Mexico festival basks in mall appeal

Ficco moves to more central venue

MEXICO CITY — Mexico City’s Intl. Film Festival, or Ficco, took on a more intimate feel this year with a new central venue that overcame the sense of being lost in the capital.

Location in a new high-end mall drew snickers from some who thought the conspicuous consumption jarred with fest’s emphasis on art cinema, but the new base allowed festgoers to catch more than a fleeting glimpse of other guests and prevented juries from having to hike across town to make screenings.

In its fourth year, the Ficco, headed by fest director Paula Astorga, has focused its competitions on young arthouse helmers and cutting-edge docus.

Programming, by directors Michel Lipkes and Maximiliano Cruz, drew nods from festgoers, who note the event’s commitment to art cinema and its strong retrospectives on Portuguese helmer Pedro Costa, as well as Robert Bresson, Peter Watkins, Lech Kowalski, Peter Whitehead and James Benning. Fest published a limited edition text on Costa with Spanish film journal Letras y Cine.

Guest program was also top notch, including New York Film Festival organizer Richard Pena.

This year, the fest managed to snag North American premieres of strong films from the festival circuit, such as “Body Rice,” by Portuguese director Hugo Vieira da Silva, and Algerian pic “Rome Rather Than You,” by Tariq Teguia.

Fest is backed by Cinemex, the nation’s No. 2 exhib. Cinemex CEO Miguel Angel Davila says he is committed to building the festival into “the top Latin American fest.”

Fest struggled to draw large auds outside of the weekends, partly due to the endemic problems of moving around congested Mexico City during the week, but also due to poor coverage by the local press.

Some 220 films were shown, featuring the first mass-screenings of HD projections in Mexico City. Attendance totaled some 75,000, according to Cinemex, about the same as last year.

Festival highlights included a live musical set by John Cameron Mitchell and cast, promoting “Shortbus,” and a screening of Guy Maddin’s silent film “Brand on the Brain” in a 19th century theater, with a live orchestra, onstage Foley artists and Geraldine Chaplin narrating.

Robert Koehler contributed to this report.

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