PR rep says February/March event is off

MEXICO CITY — The seventh edition of the popular Mexico City Contemporary Film Festival, dubbed Ficco, has been canceled only weeks before it was set to open.

With the capital plastered in posters promoting the event, rumors began to fly mid-to-late last week that the fest, due to run Feb. 24-March 7, was in hot water; staffers were quietly told they were going to be out of a job.

Last Friday, the fest contacted its PR firm, Burson-Marsteller Mexico, to say it was over and to expect an official announcement — which came on Tuesday.

Heavy on international pics that have no local distrib, the fest pleased crowds but was light on industry impact — ultimately unable to attract many buyers or foster major deals despite efforts to build it up as a major venue for new indie Mexican cinema.

Ficco faced a number of challenges in recent years, most notably the departure of much of its original executive and programming staff in September 2008, following the lead of then-director Paula Astorga.

At that time, Astorga cited creative differences with chief sponsor Cinemex, a Mexican exhibition chain.

Ficco’s new director, Raquel Cajiga, managed to pull off the sixth edition last year, but with a marked decline from the fest’s 2008 peak of 263 films to 180 last year.

In November, Cajiga held a press conference to unveil events for the 2010 fest.

She had lined up 150 features; a retrospective of indie Mexican filmmaking from the 1960s and 1970s; workshops run by the Mexican Film Institute, Imcine; plus plans to take the films on the road to 10 states in Mexico — much like the road show that thesps Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal have put on with their doc fest, Ambulante, which runs next month.

While the list for features and documentaries in competition were not released, the fest received entries from July to October and listed prizes available in a number of categories, consisting largely of film transfer, editing equipment and gear rental — a step down from the larger cash prizes seen in past editions.

With the demise of Ficco, Mexico City’s 20 million or so residents are left without a large, competitive film fest to call their own, with the exception of Ambulante.

This makes the Guadalajara Film Festival and, to a lesser degree, the Morelia Film Festival the nation’s only real hunting grounds for fresh local talent in fiction filmmaking.

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