Jose Alvarez’s ‘The Gaze of the Sea’ Vies for the Top Docu Prize at Morelia

Piano slates Mexico bow for March 2018

Executive produced by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“The Revenant”), Jose Alvarez’s poignant docu “The Gaze of the Sea” (“Los Ojos del Mar”) turns on a prostitute who makes it her mission to help the families of shipwrecked fishermen lost at sea.

“Gaze” is produced by Julio Chavezmontes’ Piano, the Mexican lead-producer of Emiliano Rocha Minter’s “We Are the Flesh,” a carnal allegory of modern Mexico and another movie backed by Gonzalez Inarritu, albeit in terms of endorsement and promotion, which Piano released in Mexico on Friday the 13th of October. Alvarez’s shingle Alacran con Alas and Germany’s Sutor Kolonko are co-producers of “Gaze.”

“Alejandro is an old childhood friend and we both worked in radio, too,” said Alvarez. “He has always liked my documentaries; he finds them – inexplicably – more complicated to make than fiction features,” he mused.

After its debut in Morelia’s pix-in-post program Impulso where it won a berth on roving documentary festival Ambulante, and a Mexican premiere at the Guadalajara Int’l Film Fest, “Gaze of the Sea” had its world premiere at Switzerland’s prominent docu fest, Visions du Reel (April 21-29), one of just four Latin American feature-length docs in competition. Since then it has been on the festival circuit, including those of Sheffield, Hull, Biarritz and Mexico City (DocsMX). Piano has slated a platform release in Mexico in March next year.

In “Gaze” Alvarez sought to steer away from the somewhat anthropological angle of his previous docus (“Canicula,” “Flores en el Desierto”) but it also deals with his recurring theme of faith.

“I had always wanted to shoot in Veracruz again [after “Canicula”] and this time go out to sea,” said Alvarez. He found his subject at the pier, who while plying her trade in the oldest profession, also charges phones and sells food etc. at the port. “She had heard about a shipwreck and wanted to help these families get closure as the bodies had never been recovered,” he said. “Gaze” also reveals the back-breaking work involved in shrimp trawling.

Alvarez recently produced, in collaboration with the Latattore Foundation, a new still-untitled doc by Pedro González Rubio (“Alamar,” “Toro Negro”) about the culinary culture of Puebla, now in post and ready by early next year.

His next project will focus even further afield, Siberia, where he dwells on distances in terms of culture and time. “Its tentative title is ‘Lazaro’ to imply re-emerging cultures.”

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