For the first time in its history, the Morelia Film Festival will open with a European film, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s drama “Le Jeune Ahmed” (“Young Ahmed”), which garnered a best director prize for the Belgian siblings at Cannes last May. Luc Dardenne will be on hand to present the drama, described by Variety critic Peter Debruge as an “instantly recognizable” Dardenne film for having a “deceptively ‘rough’ quality as the directors’ earlier work, a carryover from their documentary background.”
Helmer-scribe James Ivory, who won a best adapted screenplay Oscar last year for his first-love gay drama “Call Me By Your Name” is also making his first visit to Morelia, which will honor him with a retrospective of his films.
“Five continents will be represented in Morelia this year, but most important are the 100-plus Mexican filmmakers participating in this edition,” said Morelia artistic director Daniela Michel.
The festival, with the support of the FilmWatch grant, will be hosting a forum “Mexican Indigenous Filmmakers: Identity and New Narratives” and showcase some indigenous-themed Mexican films with the participation of some of its leading lights, Luna Maran, Maria Sojob and Maria Candelaria Palma. “It’s the first time a forum and showcase of this magnitude is presented in Mexico,” Michel observed.
“As always we were presented with the difficult task of narrowing our official selection from a diversity of entries,” said Michel.
Among those who made the cut were Hari Sama’s coming-of-age punk/new wave era memoir “Esto no es Berlin” (“This is Not Berlin”); Joshua Gil’s recent Venice entry, “Sanctorum;” Bernardo Arellano’s magic realist drama, “El paraíso de la serpiente,” which participated in the festival’s 2017 pix-in-post program Impulso Morelia; and actor Jose Maria Yazpik’s directorial debut, “Polvo.” With his dark comedy, Yazpik joins the ranks of Mexican actors who have also directed films, including Demian Bichir, Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal and Kuno Becker.
Four female directors compete in this edition, all in the documentary section: Alicia Calderon, Marcela Arteaga, Maran and Sojob.
Calderon’s “Dibujos contra las balas,” (“Drawings Against Bullets”) follows a handful of neighbors in the border town of Juárez who have set up children’s shelters to help heal the wounds inflicted by the violence of organized crime in the city.
Arteaga’s “El guardián de la memoria,” (“The Guardian of Memory”) centers on an immigration lawyer in El Paso, Texas who is fighting to secure political asylum for his Mexican clients who are fleeing from violence at home.
Maran’s titular “Tio Yim” (“Uncle Yim”) is actually her father, a singer-songwriter, philosopher, and inveterate mezcal drinker who since the 1980s has tried to explain the way of life of indigenous communities.
In “Tote/Abuelo,” (“Granddad”) Sojob reflects on the generational and cultural gaps within her own family; a visit to her grandfather in the indigenous Tzotzil community leads her to a deeper understanding of her roots.
More private sponsors stepped up this year to back the festival, which lost some federal funding due to the new government’s austerity drive. “We are an independent festival so it has not really impacted us,” said Michel.
Meanwhile, Sundance Institute execs John Cooper and Paul Federbush are expected to attend the third Sundance Morelia lab, running Oct. 18-21. The six participants are led by Mexico-based Nicaraguan Laura Baumeister, whose “La Hija de Todas las Rabias” (“Daughter of Rage”) swept the San Sebastian Co-production Forum awards. Managed by Eva Ruiz de Chavez of Panamericana Pictures, Baumeister has several prize-winning shorts to her name. “Daughter of Rage,” her debut feature, turns on a young girl furiously seeking her mother who abandoned her at a garbage recycling dump after she accidentally poisoned the puppies her mother was breeding.
Colombia’s Laura Mora follows her multi-winning “Killing Jesus” with a tale about five street urchins in the streets of Medellin, “Los Reyes del Mundo,” co-directed with Maria Camila Alves.
Samuel Kishi follows his coming-of-age drama “Somos Mari Pepa” with “Alondra Dejo el Nido,” co-directed with Carlos Espinoza, about an elderly Mixtec couple who venture out to find their lost daughter and granddaughter.
Editor Pierre Saint-Martin presents his feature debut “No Nos Moveran,” which centers on a lawyer who seeks to kill the solder who gunned down her brother during the October 1968 Tlatelolco massacre when armed forces opened fire on students protesting the Mexico Summer Olympics.
Astrid Rondero’s “Sujo: bajo el nombre de un caballo” follows young Sujo whose late drug dealer father’s dangerous past forces him to flee the city.
Lastly, “Una Historia Falsa,” by Miguel Lozano and Anton Goenechea, is about a Mexican immigrant in New York who returns home with his son to sort out his inheritance. While leaving his son in the care of his brother, he hears false rumors about child kidnappings.
The 17th Morelia Int’l Film Festival (FICM) runs October 18-27.
FILMS IN COMPETITION
“This is Not Berlin,” Hari Sama
“Muerte al Verano,” Sebastián Padilla
“Workforce,” David Zonana
“La paloma y el lobo,” Carlos Lenin
“El paraíso de la serpiente,” Bernardo Arellano
“Polvo,” José María Yazpik
“Sanctorum,” Joshua Gil
“Territorio,” Andrés Clariond
“I’m No Longer Here,” Fernando Frías
“Bad hombres,” Juan Antonio del Monte, Rodrigo Ruiz Patterson
“Drawings Against Bullets,” Alicia Calderón
“The Guardian of Memory”,” Marcela Arteaga
“Maricarmen,” Sergio Morkin
“Niña sola,” Javier Ávila
“Oblatos, el vuelo que surcó la noche,” Acelo Ruiz Villanueva
“Retiro,” Daniela Alatorre Benard
“Uncle Yim,” Luna Marán
“Grandad,” María Sojob
“Sísifos,” Nicolás Gutiérrez Wenhammar, Santiago Mohar Volkow
“Vaquero del mediodía,” Diego Enrique Osorno