Mexico’s Guadalajara Fest Tackles Trump, Highlights New Talent, Latin American VOD

Other key narratives at the 32nd edition: Mexico’s movie build, animation, LGBT and German cinemas riches

Guadalajara Fest Tackles Trump, Highlights New
Courtesy of Sundance

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — “We are living in an era like the ‘60s,” Brazil’s Rodrigo Teixeira, a producer-financier on Sundance hits “Call Me By Your Name” and “Patti Cake$,” said at Berlin. He added: “You have Trump and Brexit, among others. How do you contest? With art. If I were a writer, it would be the best time of my life to write something.”

Running March 10-17, the 2017 Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival and its Film Market, the latter celebrating its 15th anniversary, form the longest-running and biggest of the big Mexican fest-marts. Attendance reached 110,000 last year, said Guadalajara Fest director Ivan Trujillo. A platform for Mexican and Latin American movies, recent and brand-new, Guadalajara’s selection has a traditional social-issue edge. Earlier this decade, maybe the major challenge in Latin American filmmaking was giving its productions a larger industry heft, in scale and international reach. Given the dramatic events of the last year, the social focus of so much of new generation cinema across Latin America has acquired a new relevance, urgency and excitement. Films at Guadalajara may talk about Latin America, or sometimes Spain, but their issues, lamentably, are borderless.


The 32nd Guadalajara Festival will kick off Friday March 10 with a short featuring Salma Hayek, directed by Ireland’s Jim  Sheridan, and co-produced by the Guadalajara U, in which Hayek slams Trump’s plans for a U.S.-Mexico wall.


That “riposte to voices of intolerance,” as Guadalajara director Trujillo put it, looks set to continue throughout eight days of films framing movies that anticipated Trump or at least the world of prejudice which helps to explain his ascent to power. Multiple movies tackle exclusion, whether via racism (“Bad Influence,”), hickdom (“The Distinguished Citizen”), misogyny (“Los Crimenes del Mar del Norte,” “The Animal’s Wife”) or language (“I Dream in Another Language,” “Future Perfect”). Some titles turn on or touch homophobia (“Santa & Andrés,” “No Dress Code Required”), others social marginalization (“Finding the Werewolf,” “A Shadeless Man”). “It’s important to screen such movies in times of intolerance” Trujillo said.”The Guadalajara Festival will take a stand as far as Mexico is concerned,” he added.


Guadalajara has been sweltering at above 80º recently. That’s an appropriate metaphor. More than anything else, in industry terms, this film festival is a hotbed of new talent. First features comprise 45% of movies in Guadalajara’s two biggest Mezcal and Ibero-American Fiction Feature sections and Co-Production Meeting, its centerpiece industry event. Indeed, only 10 of the directors of the 64 titles in these three sections have made more than three films.

Among higher-profile debuts: “Absence,” in Works in Progress; in main Ibero-American competition, “Woodpeckers,” Jose Maria Cabrales’ penitentiary-set and Sundance-selected love story, too singular not to be based on real events; up for the Mezcal prize for best Mexican movie, Cristina Herrera’s gay marriage doc “No Dress Code Required,” already an Outsider Pictures/Strand Releasing U.S pick-up; project “The White Devil,” from Argentina’s Magma Cine, starring Dolores Fonzi; and two prospective behind-the-cameras debuts for seasoned young producers: “Dark Room,” from Rhayuela’s Federico Duran, and “Isaac,” co-directed by David Matamoros at Zentropa Intl. Spain, the Spanish outpost of Lars Von Trier’s pan-Euro production network.


VOD operators aren’t just impacting the Sundance Festival. Their presence is being felt at pretty much at any film meet around the world. Guadalajara is a case in point. The major market innovation this year round is the creation of a lounge dedicated to VOD companies, said Estrella Araiza, Guadalajara Fest Market and Industry Director. Among those attending: Televisa’s muscular new SVOD service Blim; Cinema Mexico, the enterprising free-of-charge Mexican film VOD service run by the IMCINE Mexican Film Institute; art pic specialist Filmin Latino; and Chivas TV, one of the world’s first soccer club VOD services.


