The 11th edition of the Morelia Film Festival (FICM) which will take place in Morelia, Michoacan October 18-27, announced its raison d’être Mexican competition of 88 films consisting of 11 narrative features, 23 documentaries, 43 short films and finally 11 films in their Michoacan section, in which for the first time in its 11 years a feature narrative will compete.
Further proof the festival is at the fore of social media muscle and hipness, (FICM boasts the 2nd most followers on Twitter out of all international film festivals, second only to Sundance), FICM organized a Google Hangout to discuss the lineup announcement, forgoing the boring, stuffy press conferences that typically accompany festivals’ film announcements. You can watch it here.
Festival Director Daniela Michel, Producer & Programmer (and film producer) Daniela Alatorre and Festival Advisor/Soulful spirit (and also a filmmaker) Alejandro Lubezki were onhand looking and sounding their ever poised, smart, warm, enthusiastic, professional selves. The team underscored their deep appreciation and privilege of getting to know their beautifully rich and profound country via the images and stories of the filmmakers over the course of the festival’s history. Coining this year’s edition as the “First year of the Second Decade”, Daniela Michel exudes a reinvigorated energy as she and her esteemed partners forge ahead in producing the most renowned, anticipated and beloved film festival in Mexico.
Here’s a closer look at each of the 11 narrative features in Competition
From this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard, La Jaula de Oro by Diego Quemada-Diez, a startlingly authentic portrait of Guatemalan migrant youths traveling by “La Bestia", or "The Beast", as they call the dangerous train on which thousands hitch a ride on at their own peril. A first feature by the Barcelona born filmmaker who has accumulated a host of experience with varying camera operator credits on Hollywood films and has notably worked with Ken Loach. The film was called the unglamorous non-Hollywood version of Sin Nombre.
The Empty Hours (Las Horas Muertas) is Aaron Fernandez’s second film after 2007′s Partes Usadas. It was in San Sebastian’s treasure trove Works in Progress last year and is world premiering in this year’s New Directors competition. Shot in Veracruz, its about a 17 year old who has to caretake his uncle’s motel on a remote stretch of tropical coast.
Last year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard winner and Mexican entry to the Oscars was Despues de Lucia by Michel Franco. Apparently he had been working on A Los Ojos before then and it was actually tipped for this year’s Cannes per IonCinema. Oaxacan actress Monica Del Carmen who gave a fiercely intense and breakthrough performance in Michael Rowe’s Leap Year stars. Michel’s sister Vicky Franco co-directs.
The idiosyncratic titled, Amazing Catfish (Los Insolitos Peces Gatos) by Claudia Saint Luce is a first feature and only one of two female directed films (not counting Vicky Franco) out of eleven. An unexpectedly heart tugging film about a solitary twentysomething who becomes inadavertently folded into a dysfunctional family household run amok by the single mother’s worsening health, she becomes an indispensable honorary family member which ensues with the typical sibling rivalry. The film world premiered at this year’s Locarno Film Festival and according to sales agent Pyramide’s website, it will also screen at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival even though it has not been announced on TIFF’s website yet. Claudia is for sure a talent to watch!
Somos Mari Pepa which just had its world premiere at the Guanajuato Film Festival is drawn from the short film, Mari Pepa which endeared audiences all over the world and won Morelia in 2010. An unassuming, empathetic, immediate yet nostalgic portrait of youth as they finish their last year of high school, having to grapple with the gravity of what to do for the rest of their lives. Another discovery to look out for as this first feature is certain to launch the talented filmmaker’s career.
