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Preferred Paradise: ArteCareyes Film & Arts: The Films – Part 2

Preferred Paradise: ArteCareyes Film & Arts: The Films - Part 2

Opening
night’s screening was the debut film of Mexican filmmaker —- The Amazing Catfish (Los Insolitos Peces Gato) the
debut feature of Claudia Sainte Luce.  It
is close to autobiographical as it tells of 22-year-old Claudia living alone in
a big city in Mexico.  One night, she
ends up in the emergency room with signs of appendicitis.  There she meets Martha, lying on the bed next
to her.  46-year-old Martha has 4
children and endless lust for life, in spite of her illness.  Moved
by the lonely young woman, Martha invites Claudia to come and live with her
when she leaves the hospital.  At first,
Claudia is bewildered by the somewhat chaotic organization of the household,
but soon she finds her place in the tribe. And while Martha is getting weaker,
Claudia’s bond with each member of the family gets stronger day by day.  The director’s honest vulnerability touched
me as much as the movie. 

During
the Toronto Film Festival, Claudia told the interviewer at Twitch:

 

The character
Claudia has the obsession of cutting out funny newspaper notes. Before the filming
began, I read a note about the appearance of some catfishes in an American
city. The catfishes always live in family so I thought it was curious. Having
cut the titular (“los insólitos peces gato”), I pasted it on the fish
bowl. In the movie, Claudia begins sleeping in Armando’s bedroom and pastes
that sticker.

 

She (the
mother) had eight years to think what she wanted to say to their children. For
eight years her death was imminent. She had a lot of time of think what to say
but maybe not what to do.

I think every member of the family is amazing and their force is
staying together. That’s why I called the film The Amazing Catfish.”

Claudia said more to me about the
autobiographical part (the rest is fiction):

“I
made this movie to thank this family that gave me a sense of belonging. The
more I helped Martha in her dying process and living the additional time Death
was giving her, I understood that you have to live with the Death by your side
every day to value your own life.  They
saw me; when someone sees you, you become alive, you exist and that’s what they
gave me, existence.’

 

This
film which premiered in Locarno where it won the Young Jury Award went on to Toronto 2013 where it won the FIPRESCI Critics’ Discovery Award.  The next month it played at the Morelia Film
Festival.  At the Baja Film Fest it won the Mexico Primero
Award. It also played at the Rotterdam and the Belgrade Film Festivals.  This Mexican-French coproduction was sold by
France’s premiere international sales agent Pyramide.  Knowing
the head of Pyramide International’s Eric Lagesse, the filmmaker can feel
secure that she is in good hands and that the film will play to a broad and international range
of audiences as it deals with a dysfunctional family, having both funny and
sensitive parts.

 It has already sold to Strand Releasing for
U.S , Austria went to Polyfilm, Belgium –
Imagine, France – Pyramide, Germany – Arsenal, Japan – Bitters End, Latin
America – Palmera International, Mexico – Canibal, Netherlands
– Imagine , Switzerland – Cineworx, Taiwan – Swallow Wings Films.

The next day we saw Eco de la montaña (Echo form the Mountain), Nicolas
Echevarria’s documentary about an indigenous artist of the Wixarika people in
Jalisco whose traditional mural, made of millions of small beads, was installed
(incorrectly) in the Paris metro station Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre in 1977
at a grand ceremony by the French and Mexican Presidents who failed to invite
him.  Since then Santos de la Torre has lived forgotten and isolated in
his village in the Sierra Madre Mountains.  As the film follows him and
his family on their yearly peyote ritual and pilgrimage to Wirikuta and
other Wixarika sacred places and as he creates a fourth mural is unfolded
in such a modern way that I think it should open discussions of how
the artistic taps into the higher sources of creativity among the selected
guests of this festival.  The producer
Michael Fitzgerald was here with his wife, in from Taos where they live.  Michael Fitzgerald produced such films as Malcolm
Loewry’s Under the Volcano and
The Three
Burials of Melquiades Estrada
, another film Arriagas
wrote, Bruce Beresford’s Mr. Johnson.  Such illustrious company!

Gary
Meyer and I sat together during the outdoor screening in the plaza. Of Horses and Men (ISA: Filmsharks), a
wonderfully droll film from first time filmmaker and Iceland’s submission for
this year’s Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film was just
covered in my blog on Indiewire.  It was
a perfect film for showing here with