May 23, 2024

“No Me Sigas,” the directorial debut of “Anything’s Possible” writer Ximena García Lecuona, and “Malamuerte,” from Caye Casas, a rising star of pitch black Spanish comedy, both feature in a rich and far-ranging 2023 Blood Window Lab, the project platform of Ventana Sur’s genre forum, which unspools Nov. 27-Dec. 1.

The projects are joined by other buzz titles such as “Into the Spiral,” from Facundo Escudero Salinas, whose thriller, “Broken,” ranks as one of the top 10 most watched Argentine films of 2023. 

Also anticipated is “Planet, billed as “a vast depiction of unprecedented worldwide alien contact, exploring different cultures and societal classes through their experiences with the phenomenon,” and directed by Fredrik S. Hana, a 2022 Meliès d’Or Award for “From.Beyond.”

The projects form part of 22 titles as submissions are up 20% this year on last, notes Javier Fernández, head of the Blood Window Program.

That rise comes as little surprise. As big company lineups at the American Film Market next week underscore, smart genre, in its multiple variations, remains one of the securest market plays in an uncertain world, backed by an appetite from global streamers. 

Latin American sales companies such as FilmSharks, Black Mandala and Mantícora are also moving into genre pic sales, Fernández notes.

For Latin America, other factors are at work, however. “The program is very diverse and explores many different narratives and mythologies,” says Fernández. 

Yet there may be trends. Women, fir example, are eager increasingly making their mark. Chosen for Blood Window Lab, “‘La Susurradora” “taps into the large number of Latin American female authors who have turned to writing fantastic genre, from a unique point of view, where horror and fantasy depict the day-to-day of woman in Latin America, violence and abuse exercised towards them and the frustration they feel with regard to their rights,” says its producer, Valentina Vio.

“On the other hand, over the last decade, horror cinema has turned towards social issues, no longer operating as [just] gore or shock fests,” she adds.

Multiple Lab titles shock, and say something about Latin America or beyond.   

Below, a breakdown of this year’s Blood Window Lab titles:    

“Al Final de la Noche,” (Jorge Navas, Colombia)  

From the director of “La Sangre y la Lluvia,” a tropical recasting of English Gothic – enclosure, madness, as Navas observes, in a present where an old woman lives haunted by past violence and a toxic masculinity which still reaches her from beyond the grave.  Highly erotic and a potential big fest playoff if Navas pulls it off. 

“Always Beautiful,” (“Siempre Bela,” Marcelo Toledo, Rossana Foglia, Brazil)

Produced by Jorge Guedes at Brasilia’s Artefício Films, a “horror film about self-exploitation and heightened competitiveness.” Neusa, 55, owner of a luxurious beauty salon, is robbed by her husband. Penniless, seething with resentment, she returns to her family home, confronting ghosts: A lack of money, loneliness, failure, anonymity, and guilt.  

“Amigos para siempre,” (Daniel M. Caneiro, Spain)

Seven men, now around 40, friends since primary school, get together once a month for a dinner. One, Guille, poisons the others who have to persuade him they’re really friends or they’ll die. A comedy and later suspense thriller from bubbling under talent Caneiro, who debuted to acclaim with 2020 mockumentary, “El cerro de los dioses.”

“The Doll,” (“La Muñeca,” Marisol Gómez-Mouaka, Puerto Rico)

An anime fan, Betty attempts to escape from her religious abusive family via her sketches, which becomes animations of her doll, Olivia, who acquires her own life. To achieve empowerment, Betty has to descend to her ancestral depths. A hybrid dual-format animation/live action movie from the director of 2016’s “Angelica.”

“Huaco Retrato,” (Fernando Mendoza Salazar, Peru) 

In a town in northern Peru, Renzo, a teenager who dreams of becoming a professional gamer, is contacted through a video game by the spirit of an ancient pre-Columbian warrior. A Blood Window Fantaspoa Award winner.

“Into the Spiral,” (“En el espiral,” Facundo Escudero Salinas, Argentina. )

Set in 1993, Cleo, the mastermind behind a rock band, travels to a remote house to cut a new album but her band releases a demonic force in the place that seeks to destroy them. Set up at Argentina’s Pensilvania Films Behind “Exquisite Corpse,” “Duo,” and “Broken.

“Invisible Siege,” (“El Asedio Invisible,” Matias R. Savoldi, Argentina)

Magda and her friends are attacked at their cottage by a supernatural strange figure disguised as a mime artist, who uses invisible weapons. Magda fights back using her only weapon: Imagination. The feature debut of Savoldi, and a critique, he says, of “the decline of imagination in the digital era.”  

“Last of Kings,” (“El Ultimo Rey,” Victor Checa, Peru, Germany. Mexico)

Another development lab outing for Checa’s follow-up to breakout feature debut “Tiempos Futuros,” produced by Bertha Navarro and Sebastián Cordero and picked up by Outsider Pictures. “Last of Kings” is a “coming-of-age Western vampire story,” says Checa, set in a futuristic Peru ravaged by desert storms. Presented to interest at Locarno’s Open Doors in August. 

“Life 2.0,” (Gabriel Musco, Arentina)

A potential third feature from Musco, and set up at Sewati Audiovisual which co-produced his second feature, “Memories of Evil,” with Tondero Distribution. A sci-fi thriller set in a future dystopia in which the protagonist seeks to expose the real controllers of Life, an app governing people’s life time.   

