“Bajo las Brasas” (Beneath the Embers)
“Bajo las Brasas” (Beneath the Embers)

One of the Guanajuato International Film Festival’s primary objectives is to support the creation of film in the region by educating young people in the community and providing them with professional training that they could not receive elsewhere in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico.

In 2010 GIFF established the “Identity and Belonging” Collegiate Documentary Project. This educational program aims to strengthen the roots of Guanajuato youth by encouraging them to find their own identity and feel sense of belonging in a region that is rich in history and tradition. The contest requires that students find their own subjects, research within their own communities and trains them to produce a 10-minute professional documentary that can compete on an international level.

Each October university students from the state of Guanajuato are invited to submit projects during an open call for entries. Projects must include a short and long synopsis, a filming proposal, a thematic proposal, a list of subjects to be interviewed, a location breakdown, a production schedule, a production budget that includes possible donations or grants from the private and public sectors, an equipment inventory and a crew list consisting of 10 university students per team. All documentary subjects must originate and be filmed within the state of Guanajuato and all research must be supported by video, photographic, historical, periodical, literary and/or artistic materials to be included in a bibliography.

“Bajo las Brasas” (Beneath the Embers)
“Bajo las Brasas” (Beneath the Embers)

The call for entries closes in mid-January and in February the six finalist university teams are selected to produce a documentary that reflects their interests, concerns and expectations. Over the course of six months, between February and July, the students receive professional consultation on their specific projects from film industry experts on the subjects of story, theme, argument, audiovisual language, story boarding, structure, investigation, interviewing, crowd-funding, production, cinematography, lighting, audio production, scoring, editing, post-production, sound design, sound mixing, public relations and social marketing.

These workshops are designed to give the students the necessary knowledge and tools to develop, produce and promote a professional short documentary which will make its world premiere during the Guanajuato International Film Festival in July and goes on to compete in important international film festivals around the world for the next two years.

The main objective of the competition is to stimulate the creation of projects that strengthen the participant’s roots in their community; helping give visibility to identified problems, while formulating informed opinions and offering intelligent solutions; thereby actively participating in their society instead of rejecting or abandoning it. It is an invitation to remember their past, recognize their present and create their own future.

“Bajo las Brasas” (Beneath the Embers)
“Bajo las Brasas” (Beneath the Embers)

The stories that are told have an intrinsic humanitarian value, and are completely free of censorship, allowing the students to discover and unravel the DNA of their society, from the context of a serious and professional film production.

The six finalist teams, comprised of 60 university students, receive a semester-long, senior-level (or fourth year university) documentary filmmaking course (free of charge) where the professors are the most respected documentarians, directors, photographers, sound and lighting technicians, editors and post-production companies currently working in the medium. Intensive workshops are tailored for each of the six projects, providing the necessary knowledge and experience that each documentary requires. The six teams also receive 16 weeks of individual consultations from resident advisers who view, evaluate and consult the teams throughout each stage of the production process.

Finally, after six months of hard work and preparation, the six short documentaries are screened during the inauguration of GIFF in the city of Guanajuato, where they are judged by industry professionals who award the winning teams with cash prizes, encouraging the participants to continue their cinematic trajectory.

Due to the highly practical level of the courses, and the specialized and personalized consultancy from film industry experts, the educational impact of this program is unique to the region. Immediately following their premiere during GIFF, the short documentaries begin their campaign tour through the national and international film festival circuit for the next two years. The students themselves retain the rights to their own works, and have an opportunity to win future prizes at other festivals, while providing them a space to voice their point of view and propagate a greater sense of belonging amongst other youth in their community and across the country.

“Bajo las Brasas” (Beneath the Embers)
“Bajo las Brasas” (Beneath the Embers)

The “Identity and Belonging” Collegiate Documentary Project is one of several educational programs currently run by GIFF that will eventually be housed in the Fabrica GIFF: Guanajuato Institute for Cinematographic Development and Production, located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The brand new facility will be a functioning film studio that includes cover sets, recording studios, post-production suites, workshops, conference spaces, state-of-the-art theaters, a research and development area for new media technologies, an interactive digital library and an audiovisual memory museum that will allow it to join the list of world-class film institutes.

The Guanajuato International Film Festival has a social responsibility to its community, both within Guanajuato and abroad: to encourage its youth to identify and address its society’s problems, while disseminating the profound knowledge that taking pride in one’s community and actively taking part in it can help build a brighter future, thereby helping overcome the many challenges that face Mexico and the world in the 21st century.

“… We have had the a marvelous opportunity, not only to be part of GIFF and meet people from the industry, but that it became a reality to have submitted our documentary in various film festivals around the world , now I dare to dream of Cannes. We are so proud to be able to internationally represent our University and our State, so glad to be able to screen in so many places my roots and my culture.

I so thank Sarah Hoch and her team for trusting our talent, her worries to stimulate Mexican minds, her encouragement in spite the mistrust and reject out there to our surroundings. I truly hope for her that every door she knocks should open, because that means a “yes” to everyone behind her, like the “yes” it meant to my professional development to continue to increase Mexican product, to position it and for it never to stop…”

Miriam Balderas

Production of the documentary “Bajo las Brasas” (Beneath the Embers)

"Bajo las Brasas" was screened at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival

“El Noveno Horno”
“El Noveno Horno”

“…When I was 18 years old I was sexually assaulted in one of Guanajuato’s alleys on my way to school. I reported the event but the process was never continued because I wasn’t able to look at the attacker’s face while he was abusing me. At that time I felt that Guanajuato had taken everything away from me, from one moment to the next everything collapsed. After this I decided to leave Mexico. I moved to the US and tried to start a new life. When I calmed down and the anger decreased I decided to return to Mexico asking myself if it was the right thing to do or not. I was wrong, returning to Mexico was the best thing that I could have done. Today I could say that Guanajuato has given me back all that had been taken away form me: it has made me a better person, better woman, better Mexican and a better professional. All this happened thanks to what GIFF, Sarah Hoch and what her team has given to young Mexicans like me… in my case GIFF changed my life and continues to do so”

Erika Origel

Co-director of the short film “El Noveno Horno

Celaya, Guanajuato

“Mayo”
“Mayo”

“…During my stay at the Cannes film festival I realized that GIFF is one of the most organized film festivals. It supports the growth and development of young filmmakers, it gives us projection and it’s so very open because people can enter for free to watch movies, new releases, conferences even without being a filmmaker. I also want to say that Sarah supported us during the festival and we were introduced at the Cannes festival as the future of Mexican cinema. I haven’t heard of any other film festival directors that approach new filmmakers to give them an opportunity like she does. The reviews were very good, mostly mentioning the quality, the stories as very interesting and they liked that it shows our Mexican culture… it’s a window that forces us to understand the universal visions shown in these documentaries…”

Diego Iván Andrade Anguiano

Documentary Director “Mayo”

“Guantes y Navajas”
“Guantes y Navajas”

“…We as young artists, as individuals who have hopes and dreams and want to transcend and accomplish big things, give our best to try to built a richer society, GIFF allows us to do so, it allows us to dream with big stories, big characters, it helps us to get closer to other artists and people with the same interests, it generates friendships, life experiences.

My team experience at GIFF has been un forgettable, we wouldn’t change it for anything. Each one of the members of “Guantes y Navajas” (the name of the documentary I directed) has gathered uncountable experiences and memories that otherwise wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t because of the Identity and Belonging competition. I wish with all my heart that other generations also have access to a similar experience like promoting culture and the dreams of young filmmakers like me, eager to show the stories that makes us be who we are…”

Uriel de Jesús Juárez Tavera

Director of “Guantes y Navajas”

“… I would like to express the importance of having been part of GIFF Identity and Belonging. It’s inspiration, promotion, and making it possible to emerge as filmmakers. We feel all this happening while being in it.

4 years ago I experienced Identity and Belonging as a spectator for the first time, as I watched “A flor de piel” and heard the experience of the director who I started to admire from that same moment and I so wanted to be part of that experience.

Identity and Belonging has been to me the best experience of my life because I learned to do what I love, surpass my limitations, learn new things, meet interesting people and being close to the film industry, all this thanks to the incredible work and effort that GIFF team makes, We couldn’t deny the effort we need to do, but being immerse in this cultural movement generates conscience, promotes values and sets an example upon society”.

Uriel de Jesús Juárez Tavera

Director of “Guantes y Navajas”