An in-person Guadalajara Film Festival (FICG), which has moved its traditional spring dates to the fall, runs Oct. 1-9 this year. It opens with Dennis Villeneuve’s “Dune,” following its splash in Venice, and closes with the North American premiere of the first two episodes of Netflix’s animated series “Maya and the Three” from Mexico’s Jorge Gutiérrez (“The Book of Life,” “El Tigre”).
Given the ongoing pandemic that is still hampering some travel, the festival expects fewer participants. Speaking to Variety in mid-September, festival director Estrella Araiza said that at that moment the Festival had about 300 confirmed participants while it normally had as many as 1,500.
Cinemas will be at 50% capacity at the festival even though Mexico has seen most cinemas opening at 100% capacity. “We want to adhere to the strictest protocols to keep our guests safe,” Araiza noted.
Some activities, such as the Masterclasses, will be available online. A novelty this year, the live talk show “How Do You Say FICG?,” hosted by Mexican comedians Chumel Torres and Michelle Rodriguez, will also stream online on the festival’s social media sites. Chumel used to host a talk show on HBO called “Chumel con Chumel Torres,” produced by Endemol Shine Boomdog. An actress and singer as well, Rodriguez also has a development deal with Endemol Shine Boomdog, the Mexico City-based division of Endemol Shine North America.
The festival also plans to showcase some new TV series as part of its fledgling Episode Zero sidebar, which features TV series in development.
This year’s 36th edition promises a wealth of feature films, documentaries, animated features and shorts, almost evenly split among male and female filmmakers, especially among the features. “Our biggest challenge was having to reject some films,” said Araiza who has observed a glut of pics on the festival circuit as many filmmakers waited out last year’s pandemic peak to release their films. Most of the Mexican films vying for the Premio Mezcal are having their world premieres.
As a treat, FICG’s culinary cinema sidebar will feature Morgan Neville’s much-lauded documentary about the late great chef, Anthony Bourdain, in “Roadrunner.”
The near gender balance has brought out more female perspectives in the line-up. Among them is Violeta Salama’s feature in competition, “Alegria” (Spain), a feel-good story that transports us to the Spanish enclave of Melilla to observe an exotic Jewish wedding, with a stellar cast led by Cecilia Suarez (“The House of Flowers”) and Leonardo Sbaraglia (“Pain and Glory”).
“Clara Sola” is Costa Rican Nathalie Álvarez Mesén’s entrancing feature debut, which stars dancer and novice actress Wendy Chinchilla Araya who plays the titular Clara. It is both a story of sexual awakening and mysticism set at the edge of a verdant Costa Rican forest.
“Medusa,” the latest pic from Brazil’s Anita Rocha da Silveira, is a mash-up of genres, including horror, musical and some comedy, where the lead character and her gang of female friends wear masks as they embark on a twisted vigilante mission to punish women who they think promiscuous.
There is also the Guatemala-set female-driven crime drama “Cadejo Blanco,” by Justin Lerner, which exemplifies the number of notable pics emerging from this tiny central American country, led by Jayro Bustamante’s “La Llorona.”
Other standouts at FICG include Uruguayan helmer-scribe Manolo Nieto’s “The Employer and the Employee,” picked up by Latido Films ahead of its Cannes festival world premiere, which scooped up development prizes from Toulouse’s Latin Film Festival, Mar del Plata’s LoboLab and San Sebastián’s WIP Latam.
Set in the countryside, the social thriller follows the parallel lives of a man who runs the family agribusiness and the youth he hires, despite the young man’s lack of a license and inexperience, to drive one the farm’s largest combine harvesters, setting off a tragedy that reverberates through the film.
Ivan Fund’s “Dusk Stone,” an Elle Driver sales pickup, comes to FICG after its world premiere in Venice, followed by its screening in San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos and Biarritz. Set on an Argentine coast, the film melds fantasy and reality as the grieving parents of a lost boy seek answers to his disappearance.
Boutique Sales Company pickup “Mostro,” the debut feature of Mexico’s José Pablo Escamilla, throws a spotlight on the many unresolved cases of disappeared women in Mexico as it turns on two teen factory workers, Alexandra and Lucas, whose lives are upended when Alexandra vanishes one day.
Among the Ibero-American documentaries vying for FICG’s top prize is Mexican Carlos Alfonso’s black and white feature debut “Dirty Feathers,” which first screened at the Berlinale. The docu delves into the lives of some of the homeless people living in the border towns of El Paso and Juarez, which include a grieving father, a war veteran and a 16-year-old as they grapple with trauma, addiction and police brutality.
Ofelia Medina’s “La Llevada y la Traída” charts the annual six-mile journey of the Virgin of Zapopan through Mexico’s state of Guadalajara, which is joined by an estimated two million pilgrims.
