Mexican festivals, as in most of the world, were hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, with many forced to cancel, reschedule or go online. Led by the Guadalajara International Film Festival (FICG), six of the country’s most important festivals have banded together to create Un Festival Mexicano, an in person event running Nov. 20-27 in Guadalajara.
FICG 35.2, the rescheduled 35th edition originally scheduled for March of this year, will be joined this year by representatives and films from Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal’s itinerant documentary festival Ambulante, DocsMX, and the Los Cabos, Guanajuato and Monterrey film festivals in an unprecedented union of some of Mexico’s most important and well-established cultural events.
Un Festival Mexicano comes after a devastating reduction from 2019 of federal government support for Mexican film festivals, put through by new Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. This saw central government incentives scythed last year by more than 75% in the best of cases or cancelled in their entirety.
“The federal government must recognize the importance of our film festivals, and that’s primarily what Un Festival Mexicano is about. It’s a way for us to organize and stand together to back one another,” FICG director Estrella Araiza told Variety. “We have to support each other’s film festivals.”
“As cuts to cultural sectors were made, film festivals became neglected,” she explained. “Film festivals depend on federal and state support. Because ours is the first major festival of the year we got funding before the pandemic, but other festivals weren’t so lucky.”
Many Mexican festivals were forced completely online this year, so the idea is to host those events and allow them to integrate part of their programming, which they had wanted to present physically, in with Guadalajara’s on-site offer by co-curating this year’s program.
Knowing that travel will be difficult for some and impossible for others, parts of Un Festival Mexicano will be made available online.
“We will be hybrid, but with a very strong physical component,” Araiza detailed. “We want to do one complete physical program, and that’s Un Festival Mexicano. Then we will also host several events which will be available via online streaming such as masterclasses, roundtables, and even some films.”
Reinforcing its commitment to the local community – where it is part of the cinema school, operates a stop-motion animation academy and studio and supports year-round cultural events -FICG is also working on agreements with local broadcasters to make parts of the festival available on free-to-air TV for those who can’t attend in person and don’t have internet in their homes.
Of course, health and safety concerns are paramount for the physical component of this year’s event as well. FICG is headquartered and hosted at the Cineteca FICG UdeG, part of the University Cultural Center (CCU) of the University of Guadalajara (UdeG), an ultra-modern indoor-outdoor hybrid facility with wide passageways, airy theaters and a massive exterior arena where films can be projected on the side of the building. It’s an ideal location for hosting a large event which will still allow for ample social distancing.
Program screenings will be free this year as a means of limiting the number of people queuing and entering the building at the same time. By reserving a seat online and downloading the ticket onto a mobile device, audiences will avoid being crammed together in entryways and ushers won’t need to make any physical contact with attendees.
Further details about the festival program and industry section will be made available in the coming weeks.