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Mexican Revolution: Betzabé Garcia

In an ongoing series, Variety profiles 10 emerging Mexican women filmmakers.

Putting Betzabé Garcia on a list of up-and-coming Mexican female directors is problematic. Garcia doesn’t identify as or believe in the binary gender system used to qualify such a list, but here we are, and it would be criminal not to recognize the filmmaker simply because of an issue with pronouns.

Garcia started working in short films, but truly broke out with the 2015 documentary “Kings of Nowhere” (“Los reyes del pueblo que no existe”). The feature, which tells the story of three families holding out in a village that is slowly drowning as a nearby river has its course changed, was an international festival hit, racking up awards at Zurich, SXSW and Morelia.

This year Garcia returned to Morelia with the short, “The Girl with Two Heads,” which nabbed the award for Best Short Film in competition. The black and white film turns on a young woman named Anne, an avid martial artist who dismisses archaic societal standards of femininity, standards which her mother is struggling to conform to as time changes her.

“A Berlin photographer who was a fetishist fighting [fan] was brought to my attention, but the photography was completely not beautiful, and showed more about how the two fighters become one body,” Garcia told Variety of the film’s early inspirations.

The director shows no signs of conforming to any one style of filmmaking. While “Kings of Nowhere” was a relatively straight-forward documentary and “The Girl with Two Heads” is a classic arthouse short, Garcia’s next project, currently in development, is something altogether different.

“#Micky” is an over the top, hyper-stylized documentary which peers into the life of  Garcia’s roommate, the now-famous YouTuber #Mickey, who at the age of 11 started making videos as a way of dealing with the intense homophobia present in her community. The project took part in Los Cabos Goes to Cannes and has secured funding through Kickstarter.

A collection of viral-looking emoji-filled videos, dramatic reenactments of moments in #Micky’s life and interviews with friends and family, some more accepting and understanding about what #Micky is doing than others, the project is scheduled to go into production in the coming months.

“I’ve been Mickey’s stalker for the last 10 years through social networks before we even decided to live together. I made a short film with #Micky’s footage and included my own videos,” said Garcia, adding, “That is how we have been filming. It’s this process of living together, video reactions and building us up on the internet.”

In spite of the typically serious nature of the content Garcia chooses to discover – displacement, identity issues and homophobia just to name a few – the director’s films are always playful and allow the players to show off their humor. Laughter is common in Garcia’s films as well as in the audiences watching them.

In “Kings of Nowhere” the humor comes from the villagers and has a humble, honest feel to it. In “The Girl with Two Heads,” Garcia plays with camera angles, mirrors and lenses to examine the way people see themselves. And anyone who has seen any of #Micky’s videos will have no doubt about the playful nature a feature about the viral sensation must display.

Each of Garcia’s films was produced by the filmmaker’s own production company Venado Films, and it’s possible that in the near future the company could start producing for other filmmakers.

“I would like to open it up to other directors at some point. Now, for example, I am teaching filmmaking in Aragón,” said García.

It’s that openness to others, their stories and their worlds that makes Garcia a documentary filmmaker fans of good cinema won’t want to take their eyes of.

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