"I chose to come to Uruguay instead of the Sundance festival"

The CEO of Mubi, Efe Cakarel, and the President of the New York Film Academy, Michael Young, praised Uruguay’s audiovisual industry.
Publication date: 25/01/2023

The creator of Mubi – the successful distribution, production, and streaming platform specialized in independent film across diverse genres and from many different countries – participated, as a guest of Uruguay XXI and JIIFF, in the thirteenth edition of the film festival held on the Uruguayan coast that attracts several national and international leaders from the film industry.

At the festival, Cakarel delivered a presentation about his platform and opportunities to further develop the Uruguayan film industry. In addition, he accepted the JIIFF 2023 Best Film Award, selected by the audience, on behalf of Close, by Lukas Dhont and distributed by Mubi. 

“Beyond everything that’s happening in the world, I wanted to be here because I was very curious about everything happening in Uruguay and about its audience of very cultured film enthusiasts,” Cakarel said during an interview with Uruguay XXI.

The businessman insisted on the fact that great cinema is for everyone and that the way to expand audiences is to exhibit good filmmaking. “When I heard what was happening in José Ignacio I was very curious because they were selecting some of the best films from all around the world and showing them in a beautiful place with sold-out screenings every single day,” he said.

According to Cakarel, the world first became aware of Uruguayan talent during the pandemic. “I keep hearing more and more about Uruguay. The country managed the pandemic very wisely, with clear policies and remaining open most of the time, allowing for numerous productions to be shot here. We started hearing more and more about films made here,” he added.

In this context, he became interested in learning more about the Uruguayan film industry and having meetings with producers to explore the country’s capabilities for future co-production opportunities.

In the near future, Cakarel expects to see an original Uruguayan production become “very relevant internationally,” something he doesn’t see often in the different film markets he visits. “I think there’s a lot of talent here to make that happen. You have all the resources to make it possible. Uruguay just has to go and do it.”

On his first trip to the country, Cakarel was impressed by the people. “I’m meeting some of the nicest people. People are happy here; they have a beautiful smile and incredible energy. From the moment I landed in Montevideo, this marvelous energy around me made me very happy. This is a place people really want to live in, where people really want to do things. This audiovisual ecosystem will attract people from Uruguay and around the world to take part in this glory,” he concluded.    

“Uruguay is the perfect place for a prosperous creative and audiovisual industry”

The President of the NYFA, Michael Young, visited Uruguay again after having traveled to the country several times – most recently for the Test & Invest Forum, organized by the IDB in November of 2022. He highlighted the country’s audiovisual industry’s potential and predicted that it was ready to take the next step.

What are your thoughts on what you’ve seen in Uruguay and your predictions for the country, JIIFF and the Uruguayan film industry?

My experiences here have always been delightful. Why? Because of the people, the love for cinema, the food, the culture, and the hospitality.

I think the JIIFF has already reached a critical mass. With two projections a night of the same film, all of the events are sold-out, which is wonderful. There’s a real interest here in seeing the film industry grow and extend beyond the country’s borders. I think there’s a sincere interest in contributing to the country’s development, but also in exporting the country’s culture across the continent and hopefully even farther.

Uruguay is a really special place. I think it’s on the right path and you see quality productions coming out of Uruguay. Punta del Este is growing and you could see more productions there or, of course, in Montevideo. We already knew local production value was high, but I think we’re also starting to see a good level of creativity and new producers that will develop original concepts.

What did you think of the José Ignacio Festival?

I was enormously impressed by the JIIFF’s selections, finding the right balance between entertaining and challenging a broad and enthusiastic audience. Combining Uruguayan short films with the best contemporary international films and award-winners from Cannes built a bridge between emerging Uruguayan filmmakers and the industry more generally.

The festival atmosphere was sophisticated and festive all at once, and very warm. The JIIFF combines the beauty of Uruguay with a community of film enthusiasts and a mission. I think it will continue to grow as a destination festival for Latin America and beyond. The JIIFF is more than a festival celebrating movies, it’s also an incubator to develop content and new talents.

As president of the New York Film Academy (NYFA), I had the honor of participating in the Generation J project, one of three programs created by the JIIFF to promote the growth of talent, content, and local productions. I got to meet a group of 10 passionate young Uruguayan producers from Generation J, working on their feature-length fiction films while receiving expert guidance from brilliant mentors like Emiliano Mazza de Luca and Martha Orozco, both industry professionals.

I was inspired by the participants in Generation J, an exceptionally motivated and accomplished group, of which three were awarded scholarships for NYFA’s intensive production programs on the New York or Los Angeles campuses or through the live, face-to-face online platform. We’re looking forward to welcoming them and taking part in their journey.

Your presentation was about the producers of the future. What do young Uruguayans need to be successful in the field?

The key elements for success, which were also demonstrated by the producers in Generation J, are a passion for the material, sensitivity as a film artist, and a love for storytelling.

In addition, adaptability, flexibility, curiosity, and knowledge of the changes occurring in the market, methods, technology, and platforms are fundamental.

I would add perseverance, discipline, and a relentless drive, the capacity to collaborate and work in a network, as well as believing in oneself and having the courage to take action.

What do you think of Uruguay and its ecosystem? What advantages should Uruguay emphasize in the audiovisual sector?

Uruguay has high levels of what Richard Florida called the “three Ts”: talent, technology, and tolerance. This makes it the perfect place for a prosperous creative and audiovisual industry.

You can’t overestimate the importance of the beauty of the country, its culinary and musical culture, and political and economic stability in building a community of creatives of all types from all over the world that can do their best work in Uruguay. Production services are already excellent and will continue to grow with new studios and investments. The next phase, which is already underway and of which JIIFF is a fundamental piece, is the appearance of local stories, intellectual property, and content to be developed in Uruguay at the highest standards to be shared with the world.