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Mexico’s 2007 Expresion en Corto with Kenneth Anger and Tim Burton.

Any critic or aficionado of US films could have received a perfect introduction to past and current achievements of US movie and film making at the last edition of the Mexican international short film festival Expresion en Corto, which concluded on July 29 its ten day run in San Miguel de Allende and the state capital Guanajuato. Ranked among the most important short film festivals in the world, Expresion en Corto celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. According to Sarah Hoch about 30 short films were produced in Mexico during the first year of the festival while now more than 500 are completed, an increase prompted by providing the Expresion en Corto platform. In 2007 the program included 370 films in all genres, categories, and possible film making approaches and attracted an audience of 80 000 to screenings, seminars, and special events. This popularity was prompted by savvy programming and the policy of free admissions to all screenings and public events.

There were outstanding productions likely to travel the international festival circuit and possibly find distribution. To name some, the surreal and frightening THE KOMODO DRAGON (L.Rogeles, Columbia); MILAN, a compelling war story from Yugoslavia during the NATO attacks of 1999s, selected as best film of the festival (M. Kexzele, Germany); HUMAN DEVELOPMENT, a thought provoking comparative documentary on Norway and Niger, the most and least developed countries (D, Nunez, Spain); STUART, an animated travel through down trodden Lisbon (Zepe, Portugal); FILM NOIR, experimental short with stunning production techniques (O. Parker, UK); EDEN, the best Mexican and superbly photographed short at the fest (S.T. Valerde); and VIEWS OFA RETIRED NIGHT PORTER, documenting perception of post communist Poland through the protagonist of a Kieslowski film (A.Gorvarth, Austria). What is common to these films is the original personal vision of the filmmakers as demonstrated in the production approach and selection of the story or subject matter.

Also adding spice to the fest were the screening of horror and underground films, The horror show was composed by Guillermo del Torro, director of the Oscar winner PAN’S LABYRINTH and included the ‘Movies with Mummies’ program at midnight in San Miguel’s cemetery. Equally appealing were Anger’s underground films shown during late hours in the Galeria Kunsthaus in San Miguel and presented by him in the tunnels of Guanajuato. The Kunsthaus features in paintings and films classic and contemporary views of straight and gay sex and had in this year’s screening the classics TRICIA’S WEDDING and FIREWORKS.

Expresion en Corto has retained its sharp edge presenting at its tenth anniversary edition controversial films and influential directors working outside the box

of standard Hollywood and independent productions. Honoring this year USA film making with numerous original programs and an astute selection of films (190 of the 370 festival’s films originated in the US), the festival featured films and master seminars by celebrated directors Kenneth Anger and Tim Burton. There was the expected media blitz and audience enthusiasm surrounding the appearance and seminars by Tim Burton and Kenneth Anger. Both have introduced new modes of seeing in presenting gay lifestyles (SCORPIO RISING) and in surreal ventures exploring the unconsciousness (BEATTLE JUICE) breaking with conventions of film making. Kenneth Anger, an underground pioneer, is certainly less known than Tim Burton, but much more controversial with his short films filled with homo-erotic sadomasochism and violence. Tim Burton is strongly influenced by folk tales and fairy stories and spoke freely about the close relationship he had with Latinos when he grew up in California and of his attraction as a child to Mexican culture and the imagery of the dead. He identified himself “as quiet anarchists who like other innovative directors is driven by underground currents of angers and opposition” and believes that he is given the final cut on his films since. “... studio executives do not necessarily understand what I am doing”. The relatively young Mexican audience met Burton with spontaneous outburst of applause.

Much credit for the imaginative approach in creating the US focus of the program goes to Sarah Hoch an American expatriate who has helmed the festival since she created it ten years ago Thus, to name some of the fest’s components: the best North American films reflecting ten genres were shown (such as TO BE OR NOT TO BE for comedies, EASY RIDER for road movies, and HEAVEN’S GATE for Western), a selection from the American Film Institute reflecting the history of American shorts, a compilation of the most influential US avant-garde films from the archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the best independent films from the South by Southwest Film Festival (and several other noted US Festivals), Kenneth Anger’s underground films, Tim Burton’s classics, and selections from LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) festivals and from distributors including Frameline, L.A. Outfest and the NYC Mix Festival.

The question lingers if the 2008 edition of Expresion en Corto can repeat this year’s success. 2008 undoubtedly will be fascinating since the focus will shift from the 2007 US and Hollywood theme to India and Bollywood, providing recognition to and insights into the world largest and most colorful film industry.

Claus Mueller, New York Correspondent

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