Animation pics are bookending the Morelia International Film Festival for the first time in its 15-year history. Pixar Animation Studios’ latest opus, “Coco,” no less, receives its world premiere in Morelia on opening night, October 20, while Carlos Carrera’s “Ana & Bruno” marks its Latin American premiere when it wraps the fest on October 28.
Set in Mexico and against the country’s most important annual event, the Day of the Dead, “Coco” is an apt choice as Morelia and the nearby lakeside village of Patzcuaro are particularly renowned for their Day of the Dead festivities. Since the festival usually ends close to the eve of the holiday, some guests have stayed on to witness the pageantry.
Snagging the world premiere of Pixar’s latest animated feature began some two years ago when festival director Daniela Michel met Pixar Chief Creative officer John Lasseter at the Lumière Festival in Lyon where Lasseter told her that Pixar’s next project would be set against Mexico’s Day of the Dead.
“We discussed the possibility of giving it a berth at Morelia right there and then,” said Michel. The films’ directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, producers Darla Anderson and Lasseter, and thesp Gael García Bernal, who lends his voice to a lead character, will attend the premiere. Security will naturally be tight for this one-off screening.
“We Latinos have to come out and support it,” said Mexican helmer-scribe Jorge Gutierrez whose similarly themed “The Book of Life” opened in 2014, and broke even after grossing $100 million worldwide. “If it doesn’t do well at the box office, it hurts all Latino filmmakers,” said Gutierrez who gave a masterclass on Animation at NALIP’s two-day event in Los Angeles in September and is in development on “Billion Brick Race,” a spinoff of the hit Lego movie franchise, with its creators, Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Guillermo del Toro will also be on hand to introduce his much-lauded Venice Golden Lion winner, “The Shape of Water.” And adding a frisson of political relevance to the fest, Nobel Peace Prizewinner and former U.S. VP Al Gore will present his latest docu, “An Inconvenient Sequel,” on Oct. 21.
France is amply represented at Morelia with Michel Hazanavicius, Barbet Schroeder, Laurent Cantet, Emmanuel Gras, Lea Mysius and Nahuel Perez Biscayart presenting their respective films.
Even though more than a hundred Mexican projects will be screening at Morelia, this year’s edition was adversely impacted by the recent earthquakes and the steep devaluation of the Mexican peso earlier this year.
“Many filmmakers told me their projects were 90% finished but because of the crises, would not have them ready on time,” said Michel. In contrast to last year’s quite unprecedented tally of 14 local films in competition, there are only seven this year, led by Natalia Beristain’s portrait of 1950s Mexican feminist writer Rosario Castellano and Marcelo Tobar’s iPhone-shot “Oso Polar,” produced by Elsa Reyes of Zensky Cine.
The other official sections are comprised of 56 short films,15 documentaries and 15 works from the state of Michoacán, of which Morelia is the capital.
The festival is hosting more than 50 local and international premieres this year.
Among the international films marking their Latin American premieres are: Salma Hayek-toplined “Beatriz at Dinner” by Miguel Arteta; Robert Pattinson heist film “Good Time” by Josh & Benny Safdie; Michael Haneke‘s “Happy End;” Russia’s Foreign Language Oscar entry, “Loveless” by Andrey Zvyagintsev; Berlinale Golden Bear winner “On Body and Soul” by Hungary’s Ildiko Enyedi; Finnish dramedy “The Other Side of Hope” by Aki Kaurismäki; George Clooney‘s “Suburbicon;” “Victoria and Abdul” by Stephen Frears; Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel;” Todd Haynes‘s “Wonderstruck;” Argentina’s foreign-language Oscar entry, “Zama” by Lucrecia Martel; and the most recent winner of the Cannes Festival’s Palme d’Or: “The Square” by Ruben Östlund.
Mexican premieres include: “Cuando los Hijos Regresan” by Félix Mercado; “El Viaje de Keta” by Julio Bekhór and Fernando Sma; and “El Angel en el Reloj” by Miguel Angel Uriegas, among others.
Mexican Feature Film
“Los Adioses,” Natalia Beristáin
“Ayer Maravilla Fui,” Gabriel Mariño
“Casa Caracol,” Jean-Marc Rousseau Ruiz
“Cuadros en la Oscuridad,” Paula Markovitch
“The Drawer Boy,” Arturo Pérez Torres
“Oso Polar,” Marcelo Tobar
“Sinvivir,” Anaïs Pareto Onghena
“Artemio,” Sandra Luz López
“Bosque de Niebla,” Mónica Álvarez Franco
“La Compañía Que Guardas,” Diego Gutiérrez
“Guerrero,” Ludovic Bonleux
“No Sucumbió la Eternidad,” Daniela Rea Gómez
“Los Ojos del Mar,” José Álvarez
“Omar & Gloria,” Jimmy Cohen
“Potentiae,” Javier Toscano
“Regreso al Origen,”María José Glender
“Rush Hour,” Luciana Kaplan
“Siempre Andamos Caminando,” Dinazar Urbina Mata
“Takeda,” Yaasib Vázquez
“Truenos de San Juan,” Santiago Maza Stern
“El Vendedor de Orquídeas,” Lorenzo Vigas
“Witkin & Witkin,” Trisha Ziff