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Los Cabos Film Festival: 5 Takeways from 2019

LOS CABOS  —  The 2019 Los Cabos Film Festival caught the industry in the throes of change. That and other takeaways from the 2019 edition:

1.INDIE MAINSTREAM MOVE

In 2002, Carlos Reygadas’s released “Japan,” an extraordinary debut feature movie which broke just about every rule in the filmmaker’s guidebook, if Reygadas had ever read one. Now, getting on for two decades later, Mexican cinema may be losing its arthouse mojo, if this year’s Los Cabos was anything to go by.

There’s little choice, producer argue: the bottom is falling out of the theatrical market for more rarified indie fare, Panorama Global’s Alberto Müffelmann argued at Los Cabos.“I’m No Longer Here.” Netflix et al., once willing to take a punt on high-art festival standouts, no longer buy them. So films like Morelia winner “I’n No Longer Here” are “no longer financially viable.”

So Panorama’s new slate, announced in this issue, is made up by different ilks of mainstream propositions. That’s a more general trend. Matías Meyer, known for his use of non-pro actors, for the first time directs stars (and excellent actors) in the Woo Films-produced Los Cabos competition contender “Modern Loves”: Ilse Salas, for instance of “Güeros” and “The Good Girls.” All of which doesn’t mean Mexican directors are giving up the ghost on their hallmark social issues. Yes, “Mas Que Mil Palabras,” Panorama producer Gerardo Gatica’s directorial debut, is a romantic comedy, catnip for global platforms. But its fish out of water set-up still comments, forcefully, on U.S. preconceptions of Mexico.

2.ACADEMY OUTREACH

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has started to explore forms of collaboration with its Mexican counterpart, the Academia Mexicana de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas, headed by “Amores perros” and “Instructions Not Included” producer Mónica Lozano, Ampas president David Rubin and Lozano announced at Los Cabos on Saturday. Ampas and Los Cabos are looking to establish permanent engagement with Los Cabos Festival, Rubin revealed.

The alliances, whose details still have to be fleshed out, come as Rubin looks to spearhead further international inclusion as one of the major features of his mandate. One of the things we’ve put a lot of effort into over the last several years has been telling people around the world that the Academy is an international organization. Nobody really said officially that’s the American Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences, and it’s not. The world as we all know is smaller and smaller, we’re all making films together, and we want the Academy to represent that, Rubin said. Non U.S. membership stands at 20%. 40% of new members last year were international, he added. It remains to be seen if larger international membership will vote patriotically, propelling more non-U.S. movies into best picture consideration. It’s an interesting prospect.

David Rubin poses in the press room with the award for outstanding casting for a limited series, movie or special for "Big Little Lies" during night two of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater, in Los Angeles2017 Creative Arts Emmy Awards - Press Room - Night Two, Los Angeles, USA - 10 Sep 2017
CREDIT: Invision/AP/Shutterstock

3.ONE FUTURE: DRAMA SERIES

What was Francesco Capurro, head of Series Mania Forum, one of the fastest building TV events in Europe, doing at Los Cabos, a film festival? The Festival, for many years, has run a competition for TV projects. He will no doubt also have been checking out Mexico’s new generation of top film producers who are – or foreseeably one day will be – behind some of its top TV series. Woo Films has already made the pivot, creating with film director Manolo Caro, Noc Noc Cinema whose Netflix series, “The House of Flowers,” has just seen Season 2 explode on small screens across the Spanish-speaking world. Rarely, since the telenovelas of yore – Veronica Castro’s “The Rich Also Cry,” has a Mexican series been such a part of Spain’s social conversation. The commercial – and artist – logic for leading film producers to move into drama series is just too compelling. They have the creative contacts, screenwriters especially. Mexican series . As Turner Latin America’s EVP & Chief Content Officer General Entertainment. Tomas Yankelevich, pointed out to Variety in a Mipcom interview, Mexican TV series remain “highly vaulable” now not just on free.to.air but global platforms as well for the close-to 40 million Mexicans living in the U.S. The double market is a much bigger pay proposition than Mexico alone.

The-House-of-Flowers
CREDIT: Netflix

4.EIZA GONZALEZ

Mexic0’s Eiza González, Madame M in “Fast & Furiious: Hobbs and Shaw,” left Mexico for the U.S. to escape prejudice: Mexico’s industry did not take former teen telenovela actresses seriously, she said at Los Cabos, where she received the International Star Award. In the U.S., she has battled to escape type-casting: that Latinx should play Latinx. How? “Sci-fi and genre,” she said at Los Cabos, where she received the International Star Award. “Bloodshot,” with Vin Diesel and Guy Pearce, and “Godzilla vs. Kong” are just two results. Calling herself “completely ambitious,” González is also studying becoming a producer – one way to allow her to appear in more Mexican films.

EIZA GONZÁLEZ

5.EMERGING WOMEN

Andrea Martínez Crowther won the Audience Award in Mexico Primero with “Birdwatching”; Elisa Miller’s big literary makeover project “Hurricane Season” proved a standout project, winning two prizes. Beyond thta, however, men won heads down when it came to Los Cabos awards on Saturday. The festival, as always, served very well, however, to point up emerging female talent – in projects unveiled, other competition contenders, and simple attendees. Here are five women talents to track, drawn Los Cabos 2019:

1.Angeles Cruz

Famed as an actress, she might not have won Work in Progress, but it looks like prizes were dolled out to films which needed the prizes most, not just the best of the pack, and “Nudo Mixteco” was one of the most completed films in contention. What it achieves is a far from complacent take on life in a small indigenous village, reflecting an indigenous world view but not sidestepping cases of arrant gender abuse.

2.Daniela Gómez.

A little-known screenwriter, she did sterling work, with Elisa Miller, says producer Rafael Ley at Woo Films, structuring the supposedly unadaptable -“Hurricane Season,” whose novel is made up of a choral ensemble of first-person narratives.

3. Natalia García Agraz

Attached to direct another Woo Films project, ““Extraños Que Se Besan,” from a screenplay being written by García Agraz and Manolo Caro. As showrunner on “The House of Flowers,” one of Netflix’s biggest Spanish-language hits, Caro will have multiple projects in play. He certainly wouldn’t spend time go “Extraños” unless he thought García Agraz has something special.

4.Fernanda de la Peza

A producer, at Los Cabos with Amondo production partner Joaquín del Paso presenting one of the most singular projects presented for Gabriel Figueroa Film Funding, “Ana Doesn’t Want to Be Seen Dancing,” a medieval allegory of modern Mexico. Amanda slate describes a broad gamut: Del Paso’s “The Hole in the Fence,” presented at last year’s Los Cabos; Natalia López’s “Supernova,” a standout at last year’s inaugural Ventana Sur Proyecta showcase; and Pawel Tarasiewicz’s Mexico-Poland co-production “X-mas Story.”

5.Yollotl Alvarado,Tania Ximena

Directors of Mexican documentary feature “La noche blanca,” follows the surviving members of a Zoque village in southern Mexico, who return to their ancestral home, buried under the ashes of a volcanic  eruption, to unearth a church bell that can be the key to their future. Produced by Piano, it’s a production which runs shoulders with titles from Abel Ferrara, Leos Carax, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Lisandro Alonso.

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