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Exclusive: Riviera Maya Film Festival Director Paula Chaurand Talks Why the Fest Matters to Mexico, and the World

Photo of Ryan Lattanzio By Ryan Lattanzio | TOH! March 18, 2014 at 2:03PM

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. On opening night, I sat down with festival director Paula Chaurand. She's young, hip, cinema-savvy -- in other words, the perfect person to spearhead a new Latin American fest.
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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.

This article is related to: Riviera Maya Film Festival, Riviera Maya Film Festival, Festivals, Interviews, Nymphomaniac


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.