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Paraguay: One of the promises of Latin American audiovisuals taking its first steps

In 2012, the hitherto unknown Paraguayan cinema captured much of the world's attention with the release and success of the thriller "7 Boxes," directed by Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori. Awarded at the San Sebastián Film Festival (Spain) and the Goya Awards, the film was acquired by the multinational HBO for the North American adaptation.

To this whirlwind journey, it's worth adding that it became a true box office success, surpassing the success of "Titanic" in Paraguay, reaching almost 170 thousand spectators in the first month compared to the nearly 150 thousand for James Cameron's film.

However, there was a bittersweet moment for this film as it was left out of the announcement of candidates for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in October 2012, failing to meet some requirements, such as not having a Paraguayan Film Academy.

This episode was one of the driving forces behind the birth of the Academy of Arts and Cinematic Sciences of Paraguay a year later, aiming to promote and boost the country's cinema both nationally and internationally.

Over a decade has passed since that moment when Paraguayan cinema made headlines worldwide. With sustained growth in audiovisual productions, in 2019, audiovisual authors decided to organize themselves and createdCreadores PY: a collective management society tasked with protecting author’s rights, as well as promoting training activities for directors and screenwriters with feature films, documentaries, series, or soap operas exhibited and marketed.

Behind this association of directors and screenwriters were filmmakers Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori, marking the first time in Paraguay to have a collective management society dedicated to protecting authors’ rights and promoting training activities.

7 cajas (2012), directed by Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori

A long way to go

Currently, Creadores PY is led by President Armando Aquino and Secretary-Treasurer Claudia Zárate, with around 25 members. Zárate emphasizes that the number is growing but there is still "unawareness" and "some distrust" about the usefulness of the association.

Organizationally, and with the creation of both the Paraguayan Film Academy and the association of directors and screenwriters, the cinema of this region experienced a qualitative leap. However, it is still affected by the difficulties of an industry that is still too small. There are still few feature film productions annually, and the main difficulty lies in the lack of economic support to carry out productions.

Zarate, who was one of the representatives of Paraguay at the 2023 Annual Assembly of FESAAL held in Santiago, Chile, understands that "money is the main problem because otherwise, we would be making many more films." For Creadores PY to continue growing and consolidating, they need "evangelization, people to know their rights and be interested in being part of it, as the majority will make this move. We need to go house by house to explain their rights, to be united to fight and achieve our goal."


Regarding the National Film Institute (INAP), although its existence solves many administrative situations, its actions still fail to meet the needs of filmmakers.

“When presenting our projects, we are asked for a lot of requirements, but unfortunately, very few are benefited with that money, and it is not much that they grant for what a film costs. There are not many productions because that support is lacking"

In Paraguay, filmmakers still have much to conquer in terms of authors’ rights, where the rights to the work are held by the producer unless a private contract is concluded between the producer and the director, allowing the director to also obtain some percentage of profit.

This applies to larger productions with a producer figure, as in smaller ones, directors, screenwriters, or actors usually also perform the role of producers.

An example of this is what Claudia Zárate had to face when realizing "Pora," her first feature film, currently available on Amazon. "You can't imagine how we struggled to make a movie. In my case, it's not that I wanted to take on many roles but that I had no other way if I wanted to put my movie in the cinema. If I had had the resources, I would have paid for this, that, or the other and not have to take on so many roles. You go to get the empanadas for the catering that you got through barter, you light yourself with the light, you have to direct and borrow even from your brother to be able to buy what is needed to make a movie.

Claudia Zárate, Paraguayan filmmaker and treasurer-secretary of CREADORES PY, alongside the poster of her latest film, Póra

Despite this adverse context, his film participated in various festivals worldwide and occupies a space on the Amazon platform. "I believe Paraguayan cinema still suffers a lot due to lack of economic resources. Here, the main problem is money and the lack of state support. On Amazon, we are next to films with budgets of 5 million dollars, and with 'Póra,' we barely spent 30 million guaraníes (2500 dollars)."

"Claudia Zárate is one of the few female directors in her country, as according to INAP statistics, only 18% of film directors in Paraguay are women. 'In 2022, the Institute launched the first film promotion call with a specific category for projects directed by women. In the last two years, there have been more workshops and exhibitions supporting projects made by women,' she says.

While the audiovisual sector in Paraguay has a long way to go, audiovisual creators are striving to secure their place through hard work, and many are aware that joining forces to defend their rights is a fundamental task in this regard."


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