GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Mexican director-writer Issa Lopez was sitting in the audience at Guillermo del Toro’s second of three master classes at the Guadalajara Film Festival when the recent Academy Award winner revealed his plans.
This consists in producing the next films of two women helmers over the next two years: Animator Karla Castaneda and Lopez.
“You should have seen my face when he mentioned my name,” she told Variety.
Castaneda, whose stop-motion animated short “Jacinta” won at the 2008 Guadalajara fest and who took the Mexican Oscar equivalent, the Ariel, for her second stop-motion animated short, “La Noria,” in 2013, is working on her feature debut in the same medium. Del Toro is planning on providing further impetus to the animation film industry in Mexico.
Lopez began as a writer of hit Mexican romcoms such as Disney’s “Ladies Night,” and Columbia Pictures’ “Casi Divas,” which she also directed, and then made a surprising turn to genre filmmaking last year with the critically acclaimed “Tigers are Not Afraid” (“Vuelven”), which counts on Stephen King and Del Toro among its fans. She was also a co-scribe on Gabriel Ripstein’s 2015 Berlinale Best First Feature winner, “600 Miles,” which deals with the less frothy themes of cross-border drugs and weapons smuggling.
Written and directed by Lopez, “Tigers” debuted at the Fantastic Fest 2017 where she became the first woman – and Mexican – to win the Best Horror Feature director award. It also made a sweep of the major awards at Screamfest 2017, where it won Best Picture and Best Director among other prizes. “We’ve won 14 prizes so far but we still have 22 genre festivals ahead of us,” she said.
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“I had been chasing Guillermo from the moment I conceived of the idea for “Tigers” but it was hard despite our mutual connections,” she said. It was a tough, dark tale, a fable and I had little hope of getting it financed,” she recalled, until producer Marco Polo Constandse stepped up after reading the script. Many people who worked on the $1.2 million (22 million pesos) film, who were also enamored of the story, also deferred their fees.
“Tigers” follows a gang of street urchins, orphaned by the drug war in Mexico, but as seen through the prism of their world of fantasy and magic realism.
That night she had dinner with Del Toro where they spoke of their mutual interests in books, comics and love for genre films grounded in reality but leavened by fantasy. At the moment she has only ideas percolating in her head. “What I have right now is love for this man, who is so accessible and generous,” she said.
Meanwhile, Lopez’s fourth feature as a director and eleventh as a writer, “Todo Mal,” also co-penned by her, debuts this Friday March 16 via Videocine on more than a 1,000 screens. Co-produced by Leonardo Zimbron of Traziende Films, it is described as a “bitter-sweet comedy about what it really means to be a man in today’s Mexico.”