Gael Garcia, Alfonso Cuaron and Diego
Photos: Jim Smeal/Eric Charbonneau/Michael Buckner/Variety/REX Shutterstock

Fest frames Spanish-language movies’ audience ambitions

GUADALAJARA – “Gravity’s” Alfonso Cuaron, Gael Garcia Bernal, star of Emmy-winning “Mozart in the Jungle” and Diego Luna, who toplines Amazon’s “Casanova,” look set to attend or have films at this week’s 31st Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival, an event that, unspooling five says after Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s Academy Award director win, proves that these days Mexican fests hardly needs foreign Hollywood stars: They’ve got their own, or can draw on celebrities from other parts of the Spanish-speaking world.

That said, in one early fest highlight, Danny Glover and Maya Rudolph will join Luna to present “Mr. Pig” at a charity gala Saturday: and Ron Perelman and Alfonso Arau will receive tributes. Cuaron will be in Guadalajara for a Q & A with Felipe Cazals, director of “Canoa,”a Mexican movie milestone.

They will be joined by top-of-the-class Mexican producers: Pablo Cruz at Canana, Leo Zimbron and Mark Alazraki at Alazraki Ent, both companies based out of L.A- and Mexico City, plus Monica Lozano, producer of “Amores Perros” and “Instructions Not Included.”

Running March 4-13, the 31st Guadalajara edition also looks set to underscore the robust quality and excitement of recent Latin American cinema and both the diversity and ambitions of Mexican cinema as foreign-language cinema the world over evolves, sometimes dramatically, and in often vastly contrasting manners, towards more audience-friendly idioms.

The Lozano-produced  “The 4th Company,” Garcia Bernal-starrer “Ciudades Desiertas,” a second Guadalajara world premiere, and Spaniard Iciar Bollain’s “The Olive Tree,” written by Ken Loach scribe Paul Laverty, may well prove, if in very different ways, cases in point.

Based on true events, “The 4th Company” weighs in as a hard-boiled thriller set in 1979 Mexico about a penitentiary football team that moonlighted as a government hit squad. Few recent movies boast as high production values. But it turns on state collusion in corruption and organized crime, a red-hot issue in Mexico. Monica Lozano’s Alebrije (“Instructions Not Included”) and Ozcar Ramirez’s Arte Mecanica (”Days of Grace”) produce.

A “feel-good drama with a mission,” said its producer Juan Gordon, set in a crisis-ravaged Spain, “The Olive Tree” mixes ideas – how Spaniards are losing touch with natural bonds, whether with nature, family and friends – with a quest-based narrative reminiscent of fairy tales of old: a young girl travels to a distant kingdom (well, Germany) to retrieve a 2,000-year-old olive tree which might save her ailing grandfather.

A Guadalajara world premiere, like “The 4th Company, “Ciudades Desiertas” centers on a Mexican (Garcia Bernal) who travels to the U.S. to win back the love of his wife. It reportedly rates as the most ambitious movie to date from AFI alum Roberto Sneider (“Tear This Heart Out”).

The audience ambitions of Mexican cinema can cut multiple ways: a Huelva Fest Audience Award winner now playing Hecho en México, “Load,” from Mexico’s Alan Jonsson (“Morenita, el escandalo”) is a Conquistador-era semi-Western, a manhunt thriller where a posses of thugs hunt down a young Aztec chief and Spanish noblewoman.

Tracking two priapic high school seniors as their prepare for an epic Spring Break in Mexico’s Puerto Vallarta, local lad Fernando Lebrija’s “Sundown  would have no chance of playing most festivals, given its beach babe/gross-out comedy mix.

“Walking Distance”: the first feature of Mexican CCC film school alum Alejandro Guzman, a dramedy about three loners – an obese recluse, his brother in law and a nerd – who bond over photography, has a simple set-up but some sequences of large technical ambition.

“There’s a range of festivals that I really support – Guadalajara, also Cartagena, Edinburgh, Miami, Sarajevo – that look for films for the public,” “The Olive Tree” producer Gordon commented. “Obviously, they want good films, but they’re not just focused on discovering new ways forward for art, independently of its potential audiences, as some events are.”

“The Olive Tree” has wracked up robust major territory pre-sales for eOne’s Seville Intl. Even so, maybe international production is evolving faster than exhibition. The challenge for crossover films is that “arthouse distributors tend to prefer more elitist ‘arty’ films selected for Berlin or Cannes while more commercial distributors will consider them difficult as they are foreign language,” Gordon added.