La Vida Despues/Life After is from David Pablos, an alumni from the thriving film school CCC, Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, who is currently finishing up at Colombia NYC Film School. He co-wrote Skin, a mesmerizing short film, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, directed by Jordana Spiro. The Life After which will have its world premiere at the prestigious Venice Film Festival before its FICM premiere, is about two teenage boys who embark on a road trip in search for their mother who disappears, leaving nothing but a mysterious note. Pablos’ previous film was the 2010 documentary Una Frontera, Todas Las Fronteras which premiered at world’s greatest doc festival IDFA in Amsterdam. His short film, La Cancion de los Ninos Muertos played the Morelia Film Festival in 2008 and went on to win the Ariel Award in 2010. You can watch it here
Workers by Jose Luis Valle played the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section and was notably in competition at the L.A. Film Festival. The film has a tinge of black humor in portraying a maid and a janitor who expect a retirement pension after decades of devoted service, only to take things in their own hands when they get shafted. Like David Pablos, this is Jose Luis Valle’s first dramatic feature after having first made a documentary feature. The Salvador born filmmaker who attended the most famous and oldest film school in Mexico city, UNAM’s Centro de Estudios Cinematográficos (CUEC), caught the attention of several Mexican festivals with El Milagro de Papa, a documentary he made when he read in the newspaper about a Zacatecas boy whose Leukemia was "cured" by a visit from Pope John Paul II.
The addition of feature length film Enero by Adrián González Camargo gives FICM lots of personal pride since for years they’ve made grand efforts to strengthen Michoacan produced films by having a competitive Michoacan film category, resulting in today’s thriving filmmaking scene. Adrian is not only an alumni and collaborator of the festival but he also run a series of indigenous film screenings in the Michocan area. He attended CCC and will be attending CSU Northridge on a Fulbright scholarship this year. The film sounds like a dark, on the run thriller about a man who kills his wife and hits the road with his lover, only to find that their own happiness together might not be their destination after all.
From Camera d’Or winner for 2011′s Leap Year, Michael Rowe, the Australian born Mexico based filmmaker is back with his second feature, Manto Acuifero/The Well. Shot in Puebla, the film is about an 8 year old girl who longs for her father to return even though her mom has moved in with another man. A well in the backyard of their house becomes a secret place that inspires her imagination. The Well is one of two films produced by Canana in this competition. Rowe has already secured funding for his third film, Rest Home which will be his first film in English
Penumbra – Shot on 16 mm this film premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival and is currently making the international festival circuit tour including Edinburgh Film Festival. Eduardo Villanueva’s previous film was the trippy, wildly intriguing and strikingly shot German/ Mexican film Trip To Tulum.
Fernando Eimbcke is back with his third feature. He made a big splash back in 2004 with his first feature, Duck Season, produced by Canana also, a jewel discovered at the 2004 Guadalajara Film Festival which went on to play Cannes’ Critics Week, won AFI’s Grand jJury Prize and won the Ariel for Best Film. His followup was in 2008 Lake Tahoe, a script developed at the Sundance Institute Screenwriters lab and which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival where it won the Fipresci Prize. Club Sandwich (ISA: Funny Balloons). It is set to world premiere in competition at the San Sebastian Film Festival.
And last but certainly not least, I’m super excited for Mariana Chenillo’s sophomore feature, Paraiso. Chenillo won the Audience Award at FICM 2008 with her beautifully dramatic and humorously pitched film, 5 Days Without Nora. It went on to be a hit at many international festivals and won Best Film Prize at the 2010 Ariel Awards (Mexico’s top film honors). The film is about an overweight couple who moves to Mexico City where they immediately feel the social pressure of being overweight surrounded by beautiful people. When they decide to go on a diet together, their relationship is put to the test when one of them successfully makes progress while the other continues to struggle. It is produced by Canana’s Pablo Cruz.
Below is the list recapped with International Sales Agent info.
*Denotes first feature (Opera Prima)
1. A los ojos. Michel y Victoria Franco
2. Club Sándwich. Fernando Eimbcke (Funny Balloons)
3. Las horas muertas. Aarón Fernández (Urban Distribution International)
*4. Los insólitos peces gato. Claudia Sainte-Luce (Pyramide)
*5. La jaula de oro. Diego Quemada-Diez (Films Boutique)
6. Manto Acuífero. Michael Rowe (Mundial, the new joint venture between Canana and iM Global)
7. Paraíso. Mariana Chenillo (Mundial)
8. Penumbra. Eduardo Villanueva
*9. Somos Mari Pepa. Samuel Kishi Leopo (Figa Films)
10. La vida después David Pablos
11. Workers José Luis Valle (MPM Film)
Not to ignore the bread and butter of the festival, the docs and shorts – I’ll get to them in a later post. In the meantime, to see the rest of the competition titles click here.