Guadalajara’s main Ibero-American Fiction competition is packed out by movies which played Locarno, Lima, Toronto, San Sebastian, Sundance and Berlin. Some even won major plaudits: “The Distinguished Citizen” a best actor Venice Volpi Cup for Oscar Martinez; “Future Perfect,” a First Feature Award at Locarno; and “I Dream in Another Language” a Sundance Audience Award, the biggest prize landed to date by any Latin American movie this year. The section does, however, pack three world premieres. The top winner at Guadalajara’s Works in Progress last year, Max Zunino’s “Mist,” a Berlin-set bildungsroman, co-written by and starring Sofia Espinosa (“Gloria”), follows a young woman (Espinosa) from Mexico’s stifling upper middle-classes to a final sense of individual identity in Berlin.

A meditation on murder and media, José Buil’s true event-based “Los Crimenes del Mar del Norte” draws a noirish b/w portrait of Mexico’s 1942 Tacuba Strangler, played by Mexican indie icon Gabino Rodriguez. Jorge Ramirez-Suarez’s follow-up to “Guten Tag, Ramon” which snagged six Ariel nominations and $4.8 million B.O. for Fox in Mexico, “La Gran Sorpresa” once more adopts an international canvas. Set in Durango, but also Frankfurt, Sarajevo, Los Angeles and Africa, it recounts a war photographer’s reencounter with his daughter, 23 years after he fled Mexico.


“The 21 Mexican films competing for Guadalajara’s Mezcal Prize reflects Mexican cinema’s good moment, with an all-time record of 160 features produced last year,” said Trujillo. Obvious standouts are Berlin winner “Devil’s Freedom,” ”maybe one of the Mexican films of the decade,” said Guadalajara programming director Gerardo Salcedo Romero, and Sundance Audience Awardee “I Dream In Another Language,” “a great and different Ernesto Contreras” which could also be said about Maria Novaro and “Tesoros,” Salcedo Romero added.

There’s also good word on “Mist,” “Los Crimenes del Mar del Norte, and “Nocturno,” from Luis  Ayhllon. About an ageing father’s re-encounter with the daughter he abandoned decades earlier, “Nocturno” won Best Picture at December’s U.K. Film Festival. Also notable, “They Called Me ‘King Tiger,” is “a powerful documentary” about the incendiary Latino activist Reies Tijerina who on one occasion actually took up arms against the U.S. government. ”In these Trump days, this is a story we ought to remember or discover,” Salcedo Romero insisted.


Grossing $9.1 million for Pantelion, animated feature “Un gallo con muchos huevos,” produced by the Guadalajara-based Huevocartoon Producciones, was the highest-grossing foreign-language movie in the U.S. in 2015. Animation movies in general prove far more popular in Mexico than its total cinema audiences would merit, up 58%, 69%, and 82% on the takings for toon pics in the U.K., France and Brazilian over 2010-14, with Mexico ranking overall as the second biggest market for Hollywood animation outside the U.S., according to a European Audiovisual Observatory report. Guadalajara, moreover, is one of Latin America’s foremost animation hubs, said Araiza. With Mexican cinema-going very much a family affair, animated movies offer its companies – Anima Estudios, Huevocartoon Producciones- a natural way to create mainstream entertainment in the family sphere. It’s equally natural that Mexico’s 2nd Animation Studio National Meeting will take place at the Guadalajara Festival.


As Mexican imports currently rate as one of the only foreign-language box office growth businesses in the U.S., MVS Multivision’s Alejandro Vazquez-Vela, Claudia Riviera, Kino Lorber’s Jameson Oyer and Pantelion’s Jacqueline Jimenez will talk at Guadalajara about Latin American Content for the U.S. Market. UTA’s Keya Khayatian and Talent on the Road’s Ruby Castillo address Talent Agencies’ Inner Workings, AMPAS Awards Manager Tom Oyer tackles How to Oscar. A panel on alternative exhibition includes Alebrije’s Monica Lozano, producer of “Amores Perros” and “Instructions Not Included”; Alazraki Ent.’s Leonardo Zimbron, a producer on “Nosotros Los Nobles,” will analyze its international remakes, screening trailers of some versions, said Araiza; one of Latin America’s best-known creative couples, director Rodrigo Pla and screenwriter Laura Marull, will discuss their big-screen adaptation of Marull’s novels.


