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Alfonso Cuarón on the Lumière Fest, ‘The Shape of Water,’ His Upcoming Film, and Mexico Earthquake Fundraising

Cuarón also presents Mexican discovery ‘La fórmula secreta’ at Lumière Fest

For Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, Lyon’s Lumière Film Festival is not only an event that celebrates cinema but also a relaxing opportunity to catch up with old friends without the stress of the film industry’s business.

“It’s beloved by filmmakers because it’s a cinephile festival,” Cuarón told Variety. “It’s not competitive. It’s a festival that celebrates cinema. It’s a festival of great films with great friends and amazing wine.”

The intimacy of the festival was evident at Saturday’s opening night ceremony and it’s something Cuarón seems to take to heart.

“It’s just one of those places in which you meet your old friends and you make new friends and everything is in the context of going to the movies to see great cinema in which there is a big respect for films the way that filmmakers intended.

He went on: “If it’s a digital film, it’s trying to get an amazing digital projection, if it’s a film shot in negative, it’s to make restored copies and to have that together with a communal experience. It’s a big believer in cinema as a communal experience in which many humans go through the same flow of emotions in the same frame of time and in the same space – and that’s very special.”

He concluded: “It’s about film, it’s about cinema, without any competition. It’s just to celebrate. It’s super relaxing.”

Cuarón will introduce “Pan’s Labyrinth” in Lyon as part of the Lumière Film Festival’s showcase of works by Guillermo del Toro as well as Rubén Gámez’s 1964 Mexican film “La fórmula secreta.”

He’s also excited about Del Toro’s latest, “The Shape of Water,” which is likewise screening in Lyon. “It’s such an amazingly sublime, beautiful film. Go, run immediately and go see that film. It’s absolutely sublime.”

Cuarón is currently in post-production on his next film, “Roma,” his first Mexican film since 2001’s  “Y tu mamá también.”

While it has been described as a family drama, Cuarón remains tight-lipped about the project. “I cannot talk much about it because I don’t want to prejudice anyone about what it is or is not.”

He does say, however, that going back to Mexico to make the film was something he very much needed.

“It was fantastic to go back. It was a big gift. All I can tell you is that it was as if I was drifting in the ocean and I was thrown, with this film, a safety jacket.”

The film doesn’t have a release date but is due to come out sometime next year. Cuarón said “that because of the nature of what I did, it’s a very long post production. We’ve been working on the post-production of that film for months now. It has to do with dynamics of ambitions and finance in terms of windows of opportunity that we can find throughout the months.”

Chuckling at his own vagueness, he added, “Yeah, I’ll explain it later on.”

The filmmaker, nevertheless, said he was so far very pleased with the production. “I’m extremely pleased with the results of the film so I have to take care of it until it’s completed.”

While Cuarón has been primarily focused on the film, he has also dived into a new fund raising effort for the victims of the recent earthquake in central Mexico, www.globalgiving.org/mexicorises.

“We launched it with amazing support from friends whom we reached out to to be part of this campaign. They signed up to help and I’m very touched and very grateful to them. Right now the campaign has just begun; let’s see how much we can raise. Whatever we can raise is very little for the amazing amount of work that is required.”

Cuarón praised his “Y tu mamá también” stars, Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal, for their separate fund raising effort. “They did it amazingly. They’re very good at doing that stuff. They did an amazing job and they got a substantial amount of money but no matter how much money you can raise in this way, it’s nothing. We can have targets or no targets, but even the most ambitious targets are just a minuscule fraction of what is required to really provide the help that is needed.”

“Of course it all helps, particularly because these donations go to the organizations that are doing the good work,” he added, but expressed frustration at the poor government response and reports of corruption.

“The dimension of the problem is so big that only through a responsible involvement of the government would there be a way of turning this into an upside after the tragedy.”

He added: “At this point, I believe that only the civil organizations, in particular the civil organizations that have been working for many years under the main mandate of the communities, are the ones that are really capable of making a real difference.

“The government has proven ineffective, has been proven to also be not very honest, or not honest at all, and its programs are very unprepared.”

“The good work is in the hands of the civil society. Every single thing that is sent to civil societies makes a difference. I encourage people to support the organization that we are doing. It’s a moment in which Mexico really needs the help of the international community.”

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