Platino Awards gear up to celebrate Latin American movies

"Sicario" Premiere - The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival

Gearing up for its second edition, the Platino Awards for Ibero-American Cinema address a paradox: Latin American cinema is powering up production levels and winning fest plaudits — seven for Chile alone at 2015's Berlin — yet Latin American films are scarcely known across the rest of Latin America, or indeed in Spain and Portugal.

The Platinos launched in 2014 with a glitzy ceremony in Panama City and a mandate to spotlight these films and talent throughout the region. Last year, Chile's "Gloria," above, from Sebastian Lelio, won the top prize. Pic was distributed by Music Box in North America and grossed a healthy $2.1 million.

"The Ibero-American film industry has its own stars, is finding its own audience and offers really attractive movies," says Enrique Cerezo, prexy of Spain's Egeda producers rights collection society. In collaboration with Fipca, the Ibero-American Federation of Film and Audiovisual Producers, and support of national arts academies, festivals and Latin artists associations Egeda organizes the awards.

This year, the July 18 ceremony unfolds in Marbella, Spain, and will be broadcast live by Spanish pubcaster RTVE and TNT Latin America, guaranteeing wider TV reach than last year.

The idea for the ceremony was born at an Egeda-Fipca meeting in Panama in 2012. It comes when more Latinos are crossing over into Hollywood. Mexico's Eugenio Derbez recently cracked the U.S. Latino market with his comedy "Instructions Not Included," which won him an acting Platino last year.

"The message the awards are trying to give, not only to the Hispanics but to the entire world, is that there's a lot of talent among Hispanics and Latinos. We may not have the same budgets as Hollywood, but we do have great talents that deserve to be recognized and known worldwide," Derbez says. "We have many Almodovars, Cuarons, Inarritus and Del Toros all around Ibero-America waiting to be discovered."

One actor who the world has discovered, Antonio Banderas, is the recipient of this year's Honorary Platino Award.

"In the U.S., (there) are more than 40 million Latinos and our stories just don't talk about immigration," says Oscar Jaenada, another Platino actor award nominee. The Barcelona-born actor stars in Mexican hit "Cantinflas," which became 2014's second highest-grossing foreign-language title in the U.S with a $6.38 million take through distributor Pantelion.

The front-runners for the best picture Platino confound cliches about Ibero-American movies as strictly minority fare: "Wild Tales," with 10 nominations, proved Argentina's biggest national hit ever with a $17.4 million home-turf gross; and Alberto Rodriguez's noirish thriller "Marshland," with nine noms, scored a robust $8.4 million in Spain.

Given Hollywood's growing fascination with the Latino market, it's inevitable that there will be more links between Hollywood and Latin America, says Derbez.

"Hollywood now knows that Hispanics are loyal moviegoers," Derbez says. "And, lately, Hollywood has been trying to produce less-expensive films and it turns out that no one knows how to produce great quality films with small budgets better than Hispanics. That's why we are taking Hollywood step by step."

"The North American film industry has always been the reference, but now we are starting to be that reference for them," Jaenada adds. "A proof of that is that the last two Oscars best director awards went to Latin helmers. We have learned from their culture and their way of doing things. Now it is their turn."

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