A Brief Chronicle of ARRI in Latin America

A Brief Chronicle of ARRI in Latin America

At ARRI Latin America we thought it would be fun to share a brief chronicle of the market we work in.

During this 100th anniversary year at ARRI, we are learning more about the history of the company and its impact on the global film industry. Here at ARRI Latin America, we thought it would be fun to share a brief chronicle of this special region.

Argentina, Brazil and Mexico have had long and storied histories in cinema. During their heyday in the mid-1900s, these countries supported a burgeoning film industry producing hundreds of prominent works.

There were a total of three excursions to the Amazon region and on the third trip in 1955 the German crew was arrested by the Brazilian Federal Police and shipped off to Rio.

Before finding their own voice, European films inspired these Latin American filmmakers. The more commercial Hollywood features were traditionally kept out of the theaters. Moreover, there is still acceptance for the intervention of the state in maintaining the history and culture of a national cinema. Even democratically elected governments impose limits on the distribution of foreign films within their borders.

The evidence of ARRI gear popping up in the region goes back over 60 years. Local film crews often learned about the quality and robustness of the equipment while working outside their country. They brought back cameras and lighting fixtures when returning home. More importantly, filmmakers brought back the knowledge of moviemaking and the latest technology being used. We still see a similar dynamic today, with a 21st Century twist.

Back in the day, entrepreneurs would travel to Germany, buy second hand ARRI lights and bring them back to rent out. It did not matter that the gear was used, the market was ecstatic to have it. Good equipment was hard to come by in this remote territory.

German film director Franz Eichhorn monitors conditions on set.

Foreign productions were enticed by the exotic settings. They learned to cope with the many challenges presented in this environment.  German film director Franz Eichhorn journeyed to Brazil back in the 1950s with his crew and ARRIFLEX cameras to shoot the Amazon. “There are many wild, untold stories,” recounts his granddaughter Sybelle Urban, “among them the incident of nearly being washed away in their attempt to film the famous pororoca wave phenomenon, waves that are formed when the ocean tides run into the waters of the Amazon River. They underestimated the power of the waves, were too close to the edge of the river, and had to literally run for their lives.”

She adds, “Within a time period of eight years or so there were a total of three excursions to the Amazon region and on the third trip in 1955 the German crew was arrested by the Brazilian Federal Police and shipped off to Rio. In Rio my grandfather subsequently directed a few feature films, the most famous one being AS TREZE CADEIRAS, which won him the Best Director award at the Governador do Estado de São Paulo film festival in 1957.” Eichhorn remained in Rio and later founded Eurobras, the company that still today represents ARRI in Brazil.

Eichhorn (in striped shirt) and his crew in the Amazon Basin.

In the 1960s and 70s, cameraman Fucho Musitelli was one of the first, if not the first, to use ARRIFLEX cameras in the Río de la Plata region, between Uruguay and Argentina. In 1966, he would also become the ARRI sales representative. Up to this point equipment had to be purchased and imported directly from Munich. It was not until 1994 that links were established with ARRI in the United States. Today, Fucho Musitelli’s grandsons run a top-notch rental facility in Montevideo bearing their name. ARRI is still their flagship brand.

In the 1960s and 70s, cameraman Fucho Musitelli was one of the first, if not the first, to use ARRIFLEX cameras in the Río de la Plata region.

Analog cameras were being used in early 1980’s Colombia to capture the Cine Revista news segments shown in movie theaters. They were filmed with the ARRI II C, a straightforward, workhorse of a camera that really put ARRI on the map. Negative processing and post still had to be completed in NY since there were no local labs.  Efraim Cárdenas of Congo Films in Bogotá recounts, “The first ARRI III with bayonet mount arrived in about 1984. More cameras soon followed and by the end of the 1980’s a couple of PL mount cameras began appearing.” Today you can find all the latest cutting-edge digital production equipment at rental houses across the region.

Ferruccio “Fucho” Musitelli shooting on beach. 1960s, Uruguay. ARRI II C

In 1985, the Oscar for best foreign film went to a production from Argentina, LA HISTORIA OFICIAL, by Luis Puenzo.  Félix Monti the acclaimed Argentine cinematographer shot the film on ARRI cameras. 

More recently, ARRI SR IIIs have been used in the Dominican Republic to capture films such as the popular PERICO RIPIAO. According to Ruben Abud from Kcettes Pro, PERICO RIPIAO has been the country’s most successful film and a box office hit for director Ángel Muñiz and cinematographer Peyi Guzmán. With the increase in the quality of work, the rise in the availability of trained crew, and the new facilities at Pinewood Dominican Republic Studios, film production in this small Caribbean nation continues to grow rapidly.

Over the last 100 years, ARRI has been instrumental in helping shape the film industry in South America and the Caribbean.  The Latin America office, established in Florida, has grown considerably. The team now encompasses sales, marketing and customer relations and is supported by a solid dealer network. Furthermore, ARRI Brasil was recently established in Sao Paulo as the first ARRI Camera Service Center in Latin America. Today, we continue the same tradition of support for the territory through these two offices.

Cinematographer Peyi Guzman on Perico Ripiao, Dominican Republic.

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