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Mexico’s Morelia Ups Ante on Screenings, Guests, Parallel Programs

Guillermo del Toro, Tim Roth, Isabel Huppert, Peter Greenaway, Stephen Frears amomg director Daniela Michel’s guests

A heavy lineup of special guests, special screenings, expanded parallel programs and the always strong competition sections at the Morelia International Film Festival kick off Oct. 23 in what looks to be a particularly heavy-hitting edition of the confab.

Guillermo Del Toro’s latest, the period haunted mansion pic “Crimson Peak,” opens the festival, with the director in attendance. Del Toro will have a further lineup of screenings including his first feature, the seminal “Cronos.”

Morelia’s 13th edition wraps Nov. 1 with Sara Gavron’s historical drama “Suffragette.”

The fiction competition roster drops to 10 features from 12 in 2014 with noteworthy entries, including: Julio Hernandez Cordon’s “I Promise You Anarchy,2 the GLBT-themed coming-of-ager, which bowed in Locarno to solid reviews; Rodrigo Pla’s buzzy drama “A Monster with a Thousand Heads” (pictured), a tale of a woman’s struggle against the private-sector health care system; and late addition “The Pleasure is Mine,” from Elisa Miller, who gained early attention winning a Palme d’Or for her short “Ver llover” in 2006.

The 12-pic doc section features both new work and heavily played pics, like festival hit “The Return of the Dead Man” from Gustavo Gamou; however, the Morelia doc section is known for its dark horse prizewinners.

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Making their Mexican debuts, special screenings include Michel Franco’s “Chronic” which won a Cannes competition screenplay plaudit this year, attended by co-star Tim Roth, one of the many guests coming to town, and David Pablos’ child prostitution drama “The Chosen Ones,” which world premiered in Un Certain Regard.

Venice Golden Lion winner “From Afar,” from Lorenzo Vigas, has its Mexican bow in Morelia; it recounts a relationship between an older man and a young street tough.

Berlin Best First Feature winner, Gabriel Ripstein’s “600 Miles” will hold a screening.

In addition, the fest will bring directors Stephen Frears, Peter Greenaway, as well as Palme d’Or winner Laurent Cantet and Barbet Schroeder and Jerry Schatzberg, all presenting their recent projects. Prolific French actress Isabelle Huppert will attend to present a selection of her some 130 titles.

“It’s the strongest [guest list] not just because of the names but the number,” said festival director Daniela Michel in a phone interview, noting the diversity of award winning directors and actors coming.”

“We always to try to keep [the festival] small,” she continued. The festival only added about 15 more titles this year “to our surprise”.

Noting the quality of the films, Michel was pleased even if there were a few more films. “It’s really great to see Peter Greenaway premiering his new film or Frears presenting his new film.

Festival heavyweights. Cannes’ Thierry Fremaux and Berlin’s Dieter Kosslick, will be in attendance, Fremaux to present a special program to show 98 films made by the Lumiere brothers between 1895 and 1905 and restored by the Institut Lumiere, where he is general director.

Discussing expanding contacts with festivals, Michel said, “The positioning of Mexico has been growing … awareness has grown a lot since ‘Amores Perros’.”

She pointed to talents like Michel Franco who produced or directed two of the biggest festival films this year, for helping strengthen attention coming at the majors.

Michel enthused over two new joint projects building ties with Sundance and Locarno starting this year.

Morelia will co-host a workshop Oct. 26 with the Sundance Institute. Scheduled speakers include SXSW chief Janet Pierson, Vimeo content director Peter Gerard and a host of other key players in the arena. The event is free and open to the public.

Morelia is taking a big step with Switzerland’s Locarno Festival this year, launching a training program Locarno Industry Academy in Morelia, run on the Mexico side by Morelia industry coordinator Andrea Stavenhagen. Speakers include industry veterans, participants young distribution execs in Mexico.

“It’s a workshop in accordance to our own ongoing commitment to create spaces for the development of the Mexican film industry … professionalize young people who are interested in moving ahead in the areas of national sales, marketing, distribution, exhibition, creation and program organization,” noted Michel.

As in every edition, films from Cannes Critics’ Week will be running. Migration-themed doc sidebar “Cinema Without Borders” and “Mexico Imaginario” – featuring films on Mexico through the eyes of foreign directors – both return this year.

2015’s fest will include unspooling Mexican Gothic classics, as well as another sidebar highlighting Mexican independence and screenings of British science fiction movies, a nod to the U.K.’s invited nation status this year.

The fest is also stepping up online viewing with 34 selected shorts running from the start of the festival through Nov. 15 on its microsite http://www.seleccionenlineaficm.com/.

Noting the ongoing success of the festival, Michel posited: “The way I see it is this is just a big family, and when people have the opportunity to come back, they really take the chance.”

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