The 34th Guadalajara Int’l Film Festival (FICG), boasting a new general director, Estrella Araiza, wrapped March 15 with a bevy of cash prizes spread out among several categories. Documentaries ruled, led by Premio Mezcal best film and best director winner “Midnight Family” by Luke Lorentzen, who also lensed the gripping account of a family of private ambulance operators in Mexico City. The festival’s LGBTQ section, Premio Maguey, gave its top prize to docu “One Taxi Ride” by Mak C.K., which in a non-lineal structure, chronicles the reactions of the family and community of Erick who ventures out of the closet after 10 years. Brazil’s Ricardo Calil took home the Ibero-American best documentary gong for “Cine Morocco,” hailed by jurors for its “creation of a risky narrative structure” to cover several topical issues in Brazil. Spanish Cannes regular Jaime Rosales snagged the best Ibero-American fiction and best director award for his story of family intrigue “Petra,” which follows a young woman in her search for the father she never knew. Spain’s Arantxa Echavarria continued her victory lap with feature debut, “Carmen & Lola” which snagged best first feature.
First Details on Guillermo del Toro-backed “Taller de Chucho” Animation Center
During a masterclass with Netflix vice president, kids & family Melissa Cobb, Guillermo del Toro, who MC’d the event, let slip plans to open a new stop motion animation center in Guadalajara, his hometown. In a conversation with Variety, festival director and del Toro’s right hand in Guadalajara, Estrella Araiza, shared details of the ambitious project. The Taller del Chucho will run like a business, supported financially by Del Toro and the University of Guadalajara. Del Toro hand-picked seven filmmakers to launch the center. But according to Araiza new talent will be joining them as soon as the doors open. Any profits from films made at the Taller will first and foremost be used to pay the artists involved in production. After all expenses are covered, any leftover profits will go back to the University of Guadalajara to be reinvested in arts programs. One main priority of the Taller is to create the conditions under which talented animators can have full-time jobs year-round, healthcare benefits and a space where they can creatively develop their artistry. According to Araiza, under established conditions in Mexico those things are hard for animators to find. The Taller is scheduled to open in the first half of 2019. Netflix is not a Taller partner. But it could be an ally in the future. Netflix needs talent, GDT is a talent magnet.
Women Rising in Mexico
More female directors are emerging and a new association of Mexican female cinematographers has some 40 members, an encouraging number considering that in 2004, Mexico had only three female DPs, said co-founder Diana Garay, who’s lensing “Martinez,” helmed by Guadalajara native Lorena Padilla, which is likely to have women in its gaffer and other crew positions. Georgina Gonzalez, whose L.A,-based company Off-Hollywood films co-produces “Martinez,” returned to Mexico after several years abroad to take up a new position as head of development at Cinepolis and has observed how more inclusive and respectful of women they are in her new work environment. Per Imcine’s latest findings, women participated as directors, scriptwriters or producers in 52% of productions in 2017.
Immigration Tops Project Themes
Among this year’s hottest topics among the Latin American film and TV projects pitched at Guadalajara was immigration. Latin American audiences and filmmakers alike are keenly focused on Trump’s war against immigrants, his proposed wall, the current economic and political crisis in Venezuela, and the caravans of displaced refugees looking for a safe place to settle. And, as art frequently imitates life, eight out of the 28 projects which participated in the Co-production Meeting and three of the eight at the FICG TV Pitchbox have narratives revolving around immigration and feature lead or supporting immigrant characters. It’s clear that a great deal of creative energy is focused on providing these people with a different kind of representation than is often afforded them in mainstream media.
Carlos Saura and Other Int’l Shoots
Notwithstanding Mexico’s indecisiveness about introducing incentives for foreign shoots, the country has lured some noteworthy international films, including to Guadalajara. Spain’s Carlos Saura has re-teamed with multi-Oscar-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro to make what its Spanish producer Eusebio Pacha of Pipa Films touts as the “first Latin American dance musical in film history.” Saura, 87 and Storaro, 78, are shooting almost the entire Spanish-Mexican co-production “El Rey de Todo el Mundo” (“King of the World”) at the festival’s state-of-the-art complex, CAE. Singer Carlos Rivera and music producer Alfonso G. Aguilar are composing the soundtrack comprising Mexican and other Latin American music while Mexican-born English National Ballet principal dancer Isaac Hernandez makes his film debut opposite the National Ballet of Mexico’s Greta Elizondo. Mexican thesps Ana de la Reguera and Manuel Garcia Rulfo, Spain’s Carlos Bardem and Colombia’s Manolo Cardona star. Last year, Sony’s Mexican remake of its Julia Roberts hit romantic comedy “My Best Friend’s Wedding” began principal photography in Guadalajara during FICG.
