Baja California fest grows as Hollywood interest in Mexico builds
With Reese Witherspoon in attendance, Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Wild” will open the third Los Cabos Festival in Baja California which looks set to consolidate its status as both a unique crossroads for the U.S., Mexican and Canadian industries and one of the fastest-building events in North America.
Adding new sections and industry initiatives, forging strategic alliances abroad, and upping its prize money, and in its second year with Alonso Aguilar-Castillo at the reins after a vibrant sophomore edition, 2014’s edition has already registered a notable spike in industry attendance. Through Oct. 31, this was tracking at 273 execs, 63% above 2013, driven by a robust spike in U.S. attendees, 71, up from 33 last year.
The growth is no coincidence. To date in 2014, the highest grossing foreign-language movie at the U.S. box office is Mexican – “Cantinflas,” Mexico’s Oscar entry ($6.4 million) – as it was in 2013 with “Instructions Not Included” ($44.5 million). Working out of both Mexico City and L.A., Mexican production operations – Canana, Alex Garcia’s AG Studios, Lemon Films, Alazraki Ent., – are an increasingly integrated part of the Hollywood scene.
No studio has yet hit a homerun with a Mexican film this year as Warner Bros. did spectacularly in Mexico in 2013 with “We Are the Nobles” ($26.25 million).But three local movies have at least made a domestic impact: Relationship comedy “Get Married If You Can,” distributed in Mexico by Videocine, owned by Televisa, a partner in Pantelion Films ($12.7 million in Mexico); “Cantinflas” ($9.5 million in Mexico), and Luis Estrada’s merciless Mexican establishment satire, “La dictadura perfecta” ($7.9 million and counting strongly).
It is the caliber of North American and Mexican attendance at Los Cabos, however, much more than the quantity, that is particularly impressive.
Among execs signed up this year are CAA’S Micah Green and Roeg Sutherland, FilmNation principal Glen Basner, Randall Emmett, producer Ram Bergman (“Star Wars Episode 7”), Marc Butan, Trigger Street Productions’ Dana Brunetti (“House of Cards”), Laurence Bender, Participant Media’s Jonathan King, Basil Iwanyk, Ira Deutchman and Pantelion Films’ Benjamin Odell.
Attendees take in other agencies – ICM, WME Global (Deborah Mcintosh), UTA (Rena Ronson), Paradigm – distributors such as Fox Searchlight and Magnolia, and a robust lineup of U.S. sales agencies: FilmNation, IM Global, eOne Films Intl., XYZ Films, Sierra Affinity, Voltage Pictures, International Film Trust, plus their overseas compadres: Fortissimo, Funny Balloons, Latam Distribution, Pyramide Intl., Wild Bunch, WestEnd Films and UDI. Latin American movie specialists – Latido Films, Outsider Pictures – will also be at Los Cabos.
Los Cabos’ attendance spike also reflects growth at the festival itself. Closing Nov. 16 with a gala screening of Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” the boutique Baja California event boasts a carefully-curated Los Cabos Competition of just nine titles, drawn from Canada – Stephane Lafleur’s “Tu dors Nicole,” for example – the U.S. – South By Southwest winner “10,000 KM,” Alex Ross Perry’s Sundance hit “Listen Up Philip” – and Mexico: Alonso Ruizpalacios’ slice of Mexico City life “Güeros,” which took plaudits at Berlin and San Sebastian, rating as one of the standout Latin American debuts of the year.
Aguilar Castillo points out that the Competition also includes a world premiere, “El regreso del muerto,” a docu-feature by Gustavo Gamou, director of Cannes Critics’ Week player “La palomilla salvaje.” “Muerto” turns on a former hitman who feigned his own death, and now lives on the margins in Tijuana.
With the festival’s second major section, Mexico First, contained at just six films, and many other sidebars and tributes featuring an average two-to-three, the Mexican fest may be one of the only festivals on earth where a resolute ticket buyer has a chance of catching most, though not all, of its event’s 49 movies on offer, 21 Latin American premieres.
“In all the sections, designing the festival, we’ve bet more on quality than volume,” said Aguilar-Castillo.
“The Work in Progress and Co-Production Forum follow the same philosophy. Given we have 300 industry participants, and so many high-ranking executives, we have to offer high-quality programming,” added Alejandra Paulin, Los Cabos general coordinator.
