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Guadalajara Film Festival Notches 25 Years

Love, betrayal, death, machismo - as neatly as these themes suit mariachi music, they flatter Latino cinema even more. Happily, there's room for both in Guadalajara, the birthplace of mariachi music, of the tequila that often fuels it and of Mexico's ultimate cinema showcase.  

Scene from Rodrigo Garcia's Mother and Child.

    For its 25th milepost, the Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara returns March 12 - 19, 2010 with a tally of 250 films. The venerable Festival in the Mexican state of Jalisco gives pride of place to Latin American fare, and while it features world cinema, this year's selection is as gnawed as its budget. 

    FICG's heart resides in its Mexican feature and documentary jousts. One eagerly anticipated film of the 50 in competition is Carlos Carrera's entry, Of Childhood (De la infancía), which spins a ghost tale about a son who receives other-worldly protection from his abusive father. Carrera's 2002 tragic melodrama, The Crime of Father Amaro (El crimen del padre Amaro), is Mexico's top-grossing film to date.  Director María Novaro, best known to U.S. audiences for her 1991 dance hall movie, Danzón, will season this year's slate with The Good Herbs (Las buenas hierbas), which sets a story of an Alzheimer sufferer against the backdrop of brain chemistry, healing and family emotions.

    Other contenders for the Mayahuel Award for Best Mexican film and its $150,000-peso piňata include The Dead Sea (El mar muerto), by Ignacio Ortiz Cruz, and Perpetuum Mobile, by emerging helmer Nicolás Pereda. Pereda's newest project, Summer of Goliath, will be unfurled in the "Guadalajara Constructs" program of unfinished works.

    Though upstart initiatives like the Morelia International Film Festival are giving Guadalajara a run for its money, other fiestas, notably the kaput Mexico City International Contemporary Film Festival (dubbed Ficco), have given FICG a bounce. Former Ficco programmers Michel Lipkes and Maximiliano Cruz now work their programming mojo at Guadalajara, where they present the "Alternative Currents" sidebar.

    More than most festivals, FICG makes a point of romancing its urban host. Together with the acclaimed Guadalajara International Book Fair and University of Guadalajara - a prime incubator of documentary talent - it helps bolster Mexico's second-largest city as a cultural hub of the Latino world. The home of 4 million "Tapatios" exudes a mixture of Colonial charm and industrial soot that makes it both inviting and at times tricky to stroll around.

    Yet the fiesta that erstwhile filmmaker and cultural diplomat Jorge Sánchez directs is quite the hot spot for discovering emerging national and regional talent.

    Mexican cinema was churning out between 60 and 70 films a year prior to the recent slump. (In earlier times FICG would show the year's full domestic crop, though more recently submissions have tumbled in and required a proper ginning.)

    Kindling the explosion was a 2006 corporate tax incentive program known as "226," which was recently threatened with severe cuts. The industry rallied, however, and now the finance legislation seems assured. Still, global recession lingers, as do pressures to create not just quantity but quality fare, which accounts for some of the combustion behind today's quest for co-production and distribution deals.

    Enter el Mercado de Cine Iberoamericano en Guadalajara. Latin America's leading film market totes up its fifth "Ibero-American Co-Production Meeting" in alliance with the Cannes Film Market and its Producers' Network. As ever, Festival and market programming dovetail at Guadalajara, and this year's spotlight on France is no less a celebration of Gallic cinema than it is a chance to learn from official industry policy in that country.

    The Festival's "Talent Campus," now in its second year, further fuels the campaign for better product. "Persuasion and Seduction, The Art of Storytelling" is the theme of this year's program of master classes, workshops and panels pairing international film experts with some 50 selected "Talents" from around the region.

    Matt Dillon will join the roster of mentors in this collaboration with the Berlinale Talent Campus and the Goethe-Institut Guadalajara. The American actor and director is slated to receive a Guadalajara International Prize at the Festival's inauguration gala.

    Also in line for tributes are Mexican actress and politician María Rojo, who will bag a Silver Mayahuel, and the late Joaquín Pardavé, whose acting career will be honored in a retrospective.

    Once again, the downtown Teatro Diana will serve as Festival headquarters. Five charity galas will unfold there, beginning with the worldwide premiere of Fernando Pérez's Cuban-themed José Martí, Eye of the Canary (José Martí, el ojo del canario), part one of eight films spotlighting key Latino liberators. Lula, The Son of Brazil (Lula, o filho do Brasil) and The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos) fill the next two gala slots. They are, respectively, Fábio Barreto's biopic about Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and the Argentine thriller from Juan José Campanella that snagged the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture.

    Mother and Child, by American filmmaker Rodrigo García, will also enjoy gala treatment. Like the vignettes of his previous feature, Nine Lives, García's newest work dramatizes women's stories, only this time they interlace in a single narrative starring Naomi Watts, Annette Bening and Kerry Washington.

    To clinch the eight-day Festival and its gala program, there's the Spanish film Me, Too (Yo, también), Álvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro's offbeat romance starring an actor with Down's Syndrome who won Best Actor Award at San Sebastian.  

    Seguir Siendo, about Mexican rock band Café Tacvba, will have its world premiere in a special anniversary section dedicated to music and the movies, "Film Sound" ("Son de Cine"). Directed by Ernesto Contreras and Juan Manuel Craviotto, the documentary observes another anniversary, that of the iconic group's 20th-year tour. Café Tacvba will perform after the screening.

    The 33 shorts vying for prizes this year fall into an Ibero-American section and two Mexican ones, including "Mexican Animated Short Film," whose" Rigoberto Mora Award is granted by the Festival and Guillermo del Toro.

    FICG's 25th birthday prepares the way for 2010's much giddier celebrations: the 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence and 100th anniversary of its Revolution. Just in time to head over to Guadalajara's famed "charro" shops and outfit yourself with a Mexican cowboy hat.

By Laura Blum 

Additional details are at

Guadalajara International Film Festival
Nebulosa 2916

Jardines del Bosque C.P. 44520
Guadalajara, Jalisco, México


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