Latin America's premier cinema showcase benefits from new blood

The Guadalajara Film Festival is over one-quarter of a century old, and the long-established platform for the annual launch of Mexico’s new films, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t able to do a face-lift.

From leadership to venues to even the website, there’s a new look to the festival. With the departure of fest topper Jorge Sanchez and program director Lucy Virgen, Guadalajara has turned to a pair of cinephiles with roots in the film archive world: Ivan Trujillo has taken the reins as exec director, while Gerardo Salcedo has assumed programming responsibilities. Trujillo, who completed a stint as Mexico’s cultural attaché in Cuba just before his appointment, has served as president of the Federation of Intl. Film Archives, while Salcedo segues from archival programmer at Mexico City’s Cineteca.

“I think our combined experiences in archival work has had some influence on the program,” Salcedo says.

This is perhaps most apparent in Guadalajara’s first-ever complete career survey of a filmmaker — Werner Herzog, whose new 3-D “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” will rep the festival’s inaugural 3-D projection. Tied in via Herzog’s own version of “Nosferatu” is a 20-film survey of vampire films from the silent era to the present, ranging from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s “Vampyr” to Tomas Alfredson’s instant Swedish classic, “Let the Right One In.”

“We thought that with Herzog, a rich overview of the vampire genre, which continually seems to be renewing itself, was the perfect match,” says Trujillo.

The most dramatic alteration that Guadalajara regulars will experience is certain to be the central venue and meeting place for the festival and the market, still Latin America’s largest. So it’s out with the former stomping grounds of Hotel Fiesta Americana and in with Expo Guadalajara, the city’s convention center, providing expanded booth space for the market’s sellers, vendors and national film commissions, as well as viewing rooms, panels, seminars, book presentations and the primary press screening room.

“It’s difficult to organize a film festival in such a big city as Guadalajara,” Trujillo says, “and it’s especially important that attendees are never too far from their hotels and their destinations, whether they’re going to the festival or the market. The market had outgrown the space limitations at Fiesta Americana, compelling us to find a new space. With the Expo as a central point and all of the hotels very close by, we may have come up with a good solution.”

A key factor in the market expansion is a notable increase in production and promotion from Colombia, Puerto Rico and Peru, as well as the region’s brawny stalwarts Brazil, Argentina and Mexico, with Chile rising as an important player.

“The market is maturing, and it’s important for Guadalajara to reflect this,” Trujillo says.

What doesn’t seem to be changing in the festival is the basic design of the program. Still in place are competitions in fiction and non-fiction categories for Mexican and Ibero-American films, with the local product almost exclusively world premieres (an exception being Paula Markovitch’s Mexican-produced, Argentine-shot “The Prize,” fresh from the Berlin competition).

Highlights in the field include Mexican narratives “Burros” from director Odin Salazar and “Moon Rain” care of vet Marisa Sistach, and among Ibero-American titles, Laura Amelia Guzman and Israel Cardenas’ “Jean Gentil” and HectorOlivera’s “The Mural.” Hot international fest titles “Post Mortem” (from Chile’s Pablo Larrain), the Gael Garcia Bernal starring “Even the Rain” (from Spain’s Iciar Bollain) and “Amador” (from Spain’s Fernando Leon) are sure to draw audience interest.

The Mexican fiction lineup has expanded to 14 this year, its largest in some time.

“Mexico’s cinema is a wide umbrella, from commercial comedies to independent art cinema,” Salcedo says. “You can see this in the lineup, from Patricia Martinez’s comedy ‘Here Between Us,’ to a personal work like ‘Burros.'”

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