Graced by Alfonso Cuaron, Antonio Banderas, Diego Luna, Danny Glover and Maya Rudolph, Mexico’s Guadalajara Festival gave its two biggest prizes to feature debuts – Mexico’s “Pan-American Machinery” (pictured) and Colombia’s “Oscuro Animal” – at Mexico’s Guadalajara Festival.
Relocated, largely successfully, in the city’s stylish colonial MUSA Arts Museum, Guadalajara’s 31st edition was marked by two big new Mexican films – “The 4th Company” and “Me Estas Matando, Susana,” a heavyweight Mexican industry presence led by Argos, Canana, Alebrije Film & TV and Alazraki Ent., and the huge excitement generated by Latin America’s build in SVOD operators and their production financing, however narrow indie producers’ potential profit margins.
But the immediate glory went to two social-issue titles. Directed by Mexico’s Joaquin del Paso, “Pan-American Machinery” turns on the tale of workers at a heavy machinery factory uniting to stave off its closure. Laced with “touches of Buñuel,” said fest director Ivan Trujillo, their failure skewers Mexico’s dysfunctional collective action.
“Pan-American Machinery’s” Mezcal Prize for best Mexican movie at Guadalajara signals a victory for another high-profile Mexican outfit: Jaime Romandia’s Mantarraya, producer of Carlos Reygadas (“Post Tenebras Lux”) and Amat Escalante (“Heli.”) which exec produces, with Del Paso’s Amondo Films and Susana Bernal’s Black Maria taking lead production credits.
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“We are a society standing at the edge, willing to do everything to stop disaster but, paradoxically, our attempts to organize as a group always lead to more chaos and social polarization,” Del Paso has said.
A Rotterdam Fest world premiere, “Oscuro Animal,” the first feature of Colombia’s Argentina-based Felipe Guerrero- an editor on iconic Colombian titles such as “La Playa DC,” “Perro come perro” and “El Paramo” – won fest’s Best Ibero-American Fiction Feature Award, director, cinematography (Fernando Lockett) and actress for its three leads: Marleyda Soto, Luisa Vides Galinao and Jocelyn Meneses.
Reflecting the grand tradition of Latin American arthouse, “Oscuro Animal” turns on three women bearing the ghastly, violent brunt of armed conflict in rural Colombia, seen not so much in armed battle as the brutalization of its combatants: One suffers rape by her fellow paramilitaries, another domestic abuse by her paramilitary boy-friend; a third, the destruction of her village. All end up fleeing to the outskirts of big city Bogota, where they must gather the strength to start life anew.
Near dialogue-free, ”Oscuro Animal” is produced by Buenos Aires-based Gema Films, in co-production with Guerrero’s own Colombian label Mutokino, Marlene Slot at Amsterdam’s Viking Film, Ingmar Trost at Cologne-based Sutor Kolonko and Boo Productions’ Angelos Venetis – these days a typical cross-Latin America/European multi-lateral co-production for higher-profile Latin American art films.
Receiving a mixed reception at Guadalajara, though universal appreciation of its production values and extraordinary endeavor of 11 years at least in the making, “The 4th Company,” a searing true-facts-based indictment of state collusion in institutionalized crime, won a Special Jury Prize and best actor for Adrian Ladrón.
In a hard-boiled penitentiary survival thriller, Ladrón plays a petty car-thief and otherwise innocent dispatched to Mexico City’s Santa Martha penitentiary, a penal institution of ghastly conditions and high mortality sporting a top-notch American football team, made up of inmates, that moonlights as a prison death squad and car and bank heist gang, filling the coffers of Mexico City’s then chief-of-police.
Guadalajara will submit “The 4th Company for 2017’s Golden Globes along with “Me Estas Matando, Susana,” starring Gael Garcia Bernal as a young Mexican, subject to bouts of machismo, who flies to a U.S. writing seminar to win back the love of his wife, a feminist novelist. Rambunctious and laugh-out-loud in its early stretches, if a Guadalajara audience was anything to go by, “Susana” was the best-received of big new films at Guadalajara, its mainstream upscale knockabout entertainment mixing with a serious reflection on the complexities of masculinity, Mexico, and modern love.
A Berlin Panorama hit, Oliver Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s “Theo et Hugo dans le meme bateau,” about a gay couple’s coup de foudre, won festival’s LGBT Maguey Prize.
Puerto Rican Angel Manuel Soto’s “La Granja,” which world debuted at the Austin Fantastic Fest last year, took home the Best First Feature Award. Tom Davia, of Miami-based consultancy Cinemaven, accepted the award on his behalf at the awards ceremony March 11.
“La Granja” is also Davia’s first producing gig outside of Shoreline where he was director of festivals and alternative theatrical distribution before launching Cinemaven in 2014.
