Shake a tree in Mexico, and it seems a young director with a buzzy little film falls out — but how does one move from festival darling to world player? The answer, say Mexican producers making inroads abroad, is to think globally and be flexible.
“We have so much to still learn to connect to the audience and to make our films part of an international market and stop thinking like Mexican filmmakers,” says Pablo Cruz, who founded Canana Films with theps Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.
That’s one of the things that we are doing here, Cruz continues, citing helmer Gerardo Naranjo, whose “Miss Bala” was Mexico’s foreign-language selection to Oscar, and has secured sales and distribution in the U.S . and other territories . “He was not afraid of making that jump, because he knows he can do it.”
Looking back at the past decade, it’s clear that a core of Mexican filmmakers has figured out the game.
Out of all of Latin America, Mexico has produced some of the highest-profile crossovers to Hollywood, including Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and, more recently, Patricia Riggen.
Other directors like Carlos Reygadas, Amat Escalante, Naranjo and Rodrigo Pla are widely regarded as world-class auteurs beyond the borders of Latin America. But very few in the latest crowd of directorial talent are finding their way onto the international stage, and some contend it is at least in part due to the mindset of young Mexican helmers.
Alex Garcia, a founding producer of Santa Monica-based Nala Film as well as Anima Estudios in Mexico, the U.S. and Mexico-based Lemon Films, Argentina’s Costa Films and Colombia’s 11:11 Films, sees the heart and passion behind young directorial talent as a factor that works both for and against the industry in terms of creating a deep pool of experienced directors .
“In Mexico, there is talent, but you can’t get to them,” Garcia says. “Directors coming out of schools think the way to go is to do it all the way — write it, direct it, etc. — it’s kind of the concept right now. The result is that there are too many directors without experience.
“It’s hard for them to do a project that isn’t theirs, where in Colombia and Argentina, (directors) are much more open to the idea.”
Fernando Rovzar, a self-described bi-cultural producer and founder of both Lemon and Nala, points out that another factor driving a wedge between young filmmakers and big-budget, international projects is anti-commercial bias in Mexico: “I think there is a misplaced notion that Mexican cinema is some sort of non-profit.”
That said, Rovzar and his brother, Billy, have been active in getting young filmmakers into major projects as fast as possible using the production infrastructure they have developed between Mexico and Hollywood.
“We weren’t really part of the film industry (in Mexico) until we made our first feature, and since that time, we’ve found a lot of comfort in these first-time directors that believe the Mexican film industry has to be a lot bigger and a lot better than it has been,” says Rovzar. “Now that we have this bridge, we can continue this progress with these new directors , and when we think of betting on a new director, we are not just betting on them for Mexico. We are betting on him or her for the world.”
Rovzar says he places long-term bets on directors, working with them over their careers. In the end, says Cruz, young directors need to look beyond a festival win with their first work and toward developing long-term trajectory with an international scope.
” You have to have a body of work. Directors need to start finding their own language and not just think about Mexico.”
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