Four dizzying productions. This is Netflix’s big opportunity for Latin America, which will bring to the screen works of universal importance, such as “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, brought to life by actors for the first time, as well as the famous Argentinean animated film “El Eternauta” starring Ricardo Darín. The great success of Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo and the life of Ayrton Senna, the iconic Brazilian Formula 1 driver, complete the ambitious fictional quartet that will be released in 2024. This project features great talent in its creation and a display of technology and special effects that are “first used in the region”. The macro project requires the consent of the direct relatives of the protagonists or the authors of the works. With the exception of the film by Pedro Páramo, the other productions are conceived as chapters.
Five years of negotiations, more than 20,000 extras and four sets to recreate the passage of time through the iconic Macondo, translating García Márquez’s work into audiovisual format for the first time in 16 chapters. The Colombian Laura Mora (The Kings of the World) and the Argentine Álex García (The Witcher) will be the directors of this series, to which the family of the Nobel Prize winner in literature has made a double condition: that it be recorded in Colombia and in Spanish.
Ana Celeste and director Rodrigo Prieto on the set of Pedro Paramo. Juan Rosas (NETFLIX)
Shot in the desert lands of San Luis Potosí, Mexico’s most universal work, Pedro Páramo, is brought to the screen by award-winning cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, who will make his feature film directorial debut on the occasion. It’s not the first time a film has explored the phantasmagorical world recreated by Juan Rulfo, but it’s the film that features the greatest display of technology and special effects to move between the living and the dead, between time passed and the memories of those who shouldn’t have memories. According to his colleague Prieto, Juan Carlos Rulfo, one of the author’s sons, worked with the producers without any interference.
The new technologies made it possible to map a Buenos Aires deserted by the pandemic, to later recreate the famous cartoon by Héctor G. Oesterheld, published in the late 1950s under the title El eternauta. Ricardo Darín will appear in Toxic Snow, commissioned by Bruno Stagnaro and produced by K&S Films (Wild Tales). It will be the first time Argentines will see the characters of his iconic graphic novel in motion, a story of survival and second chances brought to our day with a protagonist older than the original, forged as a combatant in the Malvinas War.
Rich in local flavors, Brazil will be able to bring the life of Formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna into its homes. The biography has delved into the family archives to find out the man behind the sports hero. The fact that this sport is booming and that the life and, above all, the death of the pilot offer content worthy of a series are factors that were of course taken into account. Directed by Vicente Amorim, Gabriel Leone will play the champion.
“Behind all of these products is a cultural and social commitment to the members of our platform, to whom we offer the most relevant titles, founding novels or national heroes given the dominance of Hispanic American culture in the western world,” said Francisco Ramos, vice president of content at Netflix, aware of the responsibility to adapt literary stories that have been cherished in the imaginations of millions of people around the world for decades. “We start from an audiovisual view of the works, without any claim to excellence. We are responsible and ambitious intellectual, creative and technical. “We build Macondo,” says Ramos, who is very involved in this production, as an example.
The titles announced fulfill the dual objective of local and universal through which to traverse the offerings that the viewer finds on the red N’s screen. In 2015, Netflix launched Club de cuervos, its first series in a non-English language, marking the first foray into local content for which the company had great appetites from audiences. “An affiliation relationship is created in every country where they choose to see their own content. Combining the best of the United States with the best of each country makes us unique,” says Ramos.
The television and film industry is emerging from the pandemic with the idea of regional expansion. According to Netflix, the global entertainment market is expected to reach $170 billion by 2030, with annual growth of 7.2%. Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are the big Latin American parcel carriers in this sector, with Colombia showing the highest growth at 15%. The reason for this is the rise of internet users and electronic devices watching videos on demand, which opens up a huge window for suppliers of these products to collaborate with local production companies and export audiovisual content, as the Inter-American Development Bank found in one of its investigations. The accelerated growth of these animation and visual effects industries in the region thus has the potential to become an economic engine and they are betting on it. As has already been successfully tested in Anglo-Saxon countries, the common Spanish language enables series and films to be distributed to more than 560 million people. Digital TV Research predicts that the number of subscriptions to these content platforms in Latin America will grow from 53 million in 2020 to 116 million in 2025, an opportunity now enjoyed by 14 million homes, with a 41% growth between 2019 and 2022.
