Los Cabos Film Festival: 2018 Highpoints, Trends, Attractions

MEXICO CITY — Launched in 2012, now in its seventh year, and under new directors Alejandra Paulín and Maru Garzón, Los Cabos caters to one of the world’s most exciting two-way streets: the Mexico-U.S. film-TV axis. Add Canada, the third country to supply films, projects, talent and delegates to Los Cabos and the mix is even richer. 10 takes on this year’s edition, which bows Wednesday Nov. 7, running through Nov. 11:


Five years ago, as Eugenio Derbez’s “Instructions Not Included” finally cracked the U.S. Latino market, grossing $44.5 million plus another $46.1 million in Mexico, companies hauled into Los Cabos to look for new Derbezs. Now there’s another reason: TV. Barring the one-off “Lilyhammer,” Netflix first foreign-language series release anywhere in the world was Mexico’s “Club of Crows,” in August 2015. Amazon is making its first four Latin American series out of Mexico. Multiple other companies – Turner, Mediapro, Endemol Shine – have piled into the country. One reason, the relative stability of its economy (compared to Argentina) and politics (compared to Brazil). Another: the growth in its pay TV and OTT markets.


The U.S. Latino market casts an ever larger shadow over Latin America. “Given the large interest in minority-themed content – and Latinos are one of the biggest minorities –  many delegates come to Los Cabos for two reasons: To produce for the U.S. Latino market, or find the next generation of directors and writers,” says Francisco Westendarp, Los Cabos industry manager.  The result: “Many companies are interested in finding bilingual content which can speak to not only a Latino but English-language public in the U.S.”


Lee, Driver and Gilliam all receive tributes, Lee closing the Festival with “BlacKkKlansman,” Gilliam for “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” Driver for both. “It’s a virtuous triangle,” said Garzón. Piers Handling will look back at his time at the Toronto Festival, which he joined in 1982 and  transformed into one of the biggest – and, crucially, year-all-round – film meets in the world.


Industry attendance is up, to around 200 participants, says Westendarp. That said, it’s the caliber, not number, of delegates, which marks Los Cabos apart. Execs from multiple Hollywood agencies – WME, Paradigm, ICM, 30West, CAA, UTA, Valor Ent., Treehouse Pictures – are down to attend. Some invited participants already have made deals on talent or movies in Mexico or at Los Cabos – Ivanhoe Pictures, XYZ, Blackbear Pictures, Paradigm –  said Westendarp. Others are more in line in their investment or distribution with most of the films and budgets of Mexico, he added, citing Charles  D. King’s Macro.


Los Cabos Intl. Film Festival has new supremos: Executive director Alejandra Paulin and artistic director Maru Garzón. But it’s hardly new management. Both have been with the festival, Paulin coming to head up its industry and Garzón programming, since its first or second edition. Los Cabos’ exquisitely curated  main sections remain. Rather than radical change, the 7th Festival will “strengthen what we have,” said Garzón, “striking a more integrated line,” Paulin added, “even down to the [choice] of delegates having more sense given what we’re presenting.”


Finally, women are beginning to move towards the forefront of Mexico’s industry, as directors, showrunners and producers. At Los Cabos this year, almost every single Mexican film and TV project or Mexico First title has a woman producer. “Women are just letting themselves be seen,” says Paulin. It also a question of confidence, Garzon added. Whatever the cause, “it’s a dramatic revolution,” according to Paulín.


In TV, “Mario,” about a Chicago Latin Kings death row con, is a bi-national, bilingual project backed by a powerful company, Panorama Global, producer if Alonso Ruizpalacios’ “Museo”: a second true-events inspired series, medical serial killer thriller “Los Angeles de la Muerte,” has a prestige production house, Hernán Musaluppi at Argentina’s Rizoma, and director: Miguel Cohan (“No Return,” “Betibú”). Of WIP titles, there’s a good buzz on “I’m No Longer Here” and the Michel Franco produced “Labor,” though neither are near to completion. Of film projects, “Roma” producer Nicolas Celis is backing a new feature by Amat Escalante, “Estado del Imperio.” But it’s evolving too fast to be announced in more detail.


One major reason to attend Los Cabos: New talent.  “Companies are looking for [new] talent which can talk to new audiences, tell stories different to those we normally hear. Since there’s very little information on them, they come to Los Cabos,” Westendarp says. 75% of the [all Mexican] Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund projects and Work in Progress titles are directors’ first or second features. This year, Los Cabos received 534 project applications for just 10 slots to pitch film in development, five for TV projects and five Work in Progress screenings. “We want to bet on a new generation of filmmakers, begin to be the festival which discovers talents, opens doors to them for the first time,” Westendarp added.


