathers (Abuelos), a
Chilean/Ecuadorian co-production by Carla Valencia Dávila that contrasts the
stories of her two grandfathers: an Ecuadorian self-taught doctor who cured his
own cerebral cancer, and a Chilean militant member of the Communist Party who
was caught and executed one month after the 1973 coup against the government of
Salvador Allende.

A third example of the diversity of films presented is The
River That Crosses Us
(El río que nos atraviesa) by Manuela Blanco
of Venezuela,
which won the Jan Vrijman Fund Award. The film, a kind of road movie that
travels towards and down the Orinoco
River, home to one of the
world's largest oil reserves, provides a glimpse into the lives of the various
people who will benefit and lose by the future exploitation of the region.

Carla Valencia Dávila's Grandfathers (Abuelos)

Aldrina Valenzuela's film Bullfighting Under (my
loose translation for Toreando bajo), which follows the travels and
adventures of a comic circus of bullfighting dwarfs who dream of conquering the
arenas of Spain, did not win any award, but the filmmaker felt she was returning
to Venezuela with some valuable experience. During her first pitch in front of
her peers, she was accused of being prejudiced against her subjects because of
her use of the term enanitos, which could
roughly be translated into English as "dwarfies." Valenzuela explained, "When I
first approached [the protagonists of the film], I was very tactful and tried
to be politically correct, and then they ended up showing me that this wasn't
necessary, that it was silly for me to worry about this. They call themselves
‘dwarfies' and ‘little people.' So I had already passed through that stage when
I came here...This kind of conflict seemed a bit strange. So I learned that I
need to explain [when pitching] a lot more about how I came to working on this
subject and how I came to know the protagonists, what had been the evolution
from thinking about meeting them to when I actually got to know them." Laughing,
she added, "I had to be more careful and more politically correct when
addressing that audience than I did when I met the dwarfs."


Richard Shpuntoff works in Buenos Aires as a translator specializing in film and film production.