GUADALAJARA, Mexico — She’s only been on the job for two months and a half but new Mexican Film Institute (Imcine) head Maria Novaro feels she’s been on the job for much longer. She has hit the ground running, spurred on by Mexico’s new left-wing president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) who told his team that they had only six years, the length of his single tenure, to get his ambitious plans right.
First on her agenda has been to decentralize Imcine’s outreach, setting up a satellite office in the province of Sonora, led by Sonora-based filmmaker Monica Luna, in a bid to provide more support to filmmakers based in other regions.
“I’ve travelled across the country and seen a wealth of interesting productions and communities in need of support not only in production but in editing and post-production,” she said, adding “It’s important to give voices to Mexico’s 68 languages, 68 cultures.”
Plans also include audiovisual training programs to provide more work choices to the country’s predominantly young population.
For Novaro, giant streaming service Netflix, which announced a production hub in Mexico and 50 projects from the get-go, is a “Category 5 Hurricane.” “Yes, they’re providing a lot of jobs to talent, crew and production services, but they’re also contributing to a rise in prices,” she said. Imcine is now in talks with Netflix to contribute to these training programs. “It would be a win-win situation.”
She pledges to fortify Mexico’s existing incentives Fidecine, Foprocine and Eficine but to also make them more inclusive. Plans to offer incentives to international productions are also under study. Thanks to these coveted incentives, film production has risen dramatically and according to audiovisual industry org Canacine, so has its distribution. Canacine reports that last year saw a 30% jump in local releases to 116, up from 89 in 2017. Box office earnings in 2018 amounted to $72 million (1.4 billion pesos) out of 29.5 million admissions, a 38 % and 29.6% increase, respectively, compared to the previous year.
But Novaro says these figures can be deceptive, because in reality only 15% of the Mexican population have access to cinemas, which are concentrated in urban areas. For its part, giant exhibitor Cinepolis has been constructing free-standing theaters in rural areas, instead of the usual malls.
Novaro also plans to strengthen Imcine’s digital platforms, launched in 2015, which includes subscriber-based Filmin Latino that boasts some 1,600 titles; Retina Latina, which offers free video on demand titles from Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Uruguay and its most successful site, Cinema Mexico, freely accessible from 800 points, mainly libraries.
“The problem is that Mexico’s internet service is not very strong or non-existent in many parts of the country; it’s also the most expensive, possibly worldwide,” Novaro asserts.