LOS CABOS, Mexico — Three films by women – Andrea Arnold’s “American Honey,” Mexican Lucia Carreras’ “Tamara & The Ladybug” and Sophie Barthes’ “The Rosenbergs” won the top plaudits at Mexico’s 5th Los Cabos Festival on Saturday.
Running Nov. 9-13, the festival-market will go down in history not only for the prominence of women among its award recipients but also for its launch of its first Film Investor Summit, attended by an industry elite, and the multiple signs of vitality of the Mexican production sector.
Latin American industry is sometimes described as world cinema. Just how exotic it is these days is another question. The roll-call of the international industry’s good and great at Los Cabos from all the Hollywood talent agencies to Stuart Ford, Alex Walton, Vincent Maraval and Gaston Pavlovich underscores not only the delights of Los Cabos as a resort but also lure of some of its greatest young directors, such as Colombia’s Ciro Guerra who presented a project at its inaugural Film Investors Summit.
Arnold’s Cannes Jury Prize-winning ode to Americana, “America Honey” was always a front runner in a just eight-title competition of often exquisitely selected titles, taking in “Christine,” with Rebecca Hall as Christine Chubbuck, Amat Escalante’s “The Untamed,” a sci-fi metaphor for his country’s violence,misogyny and homophobia; Joey Klein’s tortured young love story,” The Other Half” and Kris Avedisian’s cring-fest indie comedy “Donald Cried,” which walked off with the Labodigital Award, given by the Festival’s main prize sponsor.
The third movie as a director by Mexico’s Lucia Carreras, who left to fame co-writing Michael Rowe’s Cannes Camera d’Or winner “Leap Year,” “Tamara & the Ladybug,” which is sold by Indie Sales, is a far less well-known proposition.
World premiering at Toronto, it departs from the attempts of a 40-year-old mentally handicapped woman and her elderly neighbour to return a baby girl to her parents in order to draw both an affecting portrayal of female friendship and a devastating portrait of Mexico. The country’s bureaucracy and lack of social service infrastructure, or so the film implies, leaves family, neighbourly help and friendship as its only social safety net.
Accessed by Los Cabos via its strategic alliance with the Tribeca Film Institute, where it has formed part of its Tribeca All Access program, “The Rosenbergs,” from French-born Columbia U alum Sophie Barthes (“Cold Souls,” “Madame Bovary”) was the winner of the biggest cash prize from Los Cabos’ Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund: $50,000 for post-production. Starring Kate Moss (“Mad Men”) it delivers a revisionist portrait of the true life story of the Rosenbergs, told from the point of view of Ethel who, its synopsis runs, discovers her voice at the cost of her life.
The Mexico Primero Cinemex Prize was won by “X500,” from Colombia’s Juan Andres Arango (“La Playa DC”), a nuanced three-part immigration chronicle, set in Mexico City, Colombia’s Buenaventura and Montreal, which tracks three characters’ capacity for transformation, most memorably in the case of a humble peasant’s son from Michoacan who becomes a Mohawk-haired Mexico City punk. Produced by Yanick Letourneau from Montreal-based Peripheria, Jorge Botero at Colombia’s Septima Films (Colombia) and Edher Campos & Luis Salinas from Machete Productions in Mexico, “X 500” was one of the first co-productions to be broached at Los Cabos.
Julio Hernandez Cordon’s “Comprame un revolver,” a father-daughter drama produced by Mexico’s Woo Films, scored two GFFF cash/services awards; as did “Alicia,” the next feature from Michael Rowe, which sees him return to the subject of female sexuality.
What is really noticeable about Los Cabos’ 2016 GFFF prize announcements is the presence of five women directors among recipients, including two of Mexico’s best known young women helmers: Alejandra Marquez with “Nieves,” and Natalia Beristain with “The Goodbyes,” a psychological portrait of the emotional vicissitudes of pioneering feminist poet and novelist Rosalia Castellanos.
Deals, and strategic moves, were announced at Los Cabos. Of the biggest, delivering a keynote at the Film Investor Summit, IM Global’s Stuart Ford revealed IM Global aims to enter Latin American TV production in 2017. Bucking the trend of exponentially rising production levels in Mexico, Alex Garcia of AG Studios announced he was pulling back on production volume to focus on quality, not quantity and production services.
But while the attending industry focused on the Investor Summit, Los Cabos also proved a showcase for Mexican production. Key trends:
*Mexico’s major movie companies are nearly all producing not only film but also TV. At Los Cabos, four Mexican film producers – Jose Nacif (“Gimme the Power”), Ramiro Ruiz (“Gueros”) Francisco Gonzalez Compean (“Amores Perros”) and Rodrigo Santos (“La Dictadura Perfecta”) – delivered more details on Saturday of their TV adaptation of iconic bestseller “Diablo Guardian,” one of the flagship series of Televisa SVOD service Blim. Mexico-based Adrian Garcia Bogliano, a Latin America genre heavyweight, revealed not one but two horror TV series.
*Mexican producers are also mixing it up in terms of film production. Several – Woo Films and Panorama, for instance – made 2016-17 slate announcements at Los Cabos, whose volume runs into six or more titles. What’s so notable, however, is not just their volume but spread, Panorama, for instance producing anything from a potential comedy juggernaut, “Un padre no tan padre” through to a docu-feature, Netflix pick-up “Bellas de noche,” which Cinepolis plans to release on 80-100 screens in Mexico. “Producers no longer say: I’m arthouse, I’m mainstream. They’re constructing a diverse industry which is what we’re interested in having,” said Jorge Sanchez, head of Mexico’s Imcine Film Institute.
*Mexico benefits from both of Latin America’s two movie industry growth drivers: Mexican-U.S. crossover movies, which can score $10 million-plus-or-more both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border; a breed of powerful, accessible art films with amped-up budgets, multiple partner co-production, star presence or star directors, mainstream tropes and wider audience ambitions. Pitched at Los Cabos last year, Gaz Alazraki’s “Almost Paradise,” which will be distributed in all the American continent by 20th Century Fox, is one example: Alonso Ruizpalacios’ upcoming “Museum,” latest details of which wee announced at Los Cabos, is shaping up as another.
LOS CABOS COMPETITION
“American Honey” (Andrea Arnold, U.S.)
“Donald Cried” (Kris Avedisian, U.S.)
ART KINGDOM AWARD
“Tamara and the Ladybug” (Lucia Carreras, Mexico,Spain)
“Tamara & the Ladybug”
“X500” (Juan Andres Arango, Mexico,Colombia,Canada)
“Bellas de Noche” (Maria Jose Cuevas, Mexico)
GABRIEL FIGUEROA FILM FUND AWARDS
FILM POST-PRODUCTION AWARDS
“The Rosenbergs,” (Sophie Barthes. U.S., Canada, Mexico)
COLOR CORRECTION AWARD
“Nieves,” (Alejandra Márquez, Mexico)
“The Goodbyes,” (Natalia Beristain, Mexico)
SOUND MIX AWARD
“Los días más oscuros de nosotras,” (Astrid Rondero, Mexico)
“Llueve,” (Carolina Corral, Mexico)
“Cómprame un revólver,”(Julio Hernandez Cordon, Mexico)
FULL TV PILOT POSTPRODUCTION AWARD
“Mics & Celluloid,” (Carlos Carrera, Mexico)
“Alicia,” (Michael Rowe, Mexico, France)
“Comprame un revolver”
“Monsters & Men,” (Reinaldo M. Green, U.S.)
CTT EXP & RENTALS AWARD
“Alicia” (Michael Rowe, Mexico)
“The Feathered Snake” (Alejandro Sugich, Mexico)