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Mexico International Film Festival Expresion en Corto …with bite

Staged in two of Mexico’s most attractive cities, San Miguel de Allende, the favorite watering hole for the short-lived Mexican Emperor Maximiliam (executed by Republicans in 1867) and Guanajuato, a former silver mining center built on top of a labyrinth of large tunnels, the annual Expresion en Corto film festival has developed into one of the largest Latin-American festivals. Helmed by Sarah Hoch Delong, it offered this year from July 22 - 27 a superb collection films to an audience of close to 70 000. Set against the background of an intriguing city architecture shaped by Moorish, French, Spanish, and colorful eclectic styles, the 2006 edition offered panel discussions, a pitching market, documentary lounge and seminar, many fiestas/ receptions, public events, exhibitions and other services. The core consisted of screening 400 shorts, documentaries and feature films from 60 countries in 16 venues in both cities around the clock from 10:00 AM through 4:00 AM, selected from close to 1100 submissions. What makes Expresion en Corto unique and outstanding is the close link to the communities it serves, including a growing contingent of film festival tourists, its political overtones, and unique themes (and venues) for programming sidebars, hardly to be found at any other fest. Put differently, the festival has bite, provided by an energetic helmer with the assistance of a well tuned staff and large number of volunteers.

During the opening ceremonies Julio Aleman, one of the best known Mexican actors gave a passionate speech deploring the failure of federal agencies to support the Mexican film industry and their disregard of this crucial cultural vehicle for Mexican identity. He urged the government to support the development of a national film industry and to secure theatrical venues for Mexican productions. For Aleman Mexican cinema has the task of changing the idea the world has of the Mexican as “a lazy person with a hat who sleeps under a cactus”. Lack of government support surprises in light of the long tradition of film making in Mexico, initiatives taken by other Latin American governments to foster their film industries, and the quality of current Mexican productions as evidenced at Expresion en Corto. Other Mexican luminaries at the fest included Pedro Armandariz, Blanca Guera, Ana Ofelia Murguia,Ofelia Medina, and Diana Bracho who was selected for a special tribute.
As distinct from other festivals most screenings were free, except for special 9:00 PM shows with proceeds from the tickets donated to a fund for young film makers. Among other singular program aspects figured screenings of ‘midnight madness’ horror films in the cemeteries of San Miguel and in the famed Guanajuato museum of mummies, and the projection of classic Mexican pornographic films from the 1910 – 1940 period as well as contemporary French films from the Paris Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in a gallery in St. Miguel and the subterranean streets and tunnels of Guanajuato. Further, festival participants could opt to confess their sins and have them recorded or to participate in brief improvised films.

However these festive aspects only added to a rather solid program. Though Expresion en Corto centers on short films, 29 feature films were screened. It included the premiere of the animated sci-fi feature RENAISSANCE (Christian Volckman), as part of the Spotlight Country France program and featured a Break Out section screening the orgiastic violent and controversial IRREVERSIBLE (Gaspar Noe), as well as Tim Burton’s films, honoring both directors as a ‘Break Out Film Makers”. Among other films in that section were the rarely seen classic QUE VIVA MEXICO (Sergei Eisenstein), EL TOPO (Alejandro Jadorowsky, and JAPON (Carlos Reygadas). Several juries selected films for awards and commendation from the 45 competing international shorts in fiction film, fiction video, animation, experimental, and documentary, and from the 21 official Mexican and Guanajuato entries.

` LA LECHE Y EL AGUA The Water and the Milk (Celsa Gracia) garnered most awards for its superbly crafted and enacted poetic story of an old woman and her cow. KALIMAN (Jorge Michel Grau) was selected as the best Mexican documentary short for its depiction of the failing mental health care Mexico provides and the documentary EL TUNEL The Tunnel (Roberto Hernandez) commended for a convincing analysis of the dysfunctional and apparently corrupt Mexican criminal justice system. Among other productions of note were the German COUSIN COUSIN (Maria Mohr) receiving the award as the best international documentary; the US American short video winner SOLIDARITY (Joan Stein); and the best international fiction short, the Argentinean LUCIA Y LAS COSAS Lucia and Things (Paula Abramaovich and Andes Riva). Others that impressed included the French fiction film JUDAS (Nicolas Bary) for its extraordinary sets and acting by Jean Pierre Cassel; the Mexican documentary BUSCANDO A LULIA Looking for Julia (Jaime Cano) for an imaginative visual presentation of the quest for identity; the Canadian UN, DEUX, TROIS, CREPISCULE One, Two, Three Dusk (Felix Dufour-Laperriere), an animated tour de force short on “an unstable identity”; and from Mexico, EN EL HOYO , In The Whole (Juan Carlos Ruffo),a long invitational documentary on the life and dreams of blue collar workers constructing a super high way in Mexico City.

Scheduled for July 21-28, 2007 the United States was selected as the next spotlight country.

Claus Mueller
New York Correspondent


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