Roberto Sneider made his first feature in 1995; “The 4th Company” marks the fiction feature debut of Amir Galvan Cervera and Mitzi Vanessa Arreola.

“Now there’s a diversity of Mexican production, which is linked to another element, seen in this edition, the encounter or reencounter of several generations of cineastes and production types,” such as Retes and Cuaron.

“Filmmakers are shooting in English, which was once considered an act of betrayal. Even low-budget movies, maybe because of the cinematography or use of light, do not seem cheap these days,” he added.

The challenge remains for Mexican films to conquer their own box office. “Only a few titles have a decent commercial life, “ said Trujillo.

The 31st Guadalalajara Festival opens March 4 with one title whih has had a decent commercial life, Alain Gsponer’s “Heidi,” a flagship Studiocanal Swiss-German production which has near sold out the world and bows in a year when Switzerland is Guadalajara’s Guest Country of Honor.

In its most obvious major innovation this year, Guadalajara will up camp from the Expo Guadalajara to city center Guadalajara U, its spacious Cineforo, with 450 seats, now figuring as its major cinema. Move allows the Festival to be “less separated from the city,” said Festival director Ivan Trujillo. “Inspired in part by Berlin,” he added, Guadalajara’s Arts Museum (MUSA) will house fest’s 14th Guadalajara Film Market.

In collaboration with the World Bank’s Action4Climate initiative, Guadalajara is adding a Film4Climate showcase.

It will also inaugurate a culinary sidebar, with two Spanish gems, “Cooking Up a Tribute” and “Sherry & the Mystery of Palo Cortado” both suggesting how gastronomic tradition is a driver of a modern top-echelon industry.

Pearls from Guadalajara will highlight latest movies from the city and state of Jalisco, Mexico’s second biggest production hub, including “Sundown,” which, like “Mr. Pig,” received a production incentive from the 16-month-old Jalisco Film Commission, and a selection of shorts whose animation works, such as “The Aeronauts, “ points to Guadalajara hallmark toon production focus.

The 31st Guadalajara Festival unspools when Mexico can bring money to the table as a co-producer.

“We are now a force in co-production,” said Arailza.

Beyond that, at Guadalajara, “You can get to know, not just meet, people, said Araiza. “The size of Guadalajara allows that. Other markets are saturated. You never get beyond your circle of friends.”

Also, she added, the rump of Mexican distributors will attend Guadalajara, she added, from Televisa’s Videocine to Alejandro Lebrija’s Gussi, or Corazon Films’ Eckehardt Von Damm or “Mustang” and “Love” buyers Canibal.

Cuban cinema looks set to generate more heat as it creates metaphors for the impact of thawing U.S. relations on the Cuban collective psyche. Exhibit A and B: One of highest-concept projects at Guadalajara’s 13th Co-production Meeting, “The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia,” where an alien race offers one way ticket out of Cuba, and at pix-in-post strand Guadalajara Construye, Kiki Alvarez’s “Sharing Stella,” an intimate slice of life portrait of Cuba on the cusp of irrevocable change, Cuban cinema looks set to generate more heat as it creates metaphors for the impact of thawing U.S. relations on the Cuban collective psyche.

Coinciding with this suggestion of a Cuban film resurgence, a sizeable delegation of Cuban producers will attend Guadalajara, headed by Cuba’s ICAIC Film Institute, said Araiza.

Guadalajara’s Switzerland tribute takes in a homage to Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball,” “Finding Neverland,” “World War Z”) and flagship recent Swiss productions – “Vanity” from Lionel Baier, who receives a LGBT Maguey Prize; “Wonderland,” an omnibus fiction feature; and Austrian Nicolas Steiner’s Swiss-German production “Above and Beyond,” which Variety ranked as among 2015’s most remarkable cinematographic discoveries. There’s good word on Co-Production Meeting project “A Stray Bullet.”

Among Latin American Standouts, playing Gudalalajara’s Ibero-American Fiction Feature competition: “Neon Bull,” from Gabriel Mascaro, a Venice and Rio Fest winner and portrait of sex, sensuality and social transformation in Brazil’s North-East; “Panamerican Machinery,” “a film with Buñuel echoes,” said Trujillo, and a scathing diagnosis of Mexico’s incapacity for collective action; and “Much Ado About Nothing, from Chile’s Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, a recent Netflix pick-up for most of global.