Brazilian docs include Eryk Rocha’s “Edna” and Karim Ainouz’s “Mariner of the Mountains” which invariably deal with the past and its impact on the present and the future. “The Last Forest” by Luiz Bolognesi centers on the insidious gold mining in the Amazon which has poisoned the waters and brought deadly disease to the indigenous communities, particularly the Yanomami tribe.
Most of the animation features and shorts at FICG come by way of the prominent animation festival in France, Annecy, led by Denmark’s “Flee” by Jonas Poher Rasmussen and Brazil’s “Bob Spit – We Do Not Like People” by Cesar Cabral.
Top Venice-winning short “The Bones,” by Chile’s Cristobal Leon and Joaquin Cocina, is among the 15 animation shorts vying for prizes.
“The Comedian,” Rodrigo Guardiola, Gabriel Nuncio (Mexico)
“Domingo,” Raúl López Echeverría (Mexico, France, Austria)
“The Gigantes,” Beatriz Sanchis (Mexico,U.S.)
“Mostro,” José Pablo Escamilla (Mexico)
“Plaza Catedral,” Abner Benaim (Panama, Mexico, Colombia)
“Mighty Victoria,” Raúl Ramón (Mexico)
“Comala,” Gian Cassini (Mexico)
“Dirty Feathers,” Carlos Alfonso Corral (México,U.S.)
“La Llevada y la Traida,” Ofelia Medina (Mexico)
“They Made us the Night,” Antonio Hernández (Mexico)
“Paty’s Journey,” Santiago Pedroche (Mexico)
Iberoamerican Fiction Features
“Alegria,” Violeta Salama (Spain)
“Cadejo Blanco,” Justin Lerner (Guatemala, U.S., Mexico)
“Clara Sola,” Nathalie Álvarez Mesén (Costa Rica, Bélgium, Sweden, Germany)
“Las Consecuencias,” Claudia Pinto (Spain, Netherlands, Belgium)
“Blue Heart,” Miguel Coyula (Cuba)
“The Employer and the Employee,” Manolo Nieto (Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, France)
“Immersion,” Nicolás Postiglione (Chile, Mexico)
“To Kill the Beast,” Agustina San Martín (Argentina, Brazil, Chile)
“Medusa,” Anita Rocha Da Silveira (Brazil)
“My Brothers Dream Awake,” Claudia Huaiquimilla (Chile)
“Dusk Stone,” Ivan Fund (Argentina, Chile, Spain)
Iberoamerican Documentary Features
“The Last Forest,” Luiz Bolognesi (Brazil)
“Bosco,” Alicia Cano Menoni (Uruguay, Italy)
“Songs that Flood the River,” Germán Arango Rendón (Colombia)
“The Sky is Red,” Francina Carbonell (Chile)
“Edna,” Eryk Rocha (Brazil)
“Mariner of the Mountains,” Karim Aïnouz (Brazil, France, Germany, Algeria)
“Where is Mikel?” Amaia Merino, Miguel Ángel Llamas (Basque Country, Spain)
“Fly so Far,” Celina Escher (El Salvador, Sweden)
“Rancho,” Pedro Speroni (Argentina)
“The Silence of the Mole,” Anaïs Taracena (Guatemala)
“Santo Domingo Waltz,” Tatiana Fernández (Dominican Republic)
“The Attachment Diaries” (“El Apego”), Valentín Javier Diment (Argentina)
“Blood Red Ox,” Rodrigo Bellott (U.S., Bolivia)
“Efímera,” Luis Mariano García (Mexico)
“Finland,” Horacio Alcalá (Spain, Mexico)
“The Gigantes,” Beatriz Sanchís (Mexico,U.S.)
“LA Queenciañera,” Pedro Peira (Spain)
“To Kill the Beast,” Agustina San Martín (Argentina, Brazil, Chile)
“Medusa,” Anita Rocha da Silveira (Brazil)
“Mi Novia es la Revolución,” Marcelino Islas Hernández (Mexico)
“O Anthropos me tis Apantiseis,” Stelios Kammitsis (Cyprus, Greece, Italy)
“Our Bodies Are Your Battlefields,” Isabelle Solas (France)
“The Swimmer,” Adam Kalderon (Israel)
“Tobi Színei,” Alexa Bakony (Hungary)
“Bob Spit – We Do Not Like People,” Cesar Cabral (Brazil)
“Calamity – A Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary,” Rémi Chayé (France, Denmark)
“Charlotte,” Eric Warin, Tahir Rana (France, Canada, Belgium)
“Flee,” Jonas Poher Rasmussen (Denmark, France, Sweden, Norway)
“My Sunny Maad,” Michaela Pavlátová (Czech Republic, France, Slovakia)
“The Crossing,” Florence Miailhe (France, Czech Republic, Germany)