Careyes, Mexico, a strip of bohemian, palm tree-laden paradise perched along a remote strip of the Pacific coast, is the sort of place creative types dream about, with balmy ocean breezes, bright blue skies and a network of surrounding villages lined with cobblestone walkways and the sound of tropical birds chirping overhead. GNP Arte Careyes, a film and arts festival designed to blend in with the area’s emphasis on nature, ecotourism and a laid-back Latin American vibe, kicks off its 9th year March 20-24, luring a crowd of some 250 filmmakers, photographers and musicians with a desire to slow things down and luxuriate in the town’s unique mystical and awe-inspiring qualities.
“Arte Careyes is a celebration of Mexico and that is always what has been for us the most important thing,” says fest co-founder Fillipo Brignone, whose father, Italian banker Gian Franco Brignone, spotted Careyes while flying overhead in 1968 and snapped up thousands of acres to develop as a luxury private estate and vacation resort.
“But Arte Careyes is also a celebration of talent,” Brignone continues. “We concentrate more but not totally on the area of film, as well as on contemporary art — mostly Mexican artists but also other emerging artists as well. The food at the fest is very much linked to Mexico, and we’ve got Latin American music playing at the events, dinners under the stars in wide-open spaces. Anything that can promote Mexico and Latin America is what we like.”
Films screening at the invite-only fest, co-founded by Makken and produced in partnership with the Careyes Foundation, a philanthropic organization of which Brignone is the founder and president, include “The Chaotic Life of Nadia Kadic,” directed by Marta Hernaiz, who will appear at the fest; “Birds of Passage,” co-helmed by Cristina Gallego, who will also attend the fest; “The Mustang,” starring Mattias Schoenaerts; and “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Café de Flore” and “Sharp Objects,” all directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who is this year’s chosen mentor — along with television director Joan Darling — at Careyes Creation Lab, a workshop for actors and directors that runs March 18-22 in tandem with the fest.
Held at a private ocean-side villa in Careyes, this year’s lab participants include filmmakers Joaquín del Paso (“Maquinaria Panamericana”), Marcelo Tobar (“Oso Polar”) and Katina Medina Mora (“Sabrás qué hacer conmigo”), as well as actors such as Verónica Toussaint, Osvaldo Benavides and Johanna Murillo.
“Once actors and directors have their debut in the film industry, there are few spaces available for reflection, especially in a collective way, about the creative processes that their work entails,” says Marina Stavenhagen, Arte Careyes film and arts festival curator.
“What we look to create with this lab is a non-competitive, safe environment for analysis, while fostering professional and personal development. We are thrilled to see strong representatives of contemporary Mexican cinema taking part in the lab, and hope they nurture their creative vision from the experiences here.”
Arte Careyes will also feature a celebration of Cuban music. Grammy- nominated Latin American singer and musician Francisco “Pancho” Cespedes will perform live alongside Cuban songwriters and musicians such as Kelvis Ochoa, David Torrens and Nube Roja. There will also be a screening of the classic Cuban film “Strawberries and Chocolate” as a tribute to actor Jorge Perugorria. In addition, Perugorria will preview his paintings at a gallery exhibition at Arte Careyes titled “Atando Cabo Se Hace Soga.”
“I think the Cuban music is going to be quite incredible because of the talent we have,” says Brignone. “The opportunity to see such an amazing amount of talent from Cuba, to hear and experience the music together — I have people who are coming to the fest specifically to see the line-up of great Cuban music.”
But while art and film are the thrust of the fest’s artistic programming, for Brignone, Arte Careyes is also a way of giving back to the community, welcoming residents of the local villages with al fresco dinners, outdoor movie screenings and concerts featuring performances by the local children’s choir. Arte Careyes, notes Brignone, would not happen without the support and hard work of those who make Careyes their home.
“Careyes has been created with the help of a lot of Mexicans and they are fantastic people,” says Brignone. “That’s why the Careyes Foundation was created — to say thank you to all the people around us in the villages that have sustained us in what we wanted to create. In Careyes, the community has always been very present so this fest is also a way of saying thank you. At Arte Careyes I know there is going to be great music. I know there is going to be great cinema. I know there is going to be great art.”