 

KEY INDUSTRY EVENTS

FILM4CLIMATE, MARCH 4

Actress Victoria Abril, director Corina Gamma, World Bank’s Don Ranvaud talk about eco-conscious film production

GUADALAJARA TALENTS DIRECTING ACTORS WORKSHOP, MARCH 5-6 Assumpta Serna and Scott Cleverdon tutor young Latin American directors on casting, rehearsals and directing actors.

10th GUADALAJARA CONSTRUYE – WORKS IN PROGRESS. MARCH 5-6 Seven Latin American pix-in-post screening: Of new production, beyond Ventana Sur winner “Sangre en la boca,” buzzed-up industry productions/projects include Max Zunino’s Berlin-set bildungsroman “Mist.” Shot in guerrilla-style, the distaff Guadalajara production “The Blue Years”, from Sofia Gomez-Cordova, is eagerly awaited by the local industry.

ACTORS PANEL, MARCH 5: Danny Glover, Diego Luna, Eduardo Noriega, Ron Perlman and Assumpta Serna talk about acting;

SALES AGENTS TABLE Cinepolis’ Leo Cordero, Latido’s Antonio Saura, Cristina Garza at Mundial, IMCINE’s Sofia Marquez and ICAIC’s Jose Ambros focus on sales and distribution.

THE BEGINNING OF THE FILM, MARCH 5, 2016

In a growing event, publishing house execs and literary agencies – Planeta, Agencia Riif, Random House – pitch producers.

MEXICAN PREMIERE OF “MR. PIG,” with Glover, Luna, co-star Maya Rudolph, Canana’s Pablo Cruz and Mundial’s Cristina Garza in attendance

MAYA RUDOLPH KEYNOTE AND Q & A, MARCH 6

The “Saturday Night Live” comedian and “Mr. Pig” co-star will talk about her industry experience as part of fest’s training program.

IMCINE MEXICAN CINEMA STATISTICAL YEARBOOK PRES CONFERENCE, MARCH 6

IMCINE head Jorge Sanchez presents the most salient market and production stats from 2015.

PLATINO AWARDS UPDATE, MARCH 6

CNN’s Juan Carlos Arcienagas presents the latest news on Latin America’s Platino Awards, including its long longlist of near 500 candidacies at some 34-55 competitors per category. Lists will be whittled down to a shorter lonhñist then shortlist by late May.

Q & A WITH MARK ALAZRAKI, MARCH 6

Brother of Gaz Alazraki at Alazraki Ent.

Q & A WITH MAYA RUDOLPH, MARCH 6

GUADALAJARA CONSTRUYE PRIZE ANNOUNCEMENT, MARCH 6

III MEXICAN CINEMA FORUM: ACTORS IN FILM, MARCH 7-8 A traditional industry debate platform, Guadalajara 3rd Forum will feature four panels on acting and directing actors; organized with Mexico’s AMPAS.

12TH GDL CO-PRODUCTION MEETING, MARCH 7-9

In industry, Argos Cine’s offer to co-produce three 12th GDL Co-Production Meeting winners, investing Pesos3 million ($164,000) a shot, has greatly goosed prize money. Fancied future features include high-concept “The Extraordinary Journey of Celeste Garcia,” “The Ballroom,” a Costa Rica-Mexico co-pro, and Fernando Frías’ “I’m No Longer Here,” put through a 2014 Sundance Lab.

1ST MEXICAN ANIMATION STUDIOS MEETING, MARCH 8

Marshalling 10 studios – a mark of the Mexico’s toon industry growth, including Anima, a Netflix partner on,

VOD PLATFORM: Epigmeneo Ibarra, Marco Antonio Salgado, Leonardo Zimbron and Yissel Ybarra talk about Blimp, Argos Cine, Netflix and Filmin Latino.

CHILEAN ANIMATION ROUND TABLE, MARCH 8 Post Chile’s best animated short Academy Award on Sunday for “Historia de un oso.”.

CO-PRODUCTION MEETING PRIZES, MARCH 8

“CANOA” CONVERSATION, MARCH 9

Alfonso Cuaron and Felipe Cazals talk about “Canoa,” Cazals’ milestone 1975 mockumentary about true-life village mob violence targeting four university employees in a village in 1968, the same year as the 1968 Tlateloclo massacre.

