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‘Sanctorum,’ ‘Go Youth!’ ‘This Is Not Berlin’ Highlight Impulso Morelia

Mexican filmmaking gets introspective and critical in this year’s works in progress section

More than 60 films were submitted to form part of the 4th Impulso Morelia, the works in progress section of the Morelia Film Festival taking place this week in the pre-Colombian Mexican city.

This year’s crop of projects, as much if not more than ever before, demonstrates the reflective capabilities of Mexican filmmakers in regards to their country. Most of the films take a long and critical look at the Mexican government, the country’s culture and its people in a time when that’s not always the safest thing to do. In March of last year three film students in Guadalajara were kidnapped, killed and their bodies dissolved in acid only days after the Guadalajara Film Festival. Their only crime: Filming in a house they didn’t know belonged to a drug cartel.

“One thing that always strikes me in Mexico is the ability of its cinema to have this critical view of the country,” said José María Riba, head of design and programming for Impulso Morelia, in a conversation with Variety about this year’s selection.

He went on: “What I’ve seen this year is many films about the country, and not just in the seven that were finally selected. What attracts my attention the most is a very critical look take on their country, but from an artistic point of view.”

The projects will compete for a number of post-production prizes to be awarded by a jury including Bafta Nominee and César winning filmmaker Nicolas Philibert (“To Be and to Have”); multi-award-winning writer-director Josué Méndez (“Días de Santiago”); and Mirsad Purivatra, founder and director of the Sarajevo Festival.

“Sanctorum” is the second theatrical feature from writer-director Joshua Gil, whose debut, “La Maldad,” screened at the Berlinale in 2015 and in the Latin America competition at Mar del Plata. The fantastic feature is making its second run at Impulso Morelia; in 2016 it participated and won a Tribeca Film Institute Grant. In a small town stuck in a torrent of violence between drug traffickers and the military, an orphaned child is instructed by his grandmother that he can get his mother back by pleading with the forces of nature and praying for a miracle. As the tensions in town reach a boiling point the boy heads into the woods in hopes of getting his mother back. Feature is produced by Mexico’s Parábola Cine,

Carlos Armella heads back to Morelia, where he won best documentary in 2005 he won best documentary for “Toro Negro,” a film he co-directed with Pedro González-Rubio. This time around Armella brings “Go Youth!” a collection of stories of youths who face the same hurdle in life, adults. Produced by B Positivo Producciones and Caponeto Cine, the project previously featured at the Torino Film Lab Script and Pitch, the Cannes Festival’s Atelier workshop and the 2016 edition of Impulso Morelia.

Written by Rodrigo Ordóñez, Max Zunino and award winning director Hari Sama who pulls double-duty on the film, “This is Not Berlin” heads back to 1986 Mexico City and follows Carlos, a 16 year-old who doesn’t fit in at home, with his friends or at school. Carlos finds himself submerged in the world of the Aztec Lounge, a mythical nightclub that opens him up to things he’d never imagined, but puts him at odds with his best friend. Catatonia produce the feature, which is backed by Mexican Eficine tax funding.

CREDIT: B Positivo Producciones

“La Mami” follows a cleaning woman at a Mexico City cabaret who has become a sort of surrogate mother to the women who work there, offering comfort from the often dark reality they deal with every day. The documentary is produced by Cacerola Films and directed by Laura Herrero Garvín, whose feature debut, “El Remolino,” premiered at Locarno.

Produced by Gefilte Films, “The Guardian of Memory” marks the second feature from director Marcela Arteaga. The timely documentary turns on Carlos Spector, an El Paso Texas immigration lawyer who has dedicated himself to helping people in Mexico’s most dangerous areas receive political asylum in the U.S.

Carlos Lenin Treviño Rodríguez’s short film “24º 51’ Latitud Norte” was nominated for a Mexican Ariel – the country’s equivalent of an Oscar –   for best fiction short and won San Sebastian’s Orona Award for most innovative short film. He brings to Morelia his debut feature, “Three-body Problem,” which follows a couple which has fallen out of love and must fight to recover what they once had together. The project is backed by Mexico’s University Center for Film Studies  (CUEC) and Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE) via its Foprocine investment line. .

Gian Cassini’s documentary “Comala,” produced by Imagyx Entertainment, fills out the competition. The film turns on a man who works to reunite his broken family in an attempt to face the story of his missing father, a would-be hit man who was killed years ago.

Impulso Morelia runs from Wednesday Oct. 24 through Friday Oct. 26.

Pictured: ‘This Is Not Berlin’, ‘Go Youth!’.

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