“Malamuerte,” (Caye Casas, Spain)

Based on Casas’ 2017 “RIP,” a Sitges best short winner, and co-written with Cristina Borobia, Casas’ regular art director and “Coffee Table” co-writer. A deep Spain comedy, set in a village where everyone returns from the dead, which has won project awards at Sitges, BIFF and Ibiza’s Ibicine.  

“Matapalo,” (Xavier Chávez C., Ecuador, Colombia)

A sci-fi horror fantasy turning on Angel, 50, struck down by cancer but who never dies, turning into a monster, raping María, 38, who desperately desires a child. The second feature from Chavez, produced by Ivonne Campoverde, a co-scribe with Chavez, and Alexandra Yepes.

“No Me Sigas,” (Ximena García Lecuona, Mexico) 

One of Ventana Sur’s most anticipated projects, from Mexico City-based Maligno Gorehouse, and drinking deep on from Mexican myth. Carla, 26, dreams of becoming a big influencer. Then she discovers and films a shadowy malignant presence in her home. Written and directed by García Lecuona, chosen as one of Variety’s Screenwriters to Watch and produced by Francisco Sánchez Solís, executive producer on “Huesera.”  

“Planet,” (Fredrik S. Hana, Norway)

Recipient of the Blood Window Award at Bucheon’s NAFF Project Market in July, produced by Norway’s Julia Joner. Director Hana won best doc at Slamdance for “Code Name: Nagasaki” and a 2022 Meliès d’Or Award for “From.Beyond.”

Playing off footage of an alien invasion, “an exploration of the weird and mysterious, and my attempt to reshape and deconstruct the found-footage genre into something new,” says Hana. 

“The River in My Veins,” (“El Rio Por Mis Venas,” Marco Betancor, Nicolás Sotana, Uruguay)

Sabina returns home to bury her father, battles to not be possessed by the demonic spirit of the local river. A fantasy horror thriller exploring family legacy, produced by Lucía Gaviglio and Virginia Hinze, at Montevideo’s U Films. 

“Saliva,” (Martín Desalvo, Argentina) 

Directed by Desalvo, helmer of 2014 Austin Fantastic Fest winner “Darkness by Day,” and “The Hunter’s Silence,” from a screenplay by Nicanor Loretti, writer-director of 2015 cult breakout “Kryponite.” A frenetic gore action movie as a girl rock band attempts to cut a studio session clip, assailed by the ferociously infected, also at one another’s throats. In development, set up at Pensa & Rocca, behind 2021’s “My Best Friend”  and 2023’s “Adios Buenos Aires.”

“Sinister Conclave,” (Fercks Castellani, Nicolás Iaconis, Argentina)

A horror-thriller set at a holiday cabin in the woods, whose multiple security cameras allow a lecherous camp host to scrutinise and control its occupants’ moves, until events spin out of his control. From Castellani, a winner of prizes at two Blood Window labs, with 2021’s “Lo Inevitable” and the 2022 project “Ojos Intrusos.” 

“Videogore,” (Davar Villegas, Mexico) 

Inspired by extreme horror – “Hostel,” “A Serbian Film” – Alma, 24, a film student with soaring sadistic obsessions, is induced into a spiral of violence and snuff movies by her seeming double. Maybe she has found her calling. “‘Alma’ is the perfect opportunity to throw into the air sexual fantasies which we don’t dare to say and give them a face,” says Villegas. 

Fant.Latina

Made up of projects from Latin American women directors:

“Downpour,” (“Aguacero,” Cristina Arias, Ecuador) 

A body horror thriller from Ecuador’s Estudios Mosaico, turning on Elena, 19, a hugely ambitious elite swimmer, whose gravely ill mother asks Elena to kill her. ‘“Downpour’ explores the moment when the love we feel for someone makes us reach our limit,” said Arias, In Elena’s case, as she attempts to fulfil her ambitions, that means experiencing psychosis, body horror, near suicide and attempted murder. Selected for the high-level Morbido-Sanfic Lab.

“Cidium,” 

Bella, 17, lives in a benighted village alone with her mother and assailed by paranormal forces, behind which is her mother, controlled for years by a devil. 

“Village of Secrets,” (“Vila dos Segredos,” Saskia Sá, Brazil)

Set on the Brazilian coast and targeting YAs, a fantasy horror film set in 1997, with flashbacks to 1987. Laura returns to her home town, dominated by an obscure cult, the Ciclo das Sombras, and the supernatural ability of its women to cause conflagrations. Directed by Sá (“Rio das Lágrimas Secas)   

“The Whisperer,” (“La Susurradora,” Karla Falcón, Chile)

When Alba’s best friend is driven to suicide by abuse from a theater director, she turns to witchcraft – her family has a history – to exact justice, whatever the personal cost.  A rape-revenge body horror thriller told from a Latin American and feminist POV, directed by Falcón, written by Macarena Araya and produced by La Vieja Rara Producciones and Mnemosine Editorial. 

“The Woman Who Dreamt Underwater,” (“La Mujer Que Soñaba Bajo el Agua,” (Ale Garcia, Carla Sierra, Mexico)

The directorial debut of screenwriter Sierra and producer García, behind “This Is Not Berlin” and “Dead Man’s Hand,” a psychological thriller in which Olga suffers a psychotic attack after the death of her baby son, and comes to believe that her family are imposters. 

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