Mexico's Most Wanted

2nd fest edition fires up industry presence, young Mexican talent spread

BAJA FESTIVAL, LOS CABOS – Three awaited Mexican movies – “Mexico’s Most Wanted,” “Flying Low” and “Natural Philosophy of Love” – all world preem at the 2nd Baja International Film Festival whose Hollywood industry presence underscores that the U.S. is at least beginning to take Mexico’s talent pool more seriously.

Baja’s U.S. presence includes Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media, agencies CAA, Paradigm, Management 360, investor Palmstar Media Capital/Merced Media Partners and sales agents Voltage Pictures, Panorama Media, XYZ Films, FiGa Films and Shoreline Entertainment.

Also hailing into Baja, on the striking Los Cabos coast, are U.S. distribs Sony Pictures Classics, Strand Releasing and Tropical Pictures.

Produced by Billy and Fernando Rovzar’s Lemon Films (“After Lucia,” “Saving Private Perez”), “Mexico’s Most Wanted” is IM Global/Canana’s Mundial first third-party sales pick-up out of Canana’s native Mexico.

A propulsive crime thriller, “Wanted” also reps Lemon’s most recent attempt to cast a Hollywood sub-genre – the gangster movie – into a Mexican reality. Here, that graft is near surreal, but true.

Starring Tenoch Huerta and Noe Hernandez (“Miss Bala”)

“Wanted” is based on the real-life story of ‘80s career criminal Alfredo Ríos Galeana, a bank heist specialist by day, masked mariachi by night, despite being Mexico’s public enemy number one.

Beto Gomez’s follow-up to “Saving Private Perez,” “Flying Low” is a musical comedy in the vein of “Cinema Paradiso,” a homage to ‘70s/‘80s Mexican cinema, per Gomez.

Sebastian Hiriart, whose magical-realist “A tiro de piedra” was an HBO pick-up, world preems “Natural Philosophy of Love,” a four-part exploration of erotic desire.

Unspooling Nov. 13-16, strategically just after the AFM’s main market, and highlighting young Mexican talent, the 2nd BIFF looks set to play out as part AFM chill-out, part Mexican industry out-reach to Hollywood and farer north.

It has assembled a focused but impressive line-up of 166 industry participants.

Tutors at a sales agent workshop include Memento Films Intl.’s Nicholas Kaiser, The Match Factory’s Brigitte Suarez, Cristina Garza at Mundial, consultant Emi Norris, Rise and Shine’s Diana Karklin, Les Films du Losange’s Agathe Valentin and Latam Distribution’s Mineko Mori.

Baja’s main drive is to build bridges between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. That shows in attendance. U.S. and Canadian execs rep 36% of BIFF’s industry attendees, Mexican pros 56%.

One industry centerpiece will be a Meet Your Neighbors: Mexico, USA and Co-production forum, including one-to-one meetings and industry co-prod panels.

Itaca Films’ Alex Garcia, Uncorked Production’s Andrew Corkin, Jonathan Gray at Gray Krauss Stratford des Rochers and Mexican director Jorge Michel Grau (“Somos lo que hay”) will discuss Mexico-U.S. co-production.

“We have so many things in common,” BIFF director Alonso Aguilar argued.

“The Latin American community is the U.S.’s most important audience target; Canada and Mexico have similar production systems.”

Boasting Charlie Sheen and Brit auteur Peter Greenaway as special guests, opening Wednesday with a gala screening of Juan Jose Campanella’s 3D toon-pic “Foosball,” BIFF will also dedicate tributes to Gael Garcia Bernal and Mantarraya

Producciones, which is celebrating its 15th anni.

Both illustrate Mexican drive. Garcia Bernal began as an actor, co-launched now top Mexican shingle Canana in 2006, diversified into direction (“Deficit”) and production (“The Well”). He will present a screening of Michel Gondry’s “The Science of Sleep.”

Launching in 1998, Mantarraya is best-known for producing Carlos Reygadas and Amat Escalante’s movies, such as Reygadas’ “Post Tenebras Lux” and Escalante’s “Heli,” Cannes’ best director winners this year and last.

It has moved into distribution in Mexico, via ND Mantarraya, plus foreign sales, with NDM, both partnerships with Reygadas.

With Filmadora Nacional also in attendance, “Wanted,” the Garcia Bernal and Mantarraya homages, and Alex Garcia’s presence on a panel, BIFF will welcome most – though not all – of the prime-movers and shakers on Mexico’s building film scene; which is just what Hollywood visitors want.

