New Gen Latin American Projects ‘Three Bullets,’ ‘Pantasma’ Top Locarno’s Open Doors Awards, As New Latino Mindset Builds

LOCARNO — Two movie projects which capture best the brewing revolution in Latin American filmmaking walked off with the biggest plaudits at this year’s Locarno Open Doors prize ceremony on Tuesday.

Both underscore the mindset reset among cineasts – their questioning of received wisdom accompanied by the explosion in invention being brought to low-budget filmmaking in the region. 

Directed by Nicaragua’s Gloria Carrión and produced by Leonor Zuñiga, “Pantasma” took the biggest cash prize on offer, CHF25,000 ($28,600) from Visions Sud Est, for a project which begs to differ from Nicaragua’s Contras were U.S.-backed mercenaries.

“Pantasma” presents a more nuanced vision, based on the memoirs of former Sandinista Felix Vigil and his dawning realization, during the Sandinista-Contra War that the revolution was “fighting Nicaraguan peasants and not paid mercenaries [whch] will make him question everything he believes in,” Carrión has noted. 

Fleeing Nicaragua as Daniel Ortega has increasingly suppressed dissidence in the country in the last few years and now unable to shoot in the country, Carrión and Zuñiga will shoot “Pantasma” using stop motion animation, creating dry corn leaf small-scale replicas of places and figures, mixed with archival footage, video art and photos, sometimes projected onto the screen “The Missing Picture”-style, she added. 

An alum of San Sebastian’s prestigious Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola, Dominican Genésis Valenzuela’s “Three Bullets” (Tres Balas”) was the only title to take multiple awards, including a weighty CHF20,000 ($22,000) from Visions Sud Est. 

It investigates the murder of Dominican immigrant Lucrecia Pérez, shot and killed by four neo-Nazis in 1992, the same year that Spain celebrated its conquest of Latin America. Valenzuela comes in at the film as she reconstructs her own identity as a “human being/woman/Afro-Caribbean/filmmaker.” “The driving force of this film is the desire for emancipation, both from the constraints of existence and from those of filmmaking,” she has said.

Mixing colonial history, displacement and criminal investigation, “Three Bullets,” a hybrid fiction-doc-come-essay again aims to “explore the diaspora experience and dislocate the grand narrative of history,” she has said.

Another animated feature, Carlos Zerpa’s “LOA. Kill Your Masters” likewise treats the 1791-1804 Haiti Revolution not as a narrative of British, French and Spanish imperial armies but from a feminine POV as being powered by a teen girl and supernatural African vodun spirituality. 

Leandro Grillo’s “Desidia,” an atmospheric portrait of Aymara Bolivian highland city as “controlled disorder,” took the third Visions Sud Est cash prize. 

Women’s emancipation narratives figured strongly in the awards mix, with prizes to Costa Rican Paz Fabrega’s “Milky Way, Leslie Ortiz’s “Libertinas” and Jamaican Gibrey Allen’s “Raised by Goats.”

Peruvian Victor Checa, a Latin American genre standard bearer, won the BR Lab Award for “Last of Kings,” a “coming-of-age Western vampire story,” Checa said,, set in a futuristic Peru ravaged by desert storms. 

Further awards went to two Open Doors’ Producers Lab participants: Battling Peruvian LGBTQ director-producer Carlos Ormeño Palma for “The Scent of Walls,” whose short “The Distance of Time” was regarded as one of the best playing Open Doors Screenings; and Paraguayan Ivana Urizar, at Locarno with “Bajo las banderas, el sol,” a doc feature asking why Alfredo Stroessner’s 1953-1989 dictatorship lasted so long.

2023 Locarno Pro Open Doors Winners:

Open Doors Grant

A total of CHF 50,000 ($55,000), sponsored by Visions Sud Est, supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the City of Bellinzona and the Open Doors initiative.

“Pantasma,” (Gloria Carrión, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras)

“Three Bullets,” (“Tres balas,” Génesis Valenzuela, Dominican Republic)

“Desidia,” (Leandro Grillo, Bolivia, Chile)

CNC Development Grant

€8,000 ($8,780) for development provided by France’s powerful CNC national film agency.

“LOA. Kill Your Masters,” (“LOA. Mata a tus amos,” Carlos Zerpa, Venezuela, Puerto Rico)

Prix ArteKino International

€6,000 ($6,590) for development provided by Europe’s online ArteKino Festival.

“Three Bullets,” (“Tres balas,” Génesis Valenzuela, Dominican Republic)

Sørfond Award

Travel to and accommodation at a November pitching event organised by Norway’s Sørfond, funding Norwegian companies’ minority co-production of films from low-income countries. 

“Libertines,” (Libertinas, Leslie Ortiz, El Salvador, Peru)

Rotterdam Lab Award

Provided by the Rotterdam Film Festival, accommodation for an Open Doors Producers’ Lab participant at the next Rotterdam Lab.

Ivana Urízar, (Cine Mío, Paraguay)

Open Doors – BR Lab Award

Participation at São Paulo’s BR Lab project development workshop this November with travel and accommodation covered by BR Lab.

“Last of Kings,” (“El último rey,” Victor Checa, Peru, Mexico, Germany)

Open Doors – World Cinema Fund Audience Strategy Award

A specific World Cinema Fund program tailored to closely follow the development of an audience engagement strategy.

“Three Bullets,” (“Tres balas,” Génesis Valenzuela, Dominican Republic)

Open Doors – OIF – ACP – EU Award

A consultancy for up to 18 months on script/treatment analysis, story editing and polishing of a film dossier provided by the Organisation Internationale Francophonie (OIF) and French consulting company Initiative Film.

“Raised by Goats,” (Gibrey Allen, Jamaica)

Open Doors – LEXIA Insights Award

Fine-tuning of a project’s pitch, script, dossier, mood board and teaser, aided by experienced professionals.

“Milky Way,” (“Via Láctea,” Paz Fábrega, Costa Rica, Uruguay)

Open Doors – Moulin d’Andé-CECI Award

Writing residency for the director of a first or second feature film project in development, provided by the Moulin d’Andé-CECI, near France’s Rouen, and the Locarno Film Festival.

Carlos Ormeño Palma, (La Fiebre Films, Peru)

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