Despite continuing economic problems, there were 104 films produced in Mexico last year, the same number as in 1989, according to the Dept. of Statistics of the National Chamber of the Film Industry.
Foreign productions accounted for only four films, one fewer than in 1989; in 1988 over two dozen pics touting foreign coin were produced. Yank firms used Mexican locations last year for “Behind The Mask,” “War On Drugs,” “One Man’s War” and Col’s “The Taking Of Beverly Hills.”
In addition, there were five foreign co-prods with domestic firms. The U.S. indie Chariot 7 co-produced Arturo Ripstein’s Spanish-lingo venture “La Mujer Del Puerto” (Woman Of The Port); Canada co-produced “Diplomatic Immunity.” Spain’s Television Espanola (TVE) co-produced three pics, all helmed by Mexican filmmakers: “Bandidos” (Bandits), by Luis Estrada, “Pueblo de Madera” (Wooden Town), by Juan Antonio de la Riva and “Cabeza de Vaca,” by Nicolas Echeverria. In all, offshore companies produced or co-produced only nine pics – less than 10% of the total – in 1990.
Mexican films, once highly regarded during the 1940s and ’50s, have witnessed a marked decline in quality and theme over the past three decades. The private sector – taking advantage of Hispanic theatrical, homevid and tv markets in the United States – continues to churn out a regular supply of low-budget product aimed at quick profits in hard currency.
Dominated by sex comedies, violent adventure pics, morbid films about narcotics smugglers and cheap folklore ventures, Mexican cinema has steadily lost markets and prestige.
State can’t produce alone
In order to rectify this, since the late ’70s the state has tried to stimulate production of less commercial product, with varying success. Burdened with a large foreign debt, the state can no longer afford to play the role of sole producer. Rather, over the past several years the government has followed a policy of acting as co-producer or middleman for quality product.
The Mexican Film Institute (Imcine) participated in nine features in 1990, two more than in 1989, or 8.6% of the total. Before it was officially dissolved in March 1990, the former state production company Conacite 2 co-produced “Pueblo De Madera” with Television Espanola.
In addition, Imcine participated in eight further productions, including “Cabeza De Vaca,” “Solo Con Tu Pareja” (Only With Your Mate), “Bandidos,” “Danzon,” “Mi Querido Tom Mix” (My Dear Tom Mix), “Comodas Mensualidades” (Convenient Monthly Payments), “Ciudad De Ciegos” (City Of The Blind) and “La Mujer De Benjamin” (Benjamin’s Woman).
In addition, a Quality Film Production Fund (Fondo de Fomento de Cine de Calidad) was created in 1986 with financing coin skimmed from b.o. profits to co-produce new films. In 1990, the F.F.C.C. provided partial funding for six productions. Besides co-producing a big-screen version of the long-running play “El Extensionista” (The Extensionist), co-scripted and directed by Fernando Perez Gavilan, it also provided co-prod monies for “Cabeza De Vaca,” “Bandidos,” “Mi Querido Tom Mix,” “Comodas Mensualidades” and “Solo Con Tu Pareja.”
Another funding source for alternative production in Mexico in recent years has been the formation of film cooperatives. Three such projects were lensed in 1990: The Cooperative Jose Revueltas co-produced “Danzon” and “Cabeza De Vaca,” while Cooperativa Kinam contributed to the funding for “Lucrecia.”
Private companies continued to carry the bulk of Mexico’s production load, with the whole or partial funding of 90 pics. Televicine, the feature film production arm of Televisa, saw a marked drop in production with only four projects receiving full or partial support by the firm, compared to the seven films produced in 1989.