Jaime Romandia
Founder and Director General
Mantarraya Producciones
View from the Top

Creating a Space for Auteur Cinema

Sat, 12/01/2018 - 15:11

Q: How is Mantarraya Producciones positioned in the landscape of Mexican cinema?

A: Mantarraya Producciones is positioned in the niche of auteur cinema. The films we distribute in Mexico target people who enjoy going to the movies but who are highly selective. In almost 20 years in the Mexican market, Mantarraya Producciones’ distribution division has put together a catalog of around 80 movies, many of which have been award-winners at the most prestigious international festivals. In 20 years, we have produced around 35 movies.

Q: What opportunities do streaming platforms offer for both Mantarraya Producciones and Mexican cinema?

A: Many countries have enjoyed a positive transition but the truth is that Mexico is still in the process of change. Even though Mexico is the second-largest market for Netflix, we are in a kind of limbo because we do not know what will happen with Mexican platforms like Blim, Claro video, FilminLatino and Cinepolis Klic. These platforms are really good but they have not reached the level of expansion needed to compensate what we lost with the disappearance of DVDs. We know that the future lies in the use of this new technology but we do not know when we will see a rapid and balanced expansion in Mexico like that observed in other markets.

Q: One of the most pressing issues in almost any industry is funding. How does Mantarraya Producciones navigate this hurdle?

A: Investment in Mexican cinema is risky, especially when it comes to auteur cinema. Although exhibitors in Mexico reserve space for independent cinema, the truth is that the profit percentage that these movies generate at the box office is not very attractive for private investors. For this reason, most of these filmmakers in Mexico use public and international funds to finance their movies. There are very few movies in Mexico that do not have the support of public funds. Mantarraya Producciones takes an amount of money from public funds and then approaches other countries, mainly in Europe, to finance a movie. Almost all our films are co-productions between Mexico and France, Germany, the Netherlands or Denmark.

I think Mexico does not have the necessary conditions for a film produced locally to generate the needed profitability for private investors. There are very few films produced in Mexico that really recover their investment. Even films destined for commercial cinema depend on external funds, mainly from the US.

Q: What strategies can be put in place to increase audience numbers for independent cinema and to strengthen the industry?

A: It is somewhat complex. Mantarraya Producciones produces the film and then takes it to the distributor, which in turn takes it to the movie theaters. In Mexico, both Cinépolis and Cinemex, the two largest exhibitors, reserve space for the screening of these films. However, this means that independent cinema must compete with commercial projects. If we also consider that Mantarraya Producciones’ productions might be considered radical, then our niche within movie theaters becomes more difficult to defend. We have to create the market and the conditions that allow the existence of these types of films but we also need to have a fair box office distribution, as happens in other countries. Mexico is among the world’s largest cinema markets, ranking fourth after the US, China and India, which means that there is a market for this type of cinema.

Q: What are Mantarraya Producciones’ plans for the next two years?

A: We will continue producing films in the coming years. We just opened a company called Fotosíntesis Media that produces animation films with a social focus. We try to join forces with civil associations to use movies as a platform to tell a story. We also have a film university that offers a major in cinema. Since January 2019, we are also offering a major in digital animation.