Since the economic meltdown of 2002, Argentina has seen an upturn in foreign shoots as producers seek to take advantage of low costs while utilising the territory's stunning locations.
Shooting in Buenos Aires can be 20% cheaper than Canada, South Africa or New Zealand, and 40% cheaper than Madrid, according to the Argentinian Film Industry Union (Sica). Before the devaluation of the peso, foreign shoots were worth about $100m per year - previous projects have included Jean-Jacques Annaud's Seven Years In Tibet and Alan Parker's Evita.
Post devaluation, production has risen with shoots including Gus Van Sant's Gerry, Walter Salles' The Motorcycle Diaries and, more recently, James Ivory's The City Of Your Final Destination. Last month, Francis Ford Coppola announced that he would shoot the semi-autobiographical Tetro, about a multi-generational family of artists from Italy starring Matt Dillon, later this year in Buenos Aires.
Paris-based Santiago Amigorena is preparing Another Kind Of Silence, a revenge thriller starring Juliette Binoche, to be shot next September in the north of Argentina. Local K&S Films is co-producing with France's Mandarin Films.
'We have spectacular and diverse landscapes; our technicians are famous for using alternative techniques that lower costs for film companies; language is not a barrier; and shooting here is a lot more cost-effective than in Australia, New Zealand and Canada because the exchange rate is extremely favourable after the major local peso devaluation,' explains Victor Bassuk, director of CAF, Argentina's national film commission.
Capitalising on Buenos Aires
Much of the production activity from overseas is centred in the capital, Buenos Aires, which pulls in more than $65m worth of international production every year, according to official figures released recently.
'The combination of the peso devaluation, the architectural aspects of Buenos Aires that enable the recreation of different sets, the city's European style and a talented, highly qualified and experienced local film workforce have turned the area into one of the favourite film locations of the world,' says Victoria Kersul, chairwoman of BaSet, set up in 2001 to advise producers seeking to film in Buenos Aires, and to process free-of-charge shooting permits.
Meanwhile, a range of Argentinian film outfits have gained a reputation for providing high-quality services and helping international productions to complete on budget and on time. These include Delta Producciones, Rizoma Films, BD Cine, Aqua Films, Matanza Cine and Zarlek Producciones.
Need to compete with Canada, Australia and New Zealand
Post houses like Cinecolor and Metrovision are world class, as are Camaras & Luces (cameras and lighting) and Fraga (transportation). But while there are modern film and TV studios in Buenos Aires and San Luis, there is concern that a lack of studio space and financial incentives could prevent Argentina from competing with the likes of Australia, Canada or New Zealand.
'Other countries such as Canada, or even some US states, are now offering big bucks to entice productions, in recognition of the multiplier effect that they bring to local economies. We are far from it right now,' says producer Veronica Cura, head of Aqua Films, which provided services for KC Bascombe's Hide, shot by Wishbone Entertainment last July.
Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, who shot James Ivory's The City Of Your Final Destination in Argentina's isolated Pampas, says that shooting in the territory was a wonderful experience - but doubts whether the local film industry can handle more than three productions of a significant scale at the same time.
Meanwhile, City producer Paul Bradley also warns that Argentina's rapid inflation - which stood at 9.8% in 2006 - is another threat to the competitiveness.