October 24, 2008
Looking at Distribution in The Americas (Part II)

The way governments are involved in the promotion of national film industries in Ibero-America, as opposed to the US's market driven strategy, set the tone for the First Ibero-American Culture Conference. The conference was organized by the Mexican government with support from the Spanish government and Ibermedia, the Ibero-American film fund. The objective of this meeting was not quite clear, but the attendee list was impressive. Everybody was there, from intellectuals like Nestor García Canclini and Carlos Monsivais to filmmakers like Antonio Banderas and Lucrecia Martel, as well as policy makers from all over the region. What IFP lacked in global awareness, Mexico had in abundance. Cultural policy integration and co-productions were some of the main issues being discussed.

Ibermedia has been key in the rise of many Ibero-American cinemas. Responding to its integrationist spirit, three countries must co-produce in order to receive Ibermedia funds, this has meant that the growth has been a collaborative one, often not fully dependent on market constraints. The notion that creative industries cannot be measured in purely economic terms is strong in Ibero-America, yet creating and sustaining cultural policy to support national film development is a constant and uncertain struggle for filmmakers all over the region. Maintaining a critical attitude towards these policies is one of the most constructive survival strategies. For instance, one of the first elements that was discussed was the functionality of screen quotas as they have been enforced up until now. What will come of that is not yet clear, but there is certainly a move towards working with exhibitors to encourage (instead of enforce) the screening of local films.

Unauthorized copies (or piracy, depending on your point of view) and internet distribution were other hot topics. There is still much resistance in these areas. First, they're struggling with the sense of lack of control, this is not unfamiliar in the US; but what I found more worrisome is a negative discourse of inevitability surrounding internet distribution, as if it was a completely foreign tool that had agency of its own. Access to technologies is no longer the main problem in many of these countries, but, what Henry Jenkins refers to as the participation divide is, and a deeper appropriation of these technologies seems to be urgent. This discussion took place during a daylong event called "Traditional Model Vs.New Commercialization Channels-Internet", from the moment they named the activity, an unhealthy dichotomy was created and it permeated all of the discussions. As the day was wrapping up, Brazilian ex-Secretary of the audiovisual sector, Orlando Senna, paraphrased Albert Einstein saying that at this moment in time "imagination is a more important than information". Hopefully, comments like these will help shift the discourse away from limiting binaries.

During the event, I was also fortunate to find brave innovative filmmakers like Tania Hermida from Ecuador who, while helping draft her country's brand-new constitution, launched the DVD of her movie Qué tan lejos selling 20,000 copies mainly on the streets of Ecuador and with legitimate deals with local "pirates". The only drawback is that now it's out of stock and I haven't been able to see her film yet.

Between film, mariachis, friends and yes, some tequila, coming back to Cambridge was not an easy task, but DIY DAYS was worth it. This un/conference was all about innovation, experimentation and community. I won't go into it much since Xiaochang already wrote a post about it, but I would like to say how motivating it was to meet part of the vibrant Boston-based filmmaking community. DIY DAYS instigated people to embrace and take advantage of the technological and cultural shifts that we both face and are part of.

I was lucky to be able to attend all three of these conferences, now, I'm off to try and systematize all the information I've gathered and continue working on the challenges, concerns and dichotomies that filmmakers are faced with today.