Morelia Competition Welcomes Seasoned Directors, Large Industry Contingent

Festival dedicated to finding directorial talent in Mexico

A new rule allowing more experienced directors into competition has cinephiles buzzing ahead of the 11th Morelia Intl. Film Festival, running Oct. 18-27.

Morelia has become the best place for Mexicans to present work,” says fest director Daniela Michel. “So we believe it’s very important for the festival to change organically … in a way that continues to give a space to those directors who started out showing their work with us.”

The festival began in 2003 and has expanded from shorts competitions to, in 2007, its first fiction feature section, which until this year’s edition was limited to first- and second-time directors.

Michel says the festival was looking to show directors like Fernando Eimbcke, who is competing with his third feature, “Club Sandwich,” that they have a high-caliber forum in Mexico to bow new projects.

Eimbcke is well known on the international festival circuit, but he has long ties with Morelia, screening his breakout debut “Duck Season” in 2004 and his highly regarded follow-up “Lake Tahoe” in 2008.

The move to open the competition to more seasoned filmmakers speaks to the sense of family Michel has engendered over the years at Morelia, which has become a key venue for emerging helmers, including Nicolas Pereda (“Verano de Goliat”), Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio (“Alamar”), Mariana Chenillo (“Nora’s Will”) and Amat Escalante, who took the jury prize in 2007 with “Los bastardos” (The Bastards).

Michel is quick to stress that Morelia remains a festival dedicated to finding directorial talent in Mexico, noting the creation of an Opera Prima prize for first or second works, adding that five of the 11 films in the main lineup are eligible for the award.

Another major draw for Morelia continues to be the near constant casual industry interactions beneath the city’s colonial palisades, in the plazas and in the hospitality suite — offering an unusual level of access for a festival at this tier.

Festivalgoers should expect to run into a large industry presence, as several pics in this year’s lineup, many of which are only in their first or second festival run, come attached with top sales agents such as Funny Balloons, Pyramide Intl., UDI, Films Boutique, FiGa and Mundial, and are produced by top indie shingles like Canana, Cine Pantera and Machete.

Festival Highlights

Returning Hero

Borne on a wave of critical acclaim, Alfonso Cuaron is set to make a triumphant return to his native Mexico, opening the festival with “Gravity.”

Top Titles

“Manto acuifero” (The Well), from Camera d’Or winner Michael Rowe (“Leap Year”), is the second in the Australian-Mexican director’s Trilogy of Solitude and produced by Canana, which also has “Paraiso” (Paradise), Mariana Chenillo’s much-anticipated second work competing in the fest. Canana is the local distrib for Aaron Fernandez’s entry “Las horas muertas” (The Empty Hours).

Treasure Chest

Nonfiction film taken to an artform has become the standard in Mexico, a fact never more present than in Morelia with its long history with the Ambulante docu fest. Beyond Roberto Fiesco’s off beat transgender portraiture “Quebranto,” which was a hit at Guadalajara, look for the thoughtfully shot “Elevador” from Adrian Ortiz Maciel. All in all, the section is a potential trove for docfest programmers.

‘Eyes’ Have It

Monica del Carmen returns to the Morelia bigscreen in “A los ojos” (To the Eyes), a low-budget examination of the urban homeless in Mexico City from Michel Franco, who irst made waves with “After Lucia,” which won Un Certain Regard in 2012 .

Honoree

Filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, much beloved in Mexico, will be honored at the fest, and is expected to attend the screening of his latest pic, “The Dance of Reality.”

‘Sister’ Act

John Sayles will be bringing his latest film, “Go for Sisters,” for a special screening.

‘Club’ Room

Other standouts in the main competition are Fernando Eimbcke’s “Club Sandwich,” being handled by Funny BalloonsPeter Danner and produced by Christian Valdelievre at Cine Pantera; and Jose Luis Valle’s debut “Workers,” which played in Berlin and has already garnered solid sales via Paris-based MPM Film.

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