Event evolves from local pix to big showcase

GUADALAJARA — The awards-season run of Mexican helmers this year raised the profile of the Guadalajara Film Festival, as festgoers scoured screenings for signs of the next Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron or Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

But no one seems to have found them yet, and there were no must-buy deals. In its 22nd year, Guadalajara has evolved from a local fest of a dozen films into the biggest showcase in Mexico for local production and films from throughout Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Fest kicked off with an homage to hometown hero del Toro, who received the fest’s new Guadalajara Prize for his body of work, and Alfonso Cuaron was also on hand to support the release of his son’s first feature.

Guadalajara’s market, in its fifth year, is turning into the top venue in the region for buyers looking for the cream of regional output. “Latin American and Mexican filmmakers are met on their own ground and courted. They are the focus,” said Peter Goldwyn, VP of acquisitions for Samuel Goldwyn Films. “It’s not like in Cannes or Toronto, where they can get lost.”

Fest is in its second year under the leadership of former producer and helmer Jorge Sanchez, who has raised the level of the fest’s market, the only one in Mexico. Market bulked up with more interest this year, with nearly 300 buyers and sellers showing up compared with 234 last year. The Ibero-American Film Co-Production Meeting sported a new cash prize worth $150,000-$250,000 as a minimum guarantee from Spanish pubcaster RTVE for Spanish TV rights.

Films in Progress, based on the competition in San Sebastian, introduced two awards worth a total of approximately $175,000 in post services and cash to help complete unfinished works. Sanchez added breakfast roundtables modeled on the Cannes Market’s Producers Network featuring industry figures like Netflix’s head of original content Bahman Naraghi and Funny Balloon’s Peter Danner.

On the programming side, world premieres were concentrated in the Mexican selection, which included eight first works out of 12 features. Fest received more than 40 submissions, a sign of Mexico’s surging local production.

Standout premieres included the first feature of Jonas Cuaron, Alfonso’s son, “Year of the Nail.” Filmed as a series of digital stills, the story follows a sex-obsessed 14-year-old boy’s attempt to romance a 21-year-old American adrift in Mexico.

Mexican shingle Altavista had two buzz pics in the fest. Enrique Begne’s “Two Love Stories” links two sets of characters that fall into unlikely emotional relationships. Second Altavista production was the first feature by Simon Bross, “Bad Habits,” a dark drama that follows a family wracked by an array of eating disorders. Bross is one of Mexico’s most awarded commercial directors, and the pic sparked interest among buyers in various territories.

Another surprise was Aaron Fernandez’ “Used Parts,” a Mexican co-production with France and Spain, about an adolescent boy’s turn to crime in order to pay for passage to the United States. The first feature from Ernesto Contreras, “Blue Eyelids,” puts a lonely girl in a dilemma when she wins an all-expense paid vacation to a beach paradise and decides to invite a complete stranger.

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