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Damien Chazelle’s ‘First Man’ Opens Morelia Film Fest

Academy Award-winner Damien Chazelle is coming to Morelia to kick off Mexico’s 16th Morelia International Film Festival (FICM) on Oct. 20 with his latest film, “First Man.”

For the first time, the festival will be presenting a medal for artistic excellence to Alfonso Cuaron, whose recent Venice Golden Lion-winner “Roma,” Mexico’s submission to the Oscars and Spain’s Goyas, will screen at the festival.

Pawel Pawlikowski returns to Morelia to present his latest work, “Cold War.” Other notable guests presenting their films include Paul Weitz, who presents “Bel Canto”; Fran Healy with his documentary “Almost Fashionable: A Film About Travis”; Dan Millar, who brings his documentary “Botero”; and Almudena Carracedo, who presents her acclaimed documentary “The Silence of Others.”

Hailed by Variety critic Owen Gleiberman as a film “so revelatory in its realism, so gritty in its physicality, that it becomes a drama of thrillingly hellbent danger and obsession,” “First Man” focuses on the personal and physical struggles faced by U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the moon. Starring Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, “First Man” is Chazelle’s follow-up to his 2018 multi-Oscar-winning “La La Land,” which also starred Gosling and snagged his co-star Emma Stone a best actress Academy Award.

Mexican premieres at Morelia include Manolo Caro’s “Perfectos Desconocidos”; “Sonora” by Alejandro Springall; “Rencor Tatuado” by Julián Hernández; “Chivas” by Iván López; and “Mi pequeño gran hombre” by Jorge Ramírez Suárez.

International premieres include “Colette” by Wash Westmoreland; “En Guerre” by Stéphane Brizé; “Climax” by Gaspar Noé; “The Happy Prince” by Rupert Everett; “The Old Man & the Gun” by David Lowery; “Todos Los Saben” by Asghar Farhadi; “Beautiful Boy” by Felix Van Groeningen; “The Eyes of Orson Welles” by Mark Cousins; “The Front Runner” by Jason Reitman; and “The Wild Pear Tree” by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

Cannes Golden Palm-winner “Shoplifters” by Hirokazu Kore-eda will also screen.

In line with more than 100 festivals that have pledged a 50/50 gender parity in their lineup, films by women take up around half of Morelia’s official competition in fiction and non-fiction.

Among the six women directors in the Mexican feature film competition are Lila Aviles and Alejandra Marquez, whose films “The Chambermaid” (“La Camarista”) and “The Good Girls” (“Las Niñas Bien),” respectively, screened at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

They go up against Alonso Ruizpalacios’ “Museo,” which scored a 2018 Berlinale Silver Bear for best screenplay and critical acclaim across the festival circuit. YouTube Premium recently picked it up to lead its budding selection of Spanish-language titles.

“The Chambermaid” is Aviles’ debut fiction feature about a hard-working chambermaid and her struggle to get ahead in a luxury hotel. It also made the cut for San Sebastian’s New Directors competition. Alpha Violet handles international sales.

A follow-up to her well-received “Semana Santa,” “The Good Girls,” is Marquez’s sophomore feature, a Luxbox pickup. The drama explores the lives of upper-class Mexican wives during the 1982 economic crisis and what happens to one of these women when her wealth and social position are jeopardized.

Marta Hernaiz’s drama, “La Chaotic Life of Nada Kadic,” which won the 2016 Impulso Morelia prize at Morelia’s Works in Progress program, is also competing for the big prize. The Mexican-Bosnian co-production, which premiered at the 68th Berlin International Film Fest in February, tracks a young, single mom and her autistic toddler in Sarajevo.

Among the documentaries by female directors, subject matters range from Melissa Elizondo’s portrait of a rural teacher in “The Sower” (“El Sembrador”) to Zita Erffa’s attempt to understand a brother’s reasons for entering a Legion of Christ monastery in “The Best Thing You Can Do With Your Life” to Kenya Márquez’s exploration of discrimination in “Asfixia,” where she follows an albino woman who seeks to reintegrate into society after leaving prison.

Nearly 60 short films in three categories — animation, documentary, and fiction — will be in competition at the festival, which has long served as a prestigious showcase for Mexican cinema and its burgeoning talent.

In collaboration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of the U.S., Morelia’s 16th edition will also present a special program honoring three Mexican actresses who left their mark on Hollywood: Dolores del Río (1904-1982), Lupe Vélez (1909-1944), and Katy Jurado (1924-2002). John Bailey, president of the Academy, will present the program at the festival.

The films are comprised of the following:

“In Caliente” (1935, dir. Lloyd Bacon), starring Dolores del Río.
“Mexican Spitfire” (1940, dir. Leslie Goodwins), starring Lupe Vélez.
“Broken Lance” (1954, dir. Edward Dmytryk), starring Katy Jurado.

The Morelia International Film Festival wraps on Oct. 28, just a few days before the Day of the Dead is observed across the country. The nearby lakeside town of Patzcuaro, where the festival screens some films at the restored “Teatro Emperador Caltzontzin,” is often described as one of the leading venues to witness Mexico’s most significant annual holiday.

“Asfixia,” Kenya Márquez
“Bayoneta,” Kyzza Terrazas
“La camarista,” Lila Avilés
“La caótica vida de Nada Kadic,” Marta Hernaiz
“Antes del olvido,” Iria Gómez Concheiro
“Leona,” Isaac Cherem
“Luciérnagas,” Bani Khoshnoudi
“Museo,” Alonso Ruizpalacios
“Las niñas bien,” Alejandra Márquez
“Xquipi’ Guie’dani,” Xavi Sala

“A morir a los desiertos,” Marta Ferrer Carné
“Érase una vez,” Juan Carlos Rulfo
“Lejos del sentido,” Olivia Luengas Magaña
“M,” Eva Villaseñor
“Notas para no olvidar,” Hatuey Viveros
“El sembrador,” Melissa Elizondo
“The Best Thing You Can Do with Your Life,” Zita Erffa
“Tierra mía,” Pedro González-Rubio
“Una corriente salvaje,” Nuria Ibáñez Castañeda
“Vatreni,” Edson Ramírez
“Ya me voy,” Armando Croda, Lindsey Cordero

“El amor dura tres meses,” Rafael Martínez García
“Ana,” Dante Cerano
“Bombay,” Luis Arceo
“Despertar volando” (“Kárapani Tsínharhini”), Magda Cacari
“Donde reside la esperanza,” Adrián González Camargo
“Freaktown,” Diana Cruz González
“K’uaníndikua,” Mariano Rentería Garnica
“Noticias de Plutón,” Diego Flores Contreras
“Somos patriotas,” Bernardo Rugama y Fernando Llanos
“Tiempo en el bosque,” Juan Paulín
“Valentón,” Luis Armando Sosa Gil
“We’re All Here,” Lucy Luna

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