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New Generation of Mexican Filmmakers Reaches Out to Europe, U.S.

Over the past decade, Mexican filmmakers, producers and production companies have galvanized the country’s cinema industry with radical, sometimes brutal movies. Now, that wave — Carlos Reygadas, Fernando Eimbcke, Amat Escalante, Gerardo Naranjo, shingles Canana, Mantarraya and Cine Pantera — has become a new talent tsunami with a second generation riding along, broadening Mexico’s industry base and recent trophy trawl.

Mexico’s first wave boasts some of Mexico’s biggest movie achievements: Cannes director awards for Reygadas (2012’s “Post Tenebras Lux”) and then Escalante (2013’s “Heli”). Those helmers still promise some of Mexico’s biggest big fest and market films: the upcoming “Where Life Is Born” from Reygadas and “The Untamed” from Escalante, Canana’s crime/corruption thriller “The Black Minutes,” with Oscar-nominated Demian Bichir (“A Better Life”) and Diego Luna.

“I’ve been telling a lot of independent U.S. directors that it’s easier to shoot in Mexico, using Mexican crew and a Mexican story than shoot in the U.S. with less money.”
Nicolas Celis

As for the next generation, they nearly all produced their first features in this decade and few are over 40. Producers (some of whom are also directors) include: Lucia Films’ Michel Franco and Gabriel Ripstein; Gaz Alazraki; Machete Producciones’ Edher Campos and Luis Salinas; Ozcar Ramirez; Pimienta’s Nicolas and Sebastian Celis; Ramiro Ruiz; Piano’s Julio Chavezmontes; Mayra Espinosa Castro and Elsa Reyes; Panorama’s Gerardo Gatica, Alberto Muffelmann and Moises Cosio; and Pablo Zimbron and Victor Leycegui at Varios Lobos, just to name a few.

And they don’t always stick to local helmers. Cosio’s credits include Atom Egoyan’s “Remember” and Chilean Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 2016 Directors’ Fortnight entry “Endless Poetry,” as well as 2014 Samuel L. Jackson co-starrer “Kite.”

This decade, Mexico’s newest producers have already scooped two best first feature awards at the Berlin festival: Alonso Ruizpalacios’ 2014 “Gueros,” produced by Ruiz, and Ripstein’s 2015 “600 Miles,” produced by Franco. Young Mexican producers have also scored two Cannes Un Certain Regard winners: Franco’s “After Lucia,” and Diego Quemada-Diez’s “La jaula de oro.” There’s also the festival hit “Leap Year,” from Michael Rowe, which won Cannes’ Camera d’Or in 2010. “Jaula” and “Year” were both Machete productions.

What’s helping the filmmakers and producers is the state film funds. They can tap into two direct subsidy lines at Mexico’s Imcine Film Institute and an Efecine tax incentive, worth in all more than 800 million pesos ($46.6 million) in 2015. Partly as a result, Mexican production has skyrocketed from 14 features in 2002 to 140 last year, an all-time record.

he post-Apocalypse “We Are the Flesh,” from Chavezmontes, unspools in Cannes’ 2016 Blood Window showcase.

“I’ve been telling a lot of independent U.S. directors that it’s easier to shoot in Mexico, using Mexican crew and a Mexican story than shoot in the U.S. with less money,” Nicolas Celis says.

“Co-productions are the future of filmmaking,” Gatica says.

Few of their peers would disagree. “This new generation of producers is looking to break frontiers, to show our films to the world,” Zimbron says. Panorama and Ruiz are advancing on four co-productions. Venezuela’s “Far Away,” a Lucia Films co-production, won Venice’s 2015 Golden Lion. Machete’s upcoming three-part immigration tale “X Quinientos” is produced with Canada and Colombia. Pimienta co-produced Berlin competition player “Soy Nero.”

Mexico’s first new wave initially looked toward Europe for co-productions, but Hollywood is increasingly working with counterparts in Latin America. Alazraki created L.A./Mexico-based Alazraki Entertainment, and is showrunner on Netflix series “Club de Cuervos.” Chavezmontes is producing SebastianHofmann’s “Tiempo Compartido” with soon-to-be-revealed high-profile U.S. backers.

Some producers make auteur genre movies. Zimbron is producing “The Darkness,” a horror fairy tale sold by France’s Memento Films Intl.; Espinosa Castro, at Velarium Arts, is readying “7:19,” a natural catastrophe-set drama with social dimensions from Jorge Michel Grau, whose 2010 Celis-produced “We Are What We Are” saw a 2013 U.S. remake from Jim Mickle. The post-Apocalypse “We Are the Flesh,” from Chavezmontes, looks set to wow Cannes’ 2016 Blood Window showcase.

Rather than compete with other generations, Mexico’s newest producers collaborate. Alejandro G. Iñarritu and Alfonso Cuaron both endorsed “We Are the Flesh,” the former talking it up on his “Revenant” Mexico press tour. Such esprit de corps promises greater things ahead.

Rising Stars of the South

Rocha Minter’s “We Are the Flesh” premiered February at the Rotterdam festival, and few debuts have gained cult status as quickly as this pic, co-produced by auteur Carlos Reygadas. A post-apocalypse parable, where a satyr coerces teen siblings into abandoning inhibition, “Flesh” shows an acute sense of rhythm and format, and is endorsed by Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu. “Flesh” has been a solid seller for Reel Suspects as well, and opened doors in the U.S. the director and star: Paradigm now reps Rocha Minter and Maria Evoli.
— Emiliano Granada

It’s a challenge for immigration-themed films these days to say something new, but “I’m No Longer Here” does in the tale of a Monterrey kid dispatched to Jackson Heights, N.Y., where his Cholombiano culture is viewed as a fashion commodity. Developed at the Sundance Screenwriters and Producers Labs, Frias’ second feature, after Slamdance Jury Prize winner “Rezeta,” is already multi-prized and backed by go-getting young Mexican producers Panorama, Varios Lobos and Bengala.
— John Hopewell

Astrid Rondero
Rondero garnered early attention with her short “En aguas quietas,” which was selected for the 2010 Berlinale Talents Editing Studio and nominated for an Ariel, Mexico’s equivalent of an Oscar, for fiction short before winning fest awards. Her feature debut, Tijuana-set “The Darkest Days of Us,” forms part of the Los Cabos Goes to Cannes pics-in-post platform. While ostensibly about a grieving woman exploring a painful past, it explores a recurring theme in Rondero’s work about the impotence of local society in the face of the pervasive violence in Mexico. Her next project, “La Bruma de Estas Noches,” centers on a group of teens who are assaulted while on their way to the beach.
— Anna Marie de la Fuente

Ricardo Silva
Winner of the 2015 Cabos in Progress prize and among the pics-in-post titles in the Los Cabos Goes to Cannes platform, Silva’s “William, the New Judo Master,” a Tijuana-set fiction/docu hybrid, displays influences of Luis Bunuel and Werner Herzog in a semi-surreal treatise on the power of the past. This is Silva’s second pic following his festival breakout “Navajazo,” which won of slew of cash prizes that helped fund “William.”
— Anna Marie de la Fuente

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