It wasn’t inspiration, but rather a sense of urgency, that prompted Argentinean filmmaker Alejo Hoijman to make his feature debut, Home Made Money. ‘Everything was changing every day in Argentina at that time, so I had to hurry up,’ he explains. ‘I couldn’t think about how to make the film, I just had to go to the streets with a camera and shoot it.’
Home Made Money takes place during the economic collapse in Argentina that saw bank accounts frozen and inflation skyrocket. To cope, three inhabitants of Buenos Aires created a barter system that eventually spread to include five million people. Hoijman looks at the system behind this illegal tender by following its creators, and discovers that even this solution is vulnerable to counterfeiting and inflation.
The film was made with €10,000 (US$12,300) from the Jan Vrijman Fund and equipment from Metropolis Media, where Hoijman worked. But rather than sitting back and enjoying the rewards of his first directorial effort, Hoijman spent the past year trying to drum up – or at least lay the groundwork for – international funding for his sophomore effort, a feature doc titled Unit 25 that will look at the only prison/church in Latin America.
Given the limited funding options for doc-makers in Argentina, the Buenos Aires-based director is using complimentary trips to film festivals to find coproduction partners. In May, he met Luis Angel Ramirez at Documenta Madrid and soon teamed up with Astronauta, the doc unit of Spanish prodco Imral. The partners are now looking for a coproducer in France through which they can access further funding.
‘It’s difficult to sell a documentary once it’s been produced,’ says Hoijman. ‘It’s impossible in Argentina and it’s almost impossible from Argentina if you don’t have a coproducer in Europe.’ As well, most international pitch forums require projects to have 25% of the budget in place and broadcast support. ‘I cannot get that in Argentina,’ says Hoijman. ‘That’s why I need a partner in Europe, to find this first help.’
Nine years ago, Carmen Guarini and Marcelo Céspedes founded Buenos Aires-based Cine Ojo, which has become one of the most successful doc prodcos in Argentina. Guarini says most of their financing comes from the National Institute of Film and Audiovisual Arts (INCAA), because broadcasters in Argentina neither coproduce nor buy documentaries. But state support for docs is minimal. And while Guarini acknowledges that the film industry is growing stronger, she says doc-makers in particular still face major hurdles. She doesn’t know of one local distributor, for example, that specializes in docs.
To help doc-makers like Hoijman reach the global market, Cine Ojo started a pitch forum and screening event in Buenos Aires in October, 2001 with the hope that it would attract international doc execs. Thanks in part to support from several organizations such as ARTE France, Sunny Side of the Doc and the Jan Vrijman Fund, the event has hosted ces such as France 2′s Yves Jeanneau and Francis Kandel of Planete. ‘incaa tries to promote the films it supports, but its effect on sales is negligible,’ says Guarini.
She furthers that even in Argentina, doc-makers must compete with foreign fare: ‘The marketplace is dominated by American cineplexes in the business of showing U.S. productions.’ It’s encouraging, therefore, that Buenos Aires-based Leda Film’s Nazi Gold in Argentina rose this summer to become Argentina’s second best performing box office doc. Directed by the late Rolo Pereyra, it had a budget of US$500,000 and is 42% dramatic re-enactments – not a typical observational doc. But then, neither are Michael Moore’s films, and look what they did for the U.S. market.