Los Cabos is also one of Mexico’s fests with the best local industry support. Attendees this year take in AG Studios Alex Garcia; “Instructions Not Included” producer Monica Lozano, execs from Canana, Mundial, Mantarraya, IMCINE Mexican Film Agency head Jorge Sanchez, Alberto Muffelman at BH5Group, an increasingly influential international producer, Leonardo Zimbrón, Mattías Ehrenberg and Nicolás and Sebastián Celis.
Launched in 2012, Los Cabos also sports the signature flourishes of a latest-generation film events: a sharp regional focus, and, in proportional terms, a pronounced industry heft.
“We’ve chosen films of high quality often from producers whom we’d love to have at the festival, joining its industry program. Also, Los Cabos’ 2014 edition has its most ambitious industry program to date. Year on year, we’ve made a large effort to invite executives not just from Hollywood but also Toronto and Quebec and this year Europe,” said Castillo-Aguilar.
He added: “Our strong industry platform has been our main tool to position ourselves internationally, our most specific characteristic.”
Of Los Cabos’ $335,850 prize money this year, the highest for any Latin American fest, $265,850 is dedicated to industry sections, said Paulin.
Two sections — Work in Progress Mexico 2014, Mexico First, for first and second-time Mexican helmers — function as showcases for young homegrown talent, as does the announcement of 2014 recipients of Los Cabos’ Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund grants, made during the Festival.
Among innovations this year, the Toronto Fest’s Cameron Bailey will moderate a panel discussion Saturday, Nov. 15, between Canadian director Atom Egoyan and producers Robert Lantos, Gerardo Gatica and Muffelman on the making of Egoyan’s latest, “Remember,” now in post.
Los Cabos has added a potent 14-project U.S.-Mexico-Canada Co-production Forum, joining its Works in Progress, launched in 2013 and focusing on six Mexican pix in post. Potential Forum highlights include “Permanent,” from Colette Burson, co-creator of HBO series “Hung,” Boris Rodriguez’s “Coward,” “The Other Tom,” the English-language debut of Mexico-based Rodrigo Pla (“The Zone”), and “Museum,” a step-up in scale for Ruizpalacios.
Establishing international strategic alliances over 2014, Los Cabos dispatched four Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund winners to industry events outside Mexico: Luis Tellez’s “Inzomnia” was presented at the Moscow Business Square; Bernardo Arellano’s “La noche de Franco” was chosen by Canada’s Strategic Partners, Sergio Morkin’s “Maricarmen” by Docs DF; Astrid Rondero’s “Los días más oscuros de nosotras” will take part in the Tribeca Film Institute industry meetings in 2015.
Also a departure, IMCINE’s Jorge Sanchez and Israel Film Fund’s Katriel Schory will lead a Best Practice Exchange (BXP) workshop, originated by Paris’ ACE, a training and development initiative, and attended by honchos from national film funding agencies spread across the world. Five film fund heads, including Telefilm Canada’s Carolle Brabant, will pack a panel on Nov. 13 on Co-production and Public Funding.
For its third edition, Los Cabos has added three new sidebars, eco-themed Green Perspective, music movie focused B Side, and Sunset, a genre strand. Running Friday afternoon, Meet Your Neighbors features work tables on co-financing with the U.S., U.S. sales agents, international markets, and co-producing with Mexico and Canada.
Guillermo Arriaga, at Los Cabos to present “Words With Gods,” Egoyan, fellow Canadian Denys Arcand (“Barbarian Invasions”) and late great U.S. film-writer Roger Ebert, via Steve James’ Ebert portrait “Life Itself,” also receive tributes. Fest will screen Arcand’s latest, “An Eye For Beauty”; Rosario Dawson will present Egoyan with a Tribute Award before “Captive.” Xavier Dolan will be on hand for a gala screening – the Latin American premiere — of Cannes Jury Prize winner “Mommy,” actors Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater for Los Cabos’ closing night gala “Boyhood.”
Last year at Los Cabos, as Aguilar-Castillo pointed out, Paradigm signed up José Manuel Cravioto, whose “Mexico Most Wanted” played in competition. Velarium Arts advanced on co-pro talks with Canada’s EmmaFilms on “Multiplier” and New Yorks’ Uncorked Productions for “Yamaha 300.” Both deals have subsequently closed. Mexico’s Machete and Canada’s Peripheria first met to discuss “X Quinientos,” in a co-production announced at Guadalajara.
“Latin America is one of the world’s regions with biggest industry traction. Its companies are interested in its talent, be it directors or producers,” Aguilar-Castillo concluded.
2014’s Cabos Festival will suggest if that interest has grown even more.
3RD LOS CABOS INTL. FILM FESTIVAL, NOV. 12-16, 2014
LOS CABOS COMPETITION
“3 Histoires d’indiens,” (Robert Morin, Canada)
“10,000 KM,” (Carlos Marques-Marcet, Spain)
“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” (Ana Lily Amirpour, Iran)
“El regreso del muerto” (Gustavo Gamou, Mexico)
“Güeros” (Alonso Ruizapalacios, Mexico)
“Listen Up Philip” (Alex Ross Perry, U.S)
“The Overnighters” (Jesse Moss, U.S.)
“Tu dors Nicole” (Stéphane Lafleur, Canada)
“Violent” (Andrew Huculiak, Canada)
“Alivio” (Carla González Vargas, Mexico, out of competition)
“Wild,” (Jean-Marc Vallée, Canada) (Opener)
“Words With Gods,” (Mexico)
“Mommy” (Xavier Dolan, Canada)
“Boyhood,” (Richard Linklater, U.S.) (Closing)
“Asteroide,” (Marcelo Tobar)
“Edén” (Elise DuRant)
“El incidente” (Isaac Ezban)
“ En la estancia” (Carlos Armella)
“Llévate mis amores” (Arturo González)
“Summum Bonum (El bien supremo) (Matías Penachino)
“Eden ”(Mia Hansen-Love, France)
“Kaguyahime no Monogatari – The Tale of Princess Kaguya” (Japan)
“Kraftidioten – In Order of Disappearance” (Hans Petter Moland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark)
“Love is Strange” (Ira Sachs, U.S)
ATOM EGOYAN TRIBUTE
“The Captive” (2014)
GUILLERMO ARRIAGA TRIBUTE
“Words with Gods” (2014)
“The Burning Plain” (2008)
DENYS ARCAND TRIBUTE
“An Eye for Beauty” (2014)
“The Barbarian Invasions” (2003)
ROGER EBERT TRIBUTE
“Life Itself” (Steve James)
“Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story” (Grant Baldwin, Canada)
“Deep- Sea Mexico” (Jerónimo Prieto, Mexico)
“ThuleTuvalu” (Matthias von Gunten, Switzerland)
“20.000 Days on Earth” (Forsyth and Jane Pollard, U.K.)
“For Those About to Rock: The Story of Rodrigo and Gabriela” (Alejandro Franco Fernández, Mexico)
“God Help the Girl” (Stuart Murdoch, UK)
“Over Your Dead Body” (Takashi Miike, Japan)
“Spring” (Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, U.S.)
“What we do in the Shadows” (Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement, New Zeland, U.S.)
CO-PRODUCTION FORUM MEXICO, U.S., CANADA
“Afronauts,” (Frances Bodomo, USA).
“Coward,” (Boris Rodriguez, CanadA)
“The Other Tom” (Rodrigo Plá, Mexico)
“First Match (Olivia Newman, U.S.).
“Away From Meaning,” (Olivia Luengas Magaña, Mexico)
“Butterfly (Maria Saakya, U.S.)
“Museum,” (Alonso Ruizpalacios, Mexico)
“Peramanent,” “Colette Burson, U.S.)
“Taganga” (Ciro Guerra, Canada/Quebec – Colombia)
“Wolverine Hotel,” (Patricia Chica, Canada)
“X Quinientos,” (Juan Andrés Arango, Canada, Mexico, Colombia).
“I’m no Longer Here” (Fernando Frías, Mexico, U.S.).
“Yamaha 300,” (Jorge Michel Grau, Mexico, U.S.)
WORK IN PROGRESS – MEXICO 2014
“El charro de Toluquilla,” (José Villalobos Romero)
“Charity,” (Marcelino Islas Hernández)
“Heirs,” (Jorge Hernández Aldana)
“Light Feet,” (Juan Carlos Núñez)
“You Will Know What to Do With Me,” (Katina Medina Mora)
“Holy Days,” (Alejandra Márquez Abella)