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Los Cabos Film Festival: 10 Takes on the 2019 Edition

MEXICO CITY —  A crossroads for the film industries of Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, Los Cabos Intl. Film Festival opens its doors on Wednesday, Nov. 13 with a lineup which takes on board hot-button issues – gender, violence in Mexico, the impact of global platforms – as the Festival consolidates its status as a Mexican new talent platform. 10 Takes on the 2019 edition:


Robert De Niro will attend Los Cabos’ Film Festival’s Opening Ceremony on Wednesday for a gala screening of “The Irishman.” The movie’s presence at Los Cabos can be seen as part thanks to its cinematographer. Mexico’s Rodrigo Prieto, and above all to its Mexican producer, Gastón Pavlovich. Already producer of Martin Scorsese’s “Silence,” who stuck with “The Irishman,” through thick and thin as it turned from a Paramount/STX movie to an Oscar-contending Netflix original.


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Of Mexican titles, Los Cabos Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund titles includes projects by Cannes (short film) Palme d’0r winner Elisa Miller (“Hurricane Season”) fast-rising Argentine docu director Manuel Abramovich (“Pornomelacholia”), “A Wolfpack Called Ernesto,” a new narco-related-doc from “Devil’s Freedom” Everardo González;  a second genre feature, “Precious Blood,” from Andrés Kaiser, who made a splash with “Feral”; and a singular allegory for Mexico’s current woes (“Ana Doesn’t Want to Be Seen Dancing”). Noteworthy from the U.S. is a ferocious horror survival thriller (“Forsaken”) from “Land Ho!’s” Martha Stephens, as well as  “Wiring Utopia,” a vision of the heady mix of socialism and cybernetics in Salvador Allende’s 1971 Chile, directed by David Barker (“Daylight”) and produced by “The Lighthouse” and “American Honey’s” Jan Van Hoy. Of titles in Los Cabos Work in Progress, troubled coming of age drama ”Summer White” has just been selected for Ventana Sur’s Copia Final, a promising double whammy; seen at San Sebastian’s Primer Corte, Angeles Cruz’s “Nudo Mixteco” mixes an indigenous sense of narrative – seen in the circularity of its three stories – and a female consciousness of gender abuse in an indigenous community.


Agents from UTA, CAA, WME. Endeavour Content, Paradigm, and ICM Partners are confirmed for Los Cabos, as are execs at Netflix, Anonymous Content, Gaumont TV, AMC, Endemol Shine, Fox Networks Group, HBO Latin America, Topic and 30/West and distributors from Magnolia Pictures, Kino Lorber and all figure among U.S. delegates. Canada sends an 18-participant delegation. Wild Bunch, Charades, Films Boutique and Visit Films will also attend.

So the basic DNA of Los Cabos as a crossroads for the U.S., Mexican and  Canadian industry has not changed. “Los Cabos is a festival with strong international vision, which is readily apparent in the strength of its market, an initiative that brings together people from all over the world to co-develop projects,” says Mexican film producer-screenwriter Julio Chavezmontes (“Time Share”). “It has become an important gathering for foreign producers and filmmakers who wish to connect with their Mexican counterparts, resulting in immensely valuable collaborations for everyone involved.”


A doyen of Latin America’s non-fiction scene as an author, screenwriter – he wrote Everardo González’s “Devil’s Freedom” – Diego Enrique Osorno will deliver an industry masterclass on the flowering of investigative journalism with the emergence of global platforms, taking an industry audience through his Netflix original non-fiction series“1994.”

“We want to reflect on new formats on digital platforms,” says Francisco Westendarp Los Cabos Industry general manager: How Netflix, for example, is backing high-end documentary TV series with pretty strong advertising and marketing campaigns.


As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) pushes for larger inclusion, in a panel on Saturday, Nov. 16, The Academy: 365 Days of the Year newly elected president David Rubin, Ellen Kuras, an Academy Award nominee and governor, and Lorenza Muñoz, who heads up member relations and awards, will discuss this drive and AMPAS’ activities beyond awards night. The Academy’s overseas expansion is yet another sign of the tumbling walls between domestic and international.


