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Local films fuel Morelia

Co. originally designed as a discovery platform

MEXICO CITY — With Mexican production steadily increasing, the Morelia Film Fest has introduced a Mexican features competition for its fifth year. 

Morelia was originally designed as a discovery platform for Mexico’s young filmmakers, offering shorts and a documentary competition.

Amid Mexico’s struggling film industry, shorts and docus remain the key outlet for young talent. The new features competition focuses on first and second time filmmakers.

“It’s been a natural outgrowth of what we were doing,” says fest programmer Carlos Garza. “A lot of people we supported as short filmmakers are now producing their first features.”

Guadalajara’s film fest in March has been the principal showcase for domestic features, but the amount of local productions should continue to provide enough new product to fill both fests.

A tax incentive to draw corporate investment into film helped spur increased production this year, with some 60 new films estimated to be taking advantage of the tax break.

But a recent package of tax proposals approved by Congress in September sparked fear that the incentive would become useless in 2008.

President Felipe Calderon inaugurated the Morelia fest and promised that the government would continue to offer the tax break, as well as seek further incentives for distribution and exhibition.

The strongest features had already nabbed prizes in Venice and Toronto. Rodrigo Pla’s drama “La Zona” has announced a strong new talent. Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna’s shingle Canana presented “Cochochi.” Helmed by Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guzman, the groundbreaking coming-of-age story is set among Mexico’s indigenous Raramuri people, and follows two boys who lose their grandfather’s horse.

Morelia added a sidebar this year of indigenous films from Mexico, Latin America and Africa.    Standout docu was “Mi vida dentro” (My Life Inside), helmed by Lucia Gaja, which portrays the imprisonment and prosecution of a young Mexican woman in Texas following the death of a child under her care.

Subject and style should give “Mi vida” a strong chance of clinching at least TV distribution Stateside and film will likely screen in Sundance.