Set against the backdrop of a Puerto Rico in economic turmoil, drama pivots on three quietly desperate characters whose lives intersect: a frustrated midwife, a young drug mule, and a ruthless underage boxer being trained by his heavily indebted father.
In his speech read out by Davia, Soto, who is managed by Jairo Romero of Circle of Confusion and repped by CAA’s Trevor Astbury, said: “For me, it was fundamental for ‘La Granja’ to show Puerto Rico’s state of fragility and the potential of its people who have the capacity to reach great heights when given the freedom to express themselves.”
In a country where documentaries have delivered standout movies, even local blockbusters, the Infinitum Audience Award and best Ibero-American Documentary Feature went to Mexican docu-feature “El Charro de Toluquilla,” José Villalobos’ portrait of a womanizing mariachi singer whose life is split between a fantasy world, AIDs, and the deep love for his little daughter,
One day shorter than usual, the 31st Guadalajara unspooled as the battle for Latin America’s VOD space heats up. Netflix launched throughout the region in 2011, galvanizing prices paid for pay TV rights in Latin America. Such has been its penetration that incumbent broadcasters and new market entrants have little choice other than to take Netflix on. Televisa’s Blim, American Movil’s Clarovideo and Globo have all launched or rebooted OTT services. HBO GO launches by year-end in Brazil and Argentina. Banner industry news at Guadalajara turned on new Blim commissions – such as two unspecified large TV projects with Francisco Gonzalez Compean’s Draco Films – new right acquisitions models, such as the pick up of Federico Veoroj’s “The Apostate” for Mexico and Latin American SVOD rights by Corazon Films, and companies’ piling into content to maximize aggregate earnings in a TV production sector where budgets are still contained and single series profit margins slim.
In this respect, Guadalajara 2016 pacemaker proved to be Argos Cine, which announced 11 feature co-productions, no less, at the festival, led by “Fireflies at El Mozote,” teaming with Bob Yari, producer of “Crash” and “The Illusionist,” and “Men From Rome,” an English-language big-screen makeover of heist thriller “La piel del tambor,” a novel by Spain’s Arturo Perez Reverte, author of “Queen of the South.”
Six film institutes from Mexico, Colombia and Central America jointly launched March 4 Retina Latina, a free-of-charge VOD streaming platform of feature films, shorts and docus from their respective countries.
“Over the Top is revolutionizing the film and TV entertainment business worldwide in themes and the creation of series and serials,“ said Argos Cines’ Marco Antonio Salgado, introducing a Guadalajara Fest VOD round table.
Launched July, freemium service Filmin Latino, a joint venture of Spain’s Filmin and Mexico’s IMCINE Film Institute, has notched up 24,602 registered users and 116,664 views, IMCINE head Jorge Sanchez said on the same panel.
The 31st Guadalajara Festival ran March 4-13.
Anna Marie de la Fuente contributed to this article
2016 GUADALAJARA FESTIVAL PRIZES
MEZCAL PRIZE, BEST MEXICAN FILM
“Pan-American Machinery,” Joaquin del Paso
“Margarita,” (Bruno Santamaria Razo)
INFINITUM AUDIENCE AWARD
“El Charro de Toluquilla,” (José Villalobos, Mexico)
BEST IBERO-AMERICAN FICTION FEATURE
“Oscuro Animal,” (Felipe Guerrero, Argentina, Colombia, Netherlands, Germany, Greece)
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, IBERO-AMERICAN FICTION FEATURE
“The 4th Company,” (Amir Galvan Cervera, Mitzi Vanessa Arreloa, Mexico, Spain)
Adrián Ladrón, (“The 4th Company”)
Marleyda Soto, Luisa Vides Galinao and Jocelyn Meneses (“Oscuro Animal”)
Fernando Locket (“Oscuro Animal”)
RECOMMENDED FOR 2017 GOLDEN GLOBE SELECTION
“The 4th Company,”
“Me Estas Matando, Susana,” (Roberto Sneider, Mexico)
“El Charro de Toluquilla”
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, IBERO-AMERICAN DOCUMENTARY
“Paciente,” (Jorge Caballero, Colombia-Spain)
“Los Angeles 1991” (Miguel de Olaso, Bruno Zacarias, Spain, U.S.) and “El ocaso de Juan,” (Omar Deneb Juarez Vargas, Mexico)
RIGO MORA PRIZE, BEST MEXICAN ANIMATION SHORT
“Los Gatos,” (Alejandro Rios)
“Theo et Hugo dans le meme bateau” (Ducastel and Jacques Martineau, France)
MAGUEY PRIZE, SPECIAL MENTION
“Neon Bull,” (Gabriel Mascaro, Brazil)