Guadalajara Intl Film Festival — From “Mariachi Gringo” to 3 time Mexican Presidential Candidate

Excerpt from Christine Davila’s Blog (Christine-but-call-me-Christina-it-sounds-more-mexican)

Guadalajara, MX — The  27th Guadalajara International Film Festival, FICG27, the biggest and oldest festival in Mexico with the most important Latin market (Argentina’s Ventana Sur might steal that rank soon though) included over 1000 titles in its video library, 30 young filmmakers in the Talent Campus,  and an expansive film program with over 300 films.  At a festival this overwhelming, they key to navigate it is strategy.  This was the second year under Festival Director Ivan Trujillo’s belt.

The jury awards declared Best Mexican Feature to Mariachi Gringo by Tom Gustfson and Best Mexican Documentary went to Cuates de Australia by Everardo Gonzalez.  I am at a puzzled loss over their choice of Mariachi Gringo, a poorly scripted, highly commercial novella at best.  The awards doled out were many many more.  For the full list click here.

I got in on the first Friday of the festival, March 2 and checked in at the swanky Camino Real across from the Expo, the hub of market activity.  I ran into some new friends from the Monterrey Film Festival and decided to join them for a screening of Mis Memorias de Mis Putas Tristes, a Marquez adaptation by Henning Carlsen which was fitting given the author’s anniversary that weekend.  A coughing fit prevented me from watching it through and through but what I did see was not enough to place this newest adaptation apart from the hundreds of other stiff attempts.

I did the right thing and stayed in the first two nights so I missed the opening night, which was oddly on the second night of the festival.  The film screening was Another Year, I guess because Mike Leigh was a guest of honor, along with the dapper Cubano Americano Andy Garcia, and Mexican filmmaker Gabriel Retes.  The festival’s country spotlight and guest was the UK, a rather strange programming choice, if you ask me.

The problem with traveling to festivals shortly after Sundance, is that you will run into people who are quick to point out that you, as in the entity known as Sundance, rejected their film.  Although as a Programming Associate I am not on the hook because I do not actually make the selection, I naturally try to diffuse their acrimony.  I ask which film, if I saw it, I let them know what I liked about it and console them in that there were so many good films we lost out.  That tends to work.  But given this year Sundance that did not select one single film from Mexico, be it narrative, documentary or short, it was a little tricky.  It hasn’t been that great a year for feature fiction, documentaries tend to be more ethnographic and regional, and shorts selected are 86 out of 6000 submissions.

On Saturday March 3 I took part in a panel for the Guadalajara Talent Campus. The subject was how to use social media to help your distribution but it was incongruently called, Stories on Everyone’s Lips.  I heard pitches for projects, both narrative and documentary that needed co-production partners or financing.  I could offer neither but was able to connect a few to Sundance Institute and suggest other development workshops.  It’s inspiring to hear the passion pour out of them and their connection to the projects is often quite personal.  One of the filmmaking teams I met was awarded the $150,000 in finishing funds.  Their project is a narrative called UIO, a film from Ecuador by Micaela Rueda that features a coming of age, lesbian romance.

Looking at the thick FICG27 catalogue, there was not too much US fare but they did well in screening Without by Mark Jackson who I just learned use to live in Mexico City and is a considered an honorary “Chilango”.  The other US film that seemed to come out of nowhere was a film by Matthew Modine called, Jesus was a Commie.  Has anyone heard of this?

Sunday night’s Industry cocktail was like many of the festival’s fiestas, far from the Expo. After some good schmoozing and saying hello to Canana Director of Distribution Cristina Garza and CEO Julian Levin I linked up with frequent Morelia Film Festival guest and partner in crime Anne Wakefield Hoyt, veteran journalist based in D.C. who was there on the FIPRESCI jury.

An especially good run in at the market was when I saw Rodrigo Guerrero of Dynamo Films and producer of festival and critically acclaimed film Contracorriente (Undertow). One of the exciting projects he is working on is a website he’s branding Discover New Talents, a site that is curated by both content and users and concept is where festival programmers can connect with works in progress films, and directors can connect with screenwriters.  He is currently developing it by partnering up with festival workshops and incubators like the Talent Campus.  I’m really excited about this as it would be a critical resource and tool to connect the global industry.

I made sure to get the second annual publication that Imcine puts out, an extremely informative and in-depth annual study of the Mexican film industry.  It’s got tons of stats and figures and bars about 2011 production, exhibition and the digital future of Mexico’s audiovisual industry.

  • 111 Mexican films produced in 2011
  • *Mexico is currently the country with the most screens in Latin America and the best ratio of inhabitant per screen.
  • Total films released 321. Mexican films released 62.

(check out the blog for more and links to the publication)

As I was leaving for the airport I saw none other than Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, three time presidential candidate and PRD moral leader, arrive at the hotel sans bodyguards (Read my review on the documentary about him, El Ingeniero here).  I said hello and told him how much I appreciated getting to know him through the documentary. He shook my hand and asked me where I was from, to which I responded — “I’m a Chicana from Chicago“.


Christine Davila – Chicana from Chicago
Christina (Christine-but-call-me-Christina- it-sounds-more-mexican) Dávila takes us along on her journey into the film festival circuit watching hundreds of Spanish language and US Latino films as a freelance film programmer for festivals like Sundance, Morelia, San Antonio’s Cinefestival, Los Angeles Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival.




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