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Fest has big ambitions

Mexico City event looking to raise its profile

MEXICO CITY — During the wrap party of Mexico City’s third Intl. Contemporary Film Fest (Feb. 21-March 5), Miguel Angel Davila, CEO of fest sponsor exhib Cinemex, made the startling pronouncement that the event was the most important international film festival in Latin America.

It may be a long way from there, but it shows at least the organizers have big ambitions. And given Mexico City’s growing cosmopolitan profile and the continuing growth of the fest, it’s certainly on its way.  

“Give this fest three years, and it will be an A-list festival,” says German helmer Philip Groening (“Into Great Silence”), who adds that Mexico City could eventually steal the show from South America’s other international fests.  

Fest director Paula Astorga says the fest is working to get more preems next year and further raise its profile. Canadian punk-porn auteur Bruce La Bruce, like other first-timers to the fest, marvels at the cosmopolitan feel of Mexico City, the fest crowd, and its programming. “This festival is what Sundance used to be,” La Bruce says.

Invitees say fest programmers put together a vibrant showcase of indie world cinema. Jury member Mark Cousins, producer of “The Meat Trade,” commends the world doc selection for its strength.  

Fest’s main goal is to grow the local aud for global indie fare, which accounts for only around 5% of yearly releases. Only a handful of the fest’s 151 features are getting local distribution. 

Slowly, the public for international films is expanding beyond the elite to include more and more of Mexico’s growing young urban crowd, with admissions growing for arthouse fare.

Sideline highlights of the fest included concerts by Academy award winning composer Michael Nyman and a lakeside screening of “Nosferatu” accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra.  

While programming focused on international favorites, including retrospectives of Pier Paolo Pasolini and Brazilian Glauber Rocha, Mexico’s avant garde had a place in fest.

The Mexico Digital sidebar included promising first features such as “Asi” from Jesus Mario Lozano, Renato Ornelas’ “Cabecitas,” “El caco” by Yibran Asuad and “Nippon e Yokoso”  from Pablo Aldrete, one of the producers at Mantarraya.