Firmly established as one of Latin America’s major fests with LGBT heft, in its Maguey competition Guadalajara will screen highlights from later last year, plus early 2017 plays. Best-reviewed to date – and many titles still have to build a body of reaction – are Brazil’s “Electric Body,” a winner at Ventana Sur; Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s debut “Heartstone,” an Iceland-set teen love triangle come coming-of-age tale, a hit at Venice; “Those Who’s Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves,” voted best Canadian film at 2016 Toronto.


Fest opens March 10 with Fatih Akin’s “Tschick” and continues with 30 other German movies, notably Best European Film winner “Toni Erdmann,” and two big period art films: The Match Factory-sold “Paula,” about the fertile final years of iconoclast German painter Paula Modersohn-Becker; “Stefan Zweig: Farewell To Europe,” from Films Distribution, about the writer’s attempt, exiled in New York and Brazil, to maintain an intellectual integrity in his response to the rise of Hitler.


“The Animal’s Wife,” (Víctor Gaviria, Colombia)

“Bad Influence,” (Claudia Huaiquimilla, Chile)

“The Bar,” (Alex de la Iglesia, Spain)

“The Big Promise,” (Jorge Ramírez-Suárez, Mexico, Germany)

“Bruma,” (Max Zunino, Mexico, Germany)

“The Crimes of the North Sea,” (José Buil, Mexico)

“The Distinguished Citizen,” (Mariano Cohn, Gastón Duprat, Argentina, Spain)

“I Dream in Another Language,” (Ernesto Contreras, Mexico, Netherlands)

“The Future Perfect,” (Nele Wohlatz, Argentina)

“I’m Gilda,” (Lorena Muñoz, Argentina, Uruguay)

“Last Days in Havana,” (Fernando Perez, Cuba)

“One last afternoon,” (Joel Calero, Peru, Cuba, Colombia)

“Santa y Andrés,” (Carlos Lechuga, Cuba, Colombia, France)

“The Reconquest,” (Jonás Trueba, Spain)

“The Shepherd,” (Jonathan Cenzual Burley, Spain)

“The Train of Salt and Sugar,” (Licinio Azevedo, Portugal, Mozambique, France, Brazil, South Africa)

“Two Irenes,” (Fabio Meira, Brasil)

“Woodpeckers,” (José María Cabral, Dominican Republic, United States)


“A Family Love Story,” (Luis David Palomino, Mexico)

“Anadina,” (Raúl Fuentes, Mexico)

“The Big Promise,” (Jorge Ramírez-Suárez, Mexico Germany)

“The Blue Years,” (Sofía Gómez Córdova, Mexico)

“The Called Me King Tiger,” (Ángel Estrada Soto, Mexico)

“The Crimes of the North Sea,” (José Buil, Mexico)

“Devil’s Freedom,” (Everardo González, Mexico)

“The Gaze of the Sea,” (José Álvarez, Mexico, Germany)

“Help Me Make it Through the Night,” (José Ramón Chávez Delgado, Mexico)

“I Dream in Another Language,” (Ernesto Contreras, Mexico, Netherlands)

“In Exile: A Family Movie,” (Juan Francisco Urrusti Alonso, Mexico)

“Live for Me,” (Chema de la Peña, Mexico, Spain)

“Maize in Times of War,” (Alberto Cortés Calderón, Mexico)

“Mist,” (Max Zunino, Mexico, Germany)

“No Dress Code Required,” (Cristina Herrera Bórquez, Mexico)

“Nocturne,” (Luis Ayhllón, Mexico)

“The Silence is Welcome,” (Gabriela García Rivas, Mexico)

“Tesoros,” (María Novaro, Mexico)

“Verónica,” (Carlos Algara, Alejandro Martínez Beltrán, Mexico)

“Visitor’s Day,” ( Nicole Opper, Mexico, United States)

“While Waiting,” (Paola Villanueva Bidault, Mexico)