Co-production Meeting Winners
On Tuesday, the winners of the 15th FICG Co-production Meeting were announced. Four feature projects scored two prizes each: “The Singing of the Flies” (Ricardo Soto, Mexico, Dutch Antilles), “Motín” (Claudia Huaiquimilla , Chile), “Cuero Duro” (José Luis Rugeles, Colombia, Argentina) and “The Life and Death of Espiritu Perdomo” (Mauricio Leiva Cock, Colombia). “The Swedish Rhapsody” (Fran Ruvira, Spain, Sweden, France), “Los inocentes,” (German Tejeda, Peru), “Slaughterman,” (Rafael Antonaccio, Bernardo Antonaccio, Uruguay) and “Pepperoni” (Tomás Alzamora, Chile) notched one recognition each. Prizes included post-production, music and sound, marketing and PR, equipment rental, market visits and more.
Impact of AMLO’s policies on the Film, TV industry
New austerity measures and a call for more inclusion of regional communities from Mexico’s new left-wing president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has impacted Imcine’s priorities. According to new Imcine head Maria Novaro, one of her first moves was to set up a regional office in Sonora, a first, to reach out to budding auteurs in far-flung communities. It has raised some anxiety among some Mexican filmmakers who have focused on films with international or commercial appeal. “It’s important to give equal weight to films with mainstream, international appeal,” said Araiza.
2019 saw the addition of two major sections at FICG, and a significant change to another. Wednesday’s FICG TV Pitchbox, run by Barcelona-based Filmarket Hub, establishes Guadalajara as the second major Mexican festival, after Los Cabos, to implement a section dedicated to TV projects. It offered eight selected projects the chance to pitch in front of major broadcasters and potential production partners. The festival’s popular animated short competition, until now exclusively for Latin American films, was opened up to films from around the world. For the first time, the festival hosted an animated feature competition. Sponsored by, who else, Guillermo del Toro, the animation section’s ambitious programming was selected with the intention of bringing the best independent animation filmmakers of the past year to Guadalajara where they can create connections with the local industry. Section curator Carolina López promises even more growth in the coming years for Mexico’s newly self-proclaimed “capital of animated film.”
GUADALAJARA INTL. FILM FESTIVAL 2019 WINNERS
PREMIO MEZCAL WINNERS
Diana Sedano, “Yo Necesito Amor”
Benny Emmanue. “Detrás de la montaña”
Cesar Gutiérrez Miranda, “Yo necesito amor”
Luke Lorentzen, “Midnight Family”
“Oblatos,” Acelo Ruiz Villanueva
“Midnight Family,” Luke Lorentzen
PREMIO MAGUEY WINNERS
Valerie Pachner, “The Ground Beneath My Feet”
“Memories of my Body,” Garin Nugroho
“One Taxi Ride,” Mak C.K.
IBERO-AMERICAN FEATURE COMPETITION
BEST ACTRESS (MAYAHUEL AWARD)
Romina Bentancur, “The Sharks,” and Bárbara Lennie, “Petra”
BEST ACTOR (MAYAHUEL AWARD)
Dario Grandinetti, “Rojo”
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (MAYAHUEL AWARD)
Luis Armando Arteaga, “Tremors”
BEST SCREENPLAY (MAYAHUEL AWARD)
Lucía Garibaldi, “The Sharks”
Jaime Rosales “Petra”
BEST DEBUTE FEATURE
“Carmen & Lola,” Arantxa Echavarria
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“The Sharks,” Lucía Garibaldi
BEST IBERO-AMERICAN FEATURE
“Petra,” Jaime Rosales
“The Fourth Kingdom,” Adán Aliaga, Álex Lora
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Asfixia,” Ana Isabel Bustamante
“Cine Morocco,” Ricardo Calil
IBERO-AMERICAN SHORT FILM
“Kyoko,” Marcos Cabotá, Joan Bover
BEST IBERO-AMERICAN SHORT FILM
“Bodas de oro” Lorenzo Tocco
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
“Mirai No Mirai,” Mamoru Hosoda
BEST SHORT RIGO MORA AWARD
“Guaxuma,” Nara Normande