GUADALAJARA, Mexico — In a show of strength, laced with good humor, Salma Hayek, Irish director Jim Sheridan (“In the Name of the Father”) and Mexican authorities backing the Guadalajara Festival united over its first two days to condemn what they see as the intolerance of U.S. president Donald Trump.
The Guadalajara Festival, Mexico’s biggest film festival, comes just three weeks after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security detailed steps to accelerate the deportation of paperless aliens, hire 10,000 immigration agents. It has also issued a pre-solicitation notice for contractors to build a U.S-Mexico border wall.
So some kind of reference to Trump at Friday’s opening night ceremony was expected. Multiple movies at Guadalajara 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”). One project, “A False Prophet” at its Guadalajara Co-production meeting, is inspired directly by the very populism which Trump embodies (see separate article) .
What the audience at Guadalajara’s massive Telmex Auditorium received on Friday night was a politically-charged gala which, echoing the Berlinale’s skewering of Trump in its opening night last month, might well become the norm at major festival events abroad as Trump fast-tracks his anti-paperless immigrant policies.
Kicking off events, a carefully-conceived campaign of video interviews with local dignitaries sought to contrast Donald Trump’s rhetoric with the Guadalajara Festival and the ethos of cinema in general.
In one, Raul Padilla, president of the festival board, announced that the festival also planned to build walls, but of a five-screen cinematheque in Guadalajara, while he slammed the new U.S. president’s “intolerance, exclusivity, xenophobia and misogyny.”
Padilla’s words intro-ed Sheridan’s short, “11th Hour,” which stars Hayek, which was followed by an onstage appearance by Sheridan himself.
Inspired by an account by Irish journalist Lise Hands’ of visiting Marty O’Brien’s bar in Manhattan on the evening of 9/11, “11th Hour” is set in a bar run by Maria Jose (Hayek) and her Irish husband which is packed by shocked local and weary members of the NYPD as images of the Twin Towers collapse play on the TV.
After one angry NYPD man brandishes a pistol “just in case,” saying New York’s tunnels should be closed, a young firefighter walks in caked with dust. It is Maria Jose, a Latina, who tends for him, and calls the bar’s regular cab driver, Mohammed, to take the fireman back to his station.
The short ends with Bruce Springsteen’s haunting live cover version of the Woody Guthrie song “This Land Is Your Land.” – whose lyrics run “this land is your land, this land is my land” – which Guthrie intended as a national anthem to inclusiveness.
On stage at the gala, Sheridan recalled that Guthrie was evicted by Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father, whom Guthrie lambasted as racist bigot for not allowing black tenants on his property.
In a Julio Cortazar Lecture on Saturday entitled “The Bridge That Breaks Down Walls,” the seven-times Oscar nominated Irish director, whose credits include “My Left Foot” and “In America,” screened “11th Hour” once more and returned to the theme of Donald Trump in an on-stage interview with Mexico’s Carlos Garcia de Alba.
“The idea for the short came about because of the way that America was going last year,” seen in the divisiveness of the presidential elections, Sheridan said. Concept to production was only four weeks.
“You look at Salma and you wonder what is there to be excluded. It’s kind of mind-blowing for me,” Sheridan said, adding that he phoned U2’s Edge to ask Springsteen for permission to use the song, which Springsteen gave for free.
But Sheridan’s challenge in Guadalajara, like many other filmmakers who raise their voice against Trump’s policies around there world, is to seek to maintain some sense of equanimity when attacking Trump, a quality they accuse the U.S. president of lacking. In Sheridan’s case, this lead him to attempt to understand what has happened to Donald Trump. To answer that his turned to Shakespeare.
“From Hamlet on, all the great tragic heroes’ flaw have a very Trumpian flaw, in that they kill their feminine sides, from Ophelia to Desdemona,” Sheridan mused. “Trump seems to me to be that character, a protestant man who makes women invisible,” he added.
Mexico’s current consul general in Los Angeles, Garcia de Alba said that after two months of Trump’s policies towards undocumented immigrants, “I can clearly see that the part of the population that’s suffering the most is children. They are fearful every morning that at any moment their parents can be taken away and they are bullied at school for being Mexicans.”
What could filmmakers do to help the situation, Garcia de Alba asked?
“The U.S. has two sides to it. The imperialist side and the melting pot. But you have to make positive re-enforcement stories,” Sheridan answered.
“I think the simplest thing would be to make a movie about a Mexican president of the U.S.,” he suggested, to the biggest applause of his lecture.
The Guadalajara Intl. Film Festival runs March 10-17.