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Guadalajara’s homegrown film fiesta

Mexican features helped double submissions

It may be year 24 for the Guadalajara Film Festival, but for Mexico’s largest annual film event, the magic number this year is three.

For the third year, the bustling film market component at Guadalajara is continuing its partnership with the Producers’ Network and the Cannes Film Market. Marina Stavenhagen, topper of Mexico’s national film agency, Imcine, says the linkage is “key in making the Guadalajara market a new center in Latin America for creating co-production deals and developing projects.”

Three years ago, the festival began to develop its own Talent Campus in coordination with the original Talent Campus at the Berlin Film Festival. Now the pieces are fully in place to launch the project in earnest, with attendance expected from film students and young filmmakers in Mexico and Latin America.

And the passage three years ago of Mexico’s landmark corporate tax incentive for film production set the wheels in motion for what many anticipated to be a steady rise in production. That rise has turned into an explosion.

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For Guadalajara programming director Lucy Virgen, “It was exhilarating to see the flood of submissions we received this year. In some recent years, we more or less presented all of the Mexican features that were ready. This year, we really have a selection, since we saw a doubling of narrative submissions and a tripling of documentaries. There were some difficult choices, which is a programmer’s dream.”

And Mexico isn’t the only Latin American country full of fresh movies. According to Guadalajara’s market director, Alejandra Paulin, the library of new and recent Ibero-American pics to watch in the market’s video rooms will be bursting this year, exceeding 650 titles.

The festival’s core lies in the Mexican feature and docu competitions, with the narrative group this year repping a balanced mix of debuts (including Jose Gutierrez Razura’s “Another Type of Music” and Carlos Serrano Azcona’s “The Tree”) and work by youngish veterans (including Gerardo Naranjo’s fest circuit fave “I’m Gonna Explode” and Julian Hernandez’s latest, “Enraged Sun, Enraged Sky”).

The docu lineup is stocked with several well-established filmmakers, including Eugenio Polgovsky (“The Inheritors”), Natalia Alamada (“El general”) and Juan Carlos Rulfo (co-director with Carlos Hagerman of “Those Who Remain”), underlining Mexico’s sterling position in current world cinema as a source of vital nonfiction.

“In both the narratives and documentaries, you can see a strong concern for environmental issues,” says Virgen, who also notes that the record number of submissions displayed “a very finished production quality, with fully completed sound and elements. Mexican filmmakers are geared to get their work ready for Guadalajara and are planning ahead now so that the submitted films don’t appear rushed to meet deadlines.”

The fest’s choice of guest country, Colombia, reflects the nation’s gradual emergence on the world stage with such noted pics as Ciro Alfonso Guerra’s 2005 “La sombra del caminante” (Wandering Shadows), which screens in the country sidebar. Colombia also makes an appearance in the Ibero-American competition with Luis Alberto Restrepo’s “The Passion of Gabriel.”

Guadalajara has taken advantage of a drastic change at the Mexico City fest (known by its Spanish acronym Ficco), which saw its entire staff depart late last year in the wake of artistic conflicts with the event’s funder, theatrical chain Cinemex. Ficco’s ex-programming directors Michel Lipkes and Maximiliano Cruz have been tapped by Guadalajara to create a new sidebar, Alternative Currents. It will feature such widely praised fest hits as Sergei Dvortsevoy’s “Tulpan,” Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah,” Claire Denis’ “35 Rhums” and Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Tokyo Sonata” as well as critically touted Mexican cineastes Amat Escalante (“Los bastardos”) and Nicolas Pereda (“Juntos”) plus a selection from the work of French filmmaker Philippe Grandrieux.

Grandrieux will take part in the Talent Campus event along with John Malkovich, Albert Maysles and Diego Luna, among others. Mexico City-based film critic Chiara Arroyo sees the campus as one of the signs that the festival is renewing itself and finding a balance of films, from mainstream to arthouse.

Imcine’s Stavenhagen emphasizes this point, noting that “the full establishment of Talent Campus deepens the festival’s and the market’s abilities to develop new projects of all kinds, across all genres.”

Adds veteran Latin American producer and Buena Onda/ Ondamax Films topper Donald Ranvaud, who’s bringing Julio Hernandez Cordon’s San Sebastian prizewinning debut, “Gasolina”: “A strong characteristic of the festival is its brilliant organization of everything. Their market is the most focused and practical in Latin America (because it brings together) people who really do mean business.”

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