Los Cabos is headed by two women: That in itself is an

achievement. It’s always had a significant female presence: Directors, stars, producers, agents. This year, it launches femme-centric section Her Story, and Fantastic Women, with “Roma’s” Yalitza Aparicio as spokesperson. Underscoring women’s impact in film, latter calls for more stories with gender perspective, complex and diverse female characters, and better work conditions for women filmmakers. Los Cabos will also host tributes to Mexico’s Tatiana Huezo, American Ellen Kuras.


The battle for dominance in a new glocal film.TV scene will be fought over talent. That’s almost a cliche now but focusing much of the energies of global platforms, Hollywood talent agencies and indies big and small. Los Cabos bows this year with news of a high-profile overall deal. More such talent deals are likely to follow, in Mexico as over all of Latin America. Los Cabos’ industry sections of titles in development and post-production used to be decided by the caliber of submitting producers. It now focuses heavily on new talent. More than half the titles in Los Cabos Work in Progress section are first features. Major Mexican indie producers at Los Cabos look set to announce slates mixing established directors and near unknowns. Festivals have become massive talent platforms. It’s one of their major new-era attractions.


The women in film debate is broadening. A Los Cabos round table, Extraordinary Views, will explore, quite literally, the female gaze, uniting four cinematographers: Ashley Connor (“Madeline’s Madeline”), Claire Denis collaborator Agnès Godard, Ellen Kuras (“The Betrayal”) and María Secco (“La Jaula de Oro”). The Festival in its press release notes theorist Laura Mulvey’s coining of the phrase “the male gaze.”  One central question, of course, is whether women cinematographers have – or have been allowed to have – a female gaze. Opinions, as directors’ reactions to being described as female filmmakers – may differ notably.


There’s a telling contrast between the Canadian competition entries and projects and Mexico’s lineup. Canada’s explore immigration, social media movements (“Antigone”), indigenous women’s mutual support (“The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open”), absurdist Canadian history (“The Twentieth Century”), family relations (“Lola sí, Lola no”), the life and artistic process of late singer songwriter Lhasa de Sela. Violence is part of the mix. Regarding Mexican projects and works in progress, it’s as if they return time and again to Mexico’s violence . but from different angles, film types and focuses. Titles plumb the horror of human nature (“Precious Blood”), bloody patriarchy (“Forsaken”), crazed collective behavior (“Ana Doesn’t Want to be Seen Dancing”), gender abuse (“Nudo Mixteco”) and provincial hell-holes (Elisa Miller’s “Hurricane Season,” Nicolas Pereda’s “Flora and Fauna”). There’s a sense that, whatever their individuality, Mexican movies form part of something much larger: A fresco of Mexico’s heart of darkness.


Once, producers from Hollywood piled into Los Cabos to be pitched sometimes projects far more appropriate for European arthouse co-production. Now part of the industry is moving towards the mainstream, or exploring ever more a crossover project combining elements of arthouse and mainstream. That’s especially true of directors who have several features under their belt and aim for a change of register, something slightly more outside their wheelhouse. Two examples at Los Cabos: Miller’s “Hurricane Season,” an adaptation of one of Mexico’s biggest novels of recent years; and Matías Meyer’s “Modern Loves,” an elegant look at the decline in modern times of that romantic staple: the lifelong couple.

CREDIT: Rebecca Blackwell/AP/Matt Baron/Stewart Cook/Shutterstock


Main Competition

“Modern Loves,” (Matías Meyer, Mexico, Switzerland)

“Antigone,” (Sophie Deraspe, Canada-Québec)

“Ash,” (Andrew Huculiak, Canada)

“The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open,” (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn, Canada, Norway)

“The Climb,” (Michael Angelo Covino, U.S.)

“Holy Beasts,” (Laura Amelia Guzmán, Israel Cárdenas, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Mexico)

“Greener Grass,” ( Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe, U.S.)

“Honey Boy,” ( Alma Har’el, U.S.)

“The Twentieth Century,” (Matthew Rankin, Canada)

México Primero

“C.I.A.,” (Leandro Córdova, Mexico)

“Ana’s Desire,” (Emilio Santoyo, Mexico)

“Workforce,” (Andrea Martínez Crowther, Mexico)

“Birdwatching,” (Andrea Martínez Crowther, Mexico)

“The Dove and the Wolf,” (Carlos Lenin, Mexico)

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