Baja also unspools at a propitious time for Mexican cinema, which is firing on at least three cylinders: is firing on at least three cylinders: Juggernaut B.O. for two comedies, “We Are the Nobles,” and “Instructions Not Included”; a building L.A.-Mexico City two-way street, worked by Pantelion Films, Canana, Alex Garcia and Lemon Films, opening a door to double U.S/Mexico financing and markets; vibrant debuts such as, this year, “La jaula de oro,” “Workers.”

A second thing foreign visitors want is a large spread of new talent. BIFF looks to deliver on this score as well.

The Baja Fest has bowed both a pix-in-post Works in Progress Mexico, the first of its kind dedicated to Mexican productions, and a Mexico First for debut and second films.

Five Mexico First’s entries are from first-timers, two world premieres: Katina Medina Mora’s doomed relationship drama “Luto”; and photographer Lourdes Grobet’s docu-feature “Bering, Balance and Resistance,” which looks at Strait life.

Beyond Arellano’s “Beginning,” in WIP Mexico buzz is also good on Gustavo Gamou’s retired cartel sicario portrait “The Return of the Dead” and Marcelo Tobar’s family secret drama “Asteroid.”

Max Zunino’s “Open Cage,” an affecting friendship tale between a jobless 65-year-old and young girl drifter, co-won 2o13’s Guadalajara Construye. In Elise DuRant’s fiction/docu hybrid “Eden,” a woman’s delves into her father’s past; Julio Fernandez Talamates’ “Bronze Nation” portrays a crime clan.

Adding the seven projects highlighted by Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund development awards, and Baja will showcase 18 fresh films from Mexico’s seemingly bottomless young talent pool.

Emilio Mayorga contributed to this report

2nd BAJA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, NOV. 13-16, 2013

OFFICIAL COMPETITION

“Alphee of the Stars,” (Hugo Latulippe, Canada)

“The Dirties,” (Matthew Johnson, Canada, U.S.)

“Hide your Smiling Faces,” (Daniel Patrick Carbone, U.S.)

“I Used to be Darker,” (Matthew Porterfield, U.S.)

“Long Lost Hours,” (Aaron Fernandez, Mexico, France, Spain)

“Short Term 12,” (Destin Cretton, U.S.)

“Sarah Prefers to Run,” (Chloe Robichaud, Canada)

“Who is Dayani Cristal?” (Marc Silver, Mexico. U.K., U.S.)

MEXICO FIRST

“Heights,” (Gabriel Nuncio)

“Bering, Balance and Resistance,” (Lourdes Grobet)

“Natural Philosophy of Love,” (Sebastian Hiriart)

“The Life After,” (David Pablos)

“The Amazing Catfish,” (Claudia Sainte-Luce)

“Luto,”  (Katina Medina Mora)

WORK IN PROGRESS MEXICO

“Asteroid,” (Marcelo Tobar)

“Eden,” (Elise DuRant)

“The Beginning of Time,” (Bernardo Arellano)

“The Return of the Dead,”  (Gustavo Gamou)

“Open Cage,” (Max Zunino)

“Bronze Nation,” (Julio Fernandez Talamantes)

GALAS

“Foosball,” (Juan Jose Campanella, Argentina, Spain)

“Dallas Buyers Club,” (Jean-Marc Vallee, U.S.)

“Fading Gigolo,” (John Turturro, U.S.)

“Mexico’s Most Wanted,” (Jose Manuel Cravioto, Mexico)

“Paradise,” (Mariana Chenillo, Mexico)

“Flying Low” (Beto Gomez, Mexico)

SPECIAL PRESENTATION

“The Object Formerly Known as a Record,” (Gregory Allen, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, U.S.)

“Machete Kills,” (Robert Rodriguez, U.S.)

“Blackfish,”  (Gabriela Cowperthwaite, U.S.)

INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES

“Only Lovers Left Alive,” (Jim Jarmusch, U.S.)

“Tom at the Farm,”  (Xavier Dolan, Canada, France)

“Wakolda,”  (Lucia Puenzo, Argentina, France, Spain, Norway)

“We Are the Best,” (Lukas Moodysson, Sweden)

TRIBUTES

SPOTLIGHT PHILIPPE FALARDEAU

“Monsieur Lazhar,” (Philippe Falardeau, Canada)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MANTARRAYA

“Silent Light,” (Carlos Reygadas Mexico, Belgium, France, Germany)

“Alamar,” (Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio, Mexico)

“Blood,” (Amat Escalante, Mexico)

TRIBUTE TO GAEL GARCIA BERNAL

“The Science of Sleep,” (Michel Gondry, France, Italy)

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