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Morelia carves niche as career launching pad

Fest Traveler: Morelia Festival 2012

This year the Morelia Festival had the difficult task of plucking nine fiction films for competition from a pool of 70 first and second features. The size of that pool is proof that tax incentives and expanded government coin programs launched under the National Action Party (PAN) are working.

In its first edition in 2003, Morelia sported only two competitions — shorts and docus — and screened a single feature-length work, “Nicotine.” Fest did not introduce a feature competish until 2007, when there were enough Mexican-made newcomer films to merit a section.

“In the beginning, shorts were the only thing to promote,” says general director Daniela Michel. “The Morelia festival started up at a very important time in Mexico’s film history.”

While it lacks the scope, mass and market of the Guadalajara fest, Morelia has nevertheless become the premier platform for launching up-and-coming Mexican filmmakers.

Every year, Morelia features the preceding Cannes Critics’ Week lineup; in return, Morelia’s winning short screens at Cannes the following year. Likewise, the winning short is automatically included for Oscar consideration.

These relationships with major film institutions, forged in large part by Michel’s diplomacy, are hallmarks of Morelia’s international outreach strategy.

Since 2003, Mexico has seen significant growth in government coin programs Fidecine and Foprocine and the introduction of a tax incentive program, dubbed Article 226, in 2006.

Many industryites now worry its gains may be lost when Enrique Pena Nieto of the PRI, the party that ruled Mexico for 70 years after the revolution, takes power Dec. 1.

A change in government to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Michoacan state, where the festival is held, has effectively shelved the completion of the Teatro Matamoros, a potential major fest venue.

Still, Morelia has become one of Mexico’s most independent festivals, with 60% of funding from private sources, and fest co-director Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Batel, architect of the Teatro Matamoros restoration project, remains positive.

“With changes in government … it’s always a good opportunity to consider new things,” said Cardenas, noting that Mexico’s film industry needs to be more self-sustaining and not overly reliant on incentive programs.



“Fogo” D: Yulene Olaizola
“Halley” D: Sebastian Hofmann
“Las Lagrimas” D: Pablo Delgado Sánchez
“No quiero dormir sola” D: Natalia Beristain Egurrola
“Restos” D: Alfonso Pineda Ulloa
“Rezeta” D: Luis Fernando Frías de la Parra
“Tau” D: Daniel Castro Zimbrón

Morelia sticks to its newcomer mantra with its Morelia Lab project, now in its eighth year. Its 17 projects, drawn from over Latin America, are mostly projected first features. The only one from a name-helmer: “Ejercicios de memoria”, from Paz Encina, whose “Hamaca paraguaya” played Cannes’ 2006 Un Certain Regard.

A focus on Christian Petzold, helmer of German foreign-language Oscar entry and Berlin fest winner “Barbara.”
A tribute to cine chicano pioneer Gregory Nava.
A showcase featuring winners of France’s 2012 Jean Vigo Prize.

Related Links:
Ambulante gives docus a home

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