As the Mexico’s film industry ramped up over the last decade, so have Mexico-U.S. links – Hollywood agency signings, co-productions and strategic alliances. Increasingly, moreover, they work a two-way street.
One pioneering example comes as the Tribeca Film Institute kicks off Tuesday its two-day Network Market, a one-to-one industry meeting forum attended by filmmakers and their projects. Launched in 2012, Mexico’s Los Cabos Fest has firmly established itself as a vibrant Mexico-U.S.-Canada fest/industry meet.
The Tribeca Film Institute and Los Cabos already hold down a strategic partnership for the interchange of projects. In 2014, Los Cabos’ inaugural Discovery Meetings, a pioneering Mexico-U.S.-Canada co-production forum, showcased TFI projects. One, Frances Bodomo’s “Afronauts,” a chronicle of Africa’s contribution to the space race, won the first Discovery Meetings, receiving $8,000 from Los Cabos and the offer of post-production work to the value of $25,000 at Carlos Reygadas’ Splendor Omnia studios outside Mexico City.
At the same time, two Discovery Meetings projects – Astrid Rondero’s “The Darkest Days of Us,” and Alonso Ruizpalacios’ “Museum” – have became 2015 TFI Latin American Fund Grantees as the fund opens up beyond documentary and hybrid works to narrative features. “Days” has received a $10,000 development grant, “Museum” $12,000. Both Rondero and Ruizpalacios have been invited to the Tribeca Film Festival, which runs April 15-26.
For 2015, TFI and Los Cabos are now building on their strategic alliance, extending it to post-production, and bringing in a third partner, Mexico’s Labodigital, one of Latin America’s most go-ahead service companies, working in the post-production, DCP distribution and exhibition sectors. In a three-way arrangement, Los Cabos and Labodigital will award one TFI project with $56,000 of services taking in Labodigital post-prod work through to a completed film, attendance at the fourth Los Cabos Festival, which unspools Nov. 11-15 , and a round-trip flight to Mexico City for both a filmmaker and cinematographer to work at Labodigital’s facilities.
All three partners see large upside in the strengthened alliance. “We’re so proud of the expanded partnership with Los Cabos Film Festival and Labodigital,” said Ryan Harrington, VP of Artist Programs at TFI. “With their support, exceptional U.S. filmmakers will gain access into the Mexican film industry, and we’re looking forward to seeing how this valuable experience and added exposure will help them to further their professional careers in filmmaking.”
“For us, it’s very important to keep nurturing a relationships with our allies, maintain business exchange at our fourth edition. To grant this new award is an excellent opportunity to access new talent, a project from a talent quarry that each year yields some of the best documentary at Sundance, Berlin, South by Southwest, and Cannes,” added Alonso Aguilar-Castillo, Cabos Film Fest Director.
For Labodigital director Charles Barthe, the alliance is an international calling card: “Our goal is to expand internationally by promoting our facilities and services within the U.S. and Latin America. We want to be an option for independent filmmakers with the support from our U.S. partner CineActive Solutions, based in Burbank.”
Meanwhile, Aguilar-Castillo has been appointed to the advisory board of the TFI’s Latin American Film Fund.
A talent exchange, the alliance looks set to offer multiple benefits for the institutions, companies and individuals involved. In film terms, Mexico is no longer a dirt-poor neighbor. Los Cabos itself gave out $280,000 in 2013 in cash prizes, $335,800 last year; $55 million for 2014, Mexico’s Efecine tax credit investment was 37.5% up on its 2013’s ceiling. Mexico produced 130 movies in 2014, up from 126 in 2013, which was already the best result since 1959. Backed by subsidies or tax credits, Mexican producers can come to the table with unprecedented muscle compared to just 15 years ago.
Talent benefitting from the TFI-Los Cabos alliance is hardly unappreciable, either. Ruizpalacios, for instance, broke through to international attention with “Gueros.” A mix of road-movie, slice of Mexico City life, love story, coming of age drama, and neo-Nouvelle Vague play with camera positions and actors lines, sold by Mundial, a joint venture of IM Global and Canana, it won Best First Feature at Berlin, San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos nod, a New Auteurs Audience Award at the AFI Fest and Los Cabos best picture award at the third Los Cabos Festival.
For Mexico, the TFI grants are also targeting parts of the creative process that are often significantly and disastrously underfunded. “Screenwriting is very badly paid — when it’s fundamental for a film,” Ruizpalacios said, learning he’d won a TFI grant. He added: “These prizes represent a breathing-space allowing the screenplay to be rewritten, a chance to turn into it your work.”