“One common denominator of Mexico First as well as the WIP, is films on the fiction/reality divide,” said Garzón. “Films which mix professional actors and non actors, situations taken from reality with fictionalized situations.”

Many projects capture the Zeitgeist. In general, many characters confront unexpected situations which mean that their lives change from on moment to the next. That’s true in ‘Labor,’ ‘Ona Sur,’ ‘Neza,’ ’Estado del Imperio,’ ‘I’m No Longer Here,’” said Westendarp who concedes that these projects or productions coincide with a large political changes in the U.S and Mexico.

Of Works in Progress titles, there’s also sense of a nation living after a Fall, yearning for an Eden-like world of childhood (“Ana’s Desire,” a WIP title) or adolescence (“I’m No Longer Here”), facing insoluble problems – the gulf between rich and poor (“Labor,”), cartel violence, poverty –  condemned to leave their native land (Mexico Primero movie “Days of Winter.”

Above all, Mexican movies, whether projects, in rough cut, or Mexico Primero selections,  talk about Mexico. But they do so in ever more varied fashions. In Mexico Primero, Marcelino Islas Hernández’s “History Lessons” frames in a feel-good drama the vital importance of education; “Feral,” a semi found-footage horror movie, is a tale of xenophobia. Andrea Bussmann’s Locarno winner “Faust” captures a rugged stretch of coast in Oaxaca. But it traces even more the mental landscape of Mexico, where there are many Fausts, wanting to get rich quick, at any price, and tales abound of women disappearing in frightful circumstances.


Two panel sessions brings together directors, producers and show runners of the some of the highest-profile drama series made in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Among panelists debating the convergence of film and TV, the directions TV production is taking: “Entourage” and now HBO “Ballers” exec producer and writer Rob Weiss; Alex Garcia, producer of Hulu sci-fi series “The First,” with Sean Penn; Carla Gonzalez Vargas and Humberto Hinojosa, show-runner and director of “Luis Miguel,” Tony Lewis Lee, exec producer of Netflix’s “She Gotta Have It,” José Manuel Cravioto, show runner on coming Netflix series “Diablero.”



“Bisbee’17,” (Robert Greene, U.S.)

“Buy me a Gun,” (Julio Hernández Cordón, Mexico, Colombia)

“Genèse,” (Philippe Lesage, Canada)

“Lemonade,” (Ioana Uricaru, Romania, Canada, Germany, Sweden)

“Madeline’s Madeline,” (Josephine Decker, U.S.)

“Birds of Passage,” (Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra, Colombia, Denmark, Mexico)

“Skate Kitchen,” (Crystal Moselle, U.S.)

“La Grande Noirceur,” (Maxime Giroux, Canada)

“We The Animals,” (Jeremiah Zagar, U.S.)


“Storks,” (Heriberto Acosta)

“History Lessons,” (Marcelino Islas)

“Faust,” (Andrea Bussmann)

“Feral,” (Andrés Káiser)

“Yo no soy guapo,” (Joyce García)


“Blackkklansman,” (Spike Lee, USA)

“The Favourite,” (Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland, U.K., U.S.)


“Three Faces,” (Jafar Panahi, Iran)

“At Eternity’s Gate,” ( Julian Schnabel, U.S.)

“Border,” (Ali Abbasi, Sweden, Denmark)

“Sunset,” (László Nemes, Hungary, France)

“ The Sisters Brothers,” (Jacques Audiard, U.S., France, Romania, Spain)


“Widows,” (Steve McQueen)

“Destroyer,” (Karyn Kusama)

“Wildlife,” (Paul Dano)

“American Animals,” (Bart Layton)


“Paterson,” (Jim Jarmusch , U.S., France, Germany)

“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” (Terry Gilliam, U.S.)

“The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” (Terry Gilliam, U.S., Spain, France, Portugal, Belgium)


“Roma,” (Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico)

“The Good Girls,” (Alejandra Márquez Abella, Mexico)

“Bayoneta,” (Kyzza Terrazas , Mexico, Finland)

“A 3 Minute Hug,” (Everard Gonzáles, Mexico, U.S.)


“Quién te cantará,” (Carlos Vermut, Spain, France)

“Lords of Chaos,” (Jonas Åkerlund, United Kingdom, Sweden)

“Leto,” (Kirill Serebrennikov, Russia, France)


“Into the Okavango,” (Neil Gelinas, U.S, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa)

“Free Solo,” (Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, U.S.)


“Under the Silver Lake,” (David Robert Mitchell, U.S.)

“Mandy,” (Panos Cosmatos, Belgium, U.S)

“Sorry to Bother you,” (Boots Riley, U.S.)

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