Hegemony Conditions in the Coproduction Cinema of Latin America: The Role of Spain

Article excerpt

The Spanish have been able to capitalize on their geographic and linguistic location in respect to Latin America. . . . Language is an asset for them.

Javier Protzel, former director of the Peruvian National Cinematography Institute, 2003-6

The story of Latin American international film coproduction begins with a Spanish intervention, as does a large part of Latin American history. Thus, it started in 1931 with the establishment of the First Congress of Hispano- American Cinematography (Primer Congreso Cinematográfico Hispanoamericano) held in Madrid, Spain. The resolutions reached in this meeting regarding coproduction were revised and expanded in a second meeting, the First Hispano- American Cinematography Competition (Primer Certamen Cinematográfico Hispanoamericano) held in Madrid in 1948.1 This last meeting gave rise to a number of coproductions between Spain and Latin America-such as Bella la salvaje (Raúl Medina, CU/ES, 1952). However, by 1948 film coproduction was already a common practice among the countries of the subcontinent, particularly between Mexico and Cuba.2 This is not surprising since Mexico-and to a lesser extent also Argentina-had the most prosperous film industry of the subcontinent during the 1940s and 1950s. This was the so-called Golden Age for Mexican cinema. From 1948, collaborations in film productions between Mexico, Cuba, and Spain started booming.

Nowadays, almost all Latin American countries hold a coproduction agreement, mainly with Spain, but also with other European countries and with Canada. Since the 1940s the interest of Latin American producers in propelling international film coproduction agreements has increased at an extraordinary pace, particularly with Spain. In the 1940s for instance, only one film was coproduced with Spain; in the 1950s it went up to forty-two films. In the 1960s there were sixty-eight, in the 1970s eighty-four, in the 1980s sixty-six, in the 1990s 126, and between 2000 and 2006 there were at least 201 films co-produced.3 From these figures it is feasible to identify two main periods where film production collaborations between Spain and Latin America significantly escalated; during the 1950s and then again in the 1990s. This essay is focused mainly on the 1990s and the successive decades, as the dependency of Latin American producers on foreign backers has seen a significant increase since then.

Two principal elements were at the root of the upsurge in film cooperation during the 1990s. The first was the emergence of coproduction within television networks during the 1980s, which was extended to film.4 The second was the proliferation during the middle of the 1980s and 1990s of multilateral film coproduction bodies involving Latin American countries. These organizations are Fonds Sud (a French fund, devised in 1984), Hubert Bals (a Dutch fund set up in 1988), and Ibermedia (an Ibero-American Aid Fund originally conceived in 1989 and ratified in 1997). Of these organizations, Ibermedia is the most active, with 201 films5 made in coproduction. The United States has not created a body that regulates long-term film coproduction agreements with Latin America. However, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has established a partnership with leading film enterprises in the subcontinent such as Patagonik Film Group in Argentina. Thus, Ibermedia and Patagonik are taken here as paradigms of the principal financers of film coproduction in Latin America.

1. The Financial Backers of Coproduction in Latin America

Ibermedia was ratified during the Ibero-American Conference of Heads of States and Government (Cumbre Iberoamericana de Jefes de Estado y de Gobierno) that took place in Margarita, Venezuela, in 1997. The aim of the Fund is to stimulate the development of the Ibero-American film and media sector. The fund is maintained by a compulsory annual contribution of U.S.$100,000 from its current fourteen member countries. …