Ramos attributes Netflix’s success in Latin America to the product that dominated homes before it arrived a decade ago: traditional television with content based on timeless soap operas. They were replaced by series of 10 or 12 chapters, “new narratives” that were well received by a wide audience. “They’re stories that reinforce different points of view, each series follows a worldview, that’s the most interesting thing about new television,” he says, before virtually identical stories about love and heartbreak, which in many cases are bad.
Actor Gabriel Leone, one of the protagonists of “DOM”, will play pilot Ayrton Senna in the series prepared by Netflix.Amazon Prime Video
The growth in the area of these on-demand screenings represents an economic interest that no government escapes. The audiovisual industry generates $20,000 million in revenues in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, including $3,000 in film, with data from 2021. This year, Netflix announced 50 local productions in Latin America and a $300 million investment in Mexico. Similar efforts as other platforms.
Netflix’s timely collaboration with local production companies, as well as the direct and indirect value this huge filming leaves behind in each country, is undeniable. Artisans making thousands of wardrobe items, restaurants, all kinds of suppliers, equipment, a shock to the economy and technology. In the case of El eternauta in Argentina, producer Matías Mosteirin pays tribute to the economic and technological strength that Netflix has brought to make this series, conceived for years as a future film, with all the rights acquired but without curdling. “It’s sci-fi, but it’s also a western and there’s a lot of adventure involved. Add to that the idiosyncrasy of Argentines, their search for solutions to everyday problems through the use of ingenuity,” says Mosteirin.
Again the local, in which every viewer recognizes himself, in every street, every quarter. But foreigners also come looking for the experience of following in the footsteps of their favorite characters. The tourist interest that the locations of successful series arouse is remarkable. Netflix estimates that for every $10 spent in the display industry, six to nine more jobs are created in the supply chain, in addition to new ones. You only have to take care of a rotating set.
Alejandra Serna, vice president of production for the platform in Latin America, evaluates the advantages for the countries where these series will be shot in terms of technology and training. “We are accelerating the growth of the local industry with different ways of working, with new equipment, technology, methods and tools that people from across the Hispanic American community are contributing,” he says at the platform’s offices in Mexico. “Efficiency, visual quality and technology,” he says. It refers, for example, to the film adaptation of Ayrton Senna or The Eternaut, where in a single room the pilot completes a successful route on a circuit on the other side of the world without having to travel. But the Colombian Serna is rich in “knowledge transfer” generated by the mix of the talents of both professionals, allowing new applicants to observe and participate in some production tasks, “young people from Latin America who sometimes have a hard time because they come from disadvantaged sectors.” There are few large and small companies that do not add specific training and education tasks to their own projects. “We are driving the creation of a new generation of content producers,” he says.
The Covid pandemic was just a parenthesis (and not always annoying because it allowed cinema to wander through deserted cities, which is difficult for any production on normal days). In Mexico, for example, the coronavirus has reduced film sector revenues by about 25%, but it is expected to grow at 6.6% per year through 2025 and recover in the same year.
Although there is nothing better than a corona flu to enjoy favorite series. The sector’s push promotes new policy stimuli for the economy. In 2021, São Paulo launched a program to reimburse 30% of production costs if filming took place in this Brazilian city. Two series and one film achieved that benefit in 2021, creating around 14,000 jobs in the city, according to Netflix data. Brazil, however, relies on the local, the six-part film by Ayrton Senna travels through seven countries with the pilot, although it was shot in four countries. “Brazil is going through a challenging time, all incentives for culture are being restored, there is competition and that’s a good thing,” said Elisabetta Zenatti, vice president of Netflix content at the Portuguese-language giant. “We have to develop this industry together.”
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