Mexican thesp Demian Bichir, Oscar-nommed for his lauded perf in 2011 drama “A Better Life,” is staging the world premiere of his directorial debut “Un Cuento de Circo & A Love Song” (aka “Refugio”) at Mexico’s prominent film showcase, the Morelia Int’l Film Fest.
Produced by AG Studios’ Itaca Films, “Un Cuento de Circo…” turns on a young man called Refugio who was born in a circus and journeys from Mexico to New Orleans in search for his lost love. Its cast is led by Bichir, his co-star in FX’s “The Bridge” Diane Kruger, and Jason Patric and Eva Longoria.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Cordero, Ecuador’s most renowned helmer (“Europa”), has chosen Morelia for the Mexican debut of his latest pic, “Sin Muertos No Hay Carnaval,” a co-production between his shingle, Carnaval Cine, with producing partner Arturo Yepes, Mexico’s Salamandra Prods. and Germany’s Atkis Film Prod. Bowing in Ecuador on Sept. 2, the thriller is set against the real conflict in Guayaquil’s Monte Sinai shantytown between squatter families, who claim they bought their land legally, and the authorities.
Both much-anticipated pics, while not in competition, lead a showcase of strong titles in Morelia’s feature film, docs, and shorts categories. Clear evidence of the production boom in Mexico is some 800 submissions to Morelia this year. “Submissions are up by 10% every year,” said festival director Daniela Michel.
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Morelia’s official features competition includes Amat Escalante’s social family drama pic, “The Untamed ,” which adds an element of the supernatural to the themes of his reality-based pics (“Heli,” “Los Bastardos”). “It’s good for a filmmaker to reinvent himself,” said Michel.
Also eagerly anticipated is Claudia Sainte-Luce’s “The Empty Box” whose debut feature “The Amazing Catfish” wowed critics and auds alike in 2013. Also somewhat based on a personal experience, “The Empty Box” centers on an ailing father who, in the process of losing his memory, forms a stronger bond with his daughter.
Among the 15 pics in competition are “Todo lo demas,” the feature debut of docu filmmaker Natalia Almada, acclaimed for her stirring docu about a sprawling graveyard favored by Mexico’s slain drug lords, “El Velador” (“The Night Watchman”).
Daniel Castro Zimbron (“Tau”) delivers his second pic “Las Tinieblas” (“The Darkness”) to vie for the big prize. The fantasy psychological allegory-thriller, which participated in the Guadalajara Ibero-American co-prod meeting and Cannes Cinefondation workshop in 2014, pivots on a father and his three children living in a forest cabin menaced by a monster.
Also emblematic of the expanding genre auteur tradition in Mexico is Emiliano Rocha Minter’s huis clos expose of human instinct “Tenemos la carne,” sanctioned no less by Alfonso Cuaron, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Carlos Reygadas, a co-producer. Set in a post-apocalyptic Mexico, the pic tracks a pair of siblings who while wandering in search for food and shelter, meet a man who offers to help them survive, but at a dangerous price.
Standout docs in competition include Tatiana Huezo’s “Tempestad,” a recent Best Documentary winner at the 20th Lima Film Festival and first presented at the festival’s works-in-progress section, Impulso Morelia, last year, which traces a woman whose pained and disembodied voice leads the audience on her journey home after being released from a notorious prison.
Another 2015 Impulso Morelia participant, Lucia Gaja’s “Batallas Intimas,” also vies for the best documentary prize. Also notable is the debut feature docu of Guatemalan Izabel Acevedo, “El Buen Cristiano” (“The Good Christian”), produced by top Mexican film school CCC, which turns on the genocide trial of General Jose Efrain Rios who led a military attack that annihilated an entire community in Guatemala.
Shorts, which Morelia has always championed, includes “Verde” by Alonso Ruizpalacios who won the best first feature film at the 2014 Berlinale with his offbeat black and white dramedy, “Gueros.”
“More female directors have submitted documentaries and shorts this year,” noted Michel, adding that out of 51 fiction and docu shorts in competition, around 15 are by women. “It’s always been our mandate to give equal attention to features, documentaries and shorts,” she added. The festival also includes a section devoted to entries from the region of Michoacan, of which Morelia is the capital.
For the first time, Impulso Morelia has also accepted projects in script form.
The 14th Morelia Int’l Film Festival runs from October 21-30.