 

2016 GUADALAJARA FILM FESTIVAL FILM LINEUP: MAIN COMPETITIONS

MEZCAL AWARD

“The Ballad of Oppenheimer Park,” (Juan Manuel Sepúlveda, Mexico)

“The Good Christian,” (Isabel Acevedo, Mexico)

“The Load,” (Alan Jonsson Gavica, Mexico)

“About the Deaths,” (José Luis Gutierrez Arias, Mexico)

“Walking Dance,” (Alejandro Guzmán, Mexico)

“Given in Love,” (Gabriel Retes, Mexico)

“Hernan Cortes, A Man Between God and the Devil,” (Fernando González Sitges, Mexico)

“Panamerican Machinery,” (Joaquin Del Paso, Mexico)

“Swift Feet,” (Juan Carlos Nuñez Chavarria, Mexico)

PERLAS TAPATIAS

“Right from Beach,” (Jorge Díaz Sánchez, Mexico)

“The Charro of Toluquilla,” (José Villalobos Romero, Mexico)

“Flowers Bloom,” (Héctor I. Jiménez, Mexico)

IBERO-AMERICAN FICTION FEATURE

“The 4th Company,” (Amir Galván Cervera and Mitzi Vanessa Arreola, Mexico)

“To the Center of the Earth,” (Daniel Rosenfeld, Argentina, France, Germany, Holland)

“Amama: When a Tree Falls,” (Asier Altuna, Spain)

“Much Ado About Nothing,” (Alejandro Fernández Almendras, Chile, United States, France)

“Neon Bull,” (Gabriel Mascaro, Brazil)

“Road to La Paz,” (Francisco Varone, Argentina, Germany, Holland)

“Ciudades desiertas,” (Roberto Sneider, Mexico)

“La granja,” (Angel Manuel Soto, Puerto Rico)

“Magallanes,” (Salvador del Solar, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Spain)

“The Memory of Water,” ( Matias Bize, Chile, Spain, Argentina, Germany)

“The Olive Tree,” ( Icíar Bollaín, Spain)

“Oscuro Animal,” (Felipe Guerrero, Colombia, Argentina, Holland, Germany, Greece)

“The Open Door,” (Marina Seresesky, Spain)

“Zoom,” (Pedro Morelli, Brazil, Canada)

IBERO-AMERICAN DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“35 and Single,” (Paula Schargorodsky, Argentina, United States, Spain)

“Bath of Life,” (Dalia R. Reyes, Mexico)

“The Charro of Toluquilla,” (José Villalobos Romero, Mexico)

“Damiana Kryygi,” (Alejandro Fernández Moujan, Argentina)

“Dead Slow Ahead,” (Mauro Herce, Spain, France)

“District Zero,” (Pablo Iraburu, José Fernández Mayoral, Pablo Tosco, Spain, Jordan)

“Horizontes,” (Eileen Hofer,  Cuba Switzerland)

“El legado,” (Roberto Anjari-Rossi, Germany, Chile)

“Margarita,” (Bruno Santamaría Razo, Mexico)

“Mi querida España,” (Mercedes Moncada Rodríguez, Spain)

“Us Women . Them Women,” (Julia Pesce, Argentina)

“Nueva Venecia,” (Emiliano Mazza de Luca, Uruguay, Mexico, Colombia)

“Patient,” ( Jorge Caballero, Colombia, Spain)

“El Paso,” (Everardo González Reyes, Mexico)

 MAGUEY PRIZE

“Arianna,” (Carlo Lavagna, Italy)

“Bath of Life,” (Dalia R. Reyes, Mexico)

“Barash,” (Michal Vinik, Israel)

“Neon Bull,” (Gabriel Mascaro, Brazil)

“Chemsex,” (William Fairman, Max Gogarty, England)

“Departure,” (Andrew Steggall, England, France)

“Desire Will Set You Free,” (Yony Leyser, Germany)

“I, Olga Hepnarová,” (Petr Kazda, Tomas Weinreb, Czech Republic)

“Loev,” (Sudhanshu Saria, India)

“You’ll Never Be Alone,” (Alex Anwandter, Chile)

“Paris 05:59,” (Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau, France)

“Toro,” (Martin Hawie, Germany)

“Viva,” (Paddy Breathnach, Ireland, Cuba)

“Viviana Rocco Me Trans,” (Daniel Reyes, Mexico)

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