Paula Chaurand
Paula Chaurand

In three Mexican cities along the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo, the Riviera Maya Film Festival packed up its third year last weekend and oh, what a week it was. 

International press spent most of the festival shuttling between the teeming tropics of Playa del Carmen, the beautiful city of Tulum and the spring breaker hotspot Cancun, catching a variety of films fresh off last year's festival circuit ("Nymphomaniac," "Under The Skin," "Manuscripts Don't Burn") as well as homegrown Latin American indies we're not likely to see anytime soon in the United States.

Some films, like "Don Hemingway" and "Nymphomaniac: Volume II," screened right on the Caribbean Sea. We watched the films on beach towels, the waves lapping up within earshot, with free drinks and fabulous after-parties to follow. All screenings were free and open to the public -- if you could grab a seat and/or towel, that is -- which you don't see very often.

On opening night (which I talked about in my report here) I sat down with festival director Paula Chaurand. She's young, hip and cinema-savvy -- in other words, the perfect person to spearhead a Latin American fest that's relatively new to the ever-growing film festival world. Chaurand talked openly about her ambitions in starting this festival, her background as a social anthropologist and how that informs her role as festival director and founder.

Chaurand also talks about the Riviera Lab, a program that complements and supplements the Riviera Maya Film Festival but also bolsters emerging independent film projects (for comparison's sake, think Tribeca Film Institute). The Riviera Lab allows for "work-in-progress" screenings at Riviera Maya, giving filmmakers a chance to screen their work to the public before submitting to major film festivals (Cannes included).

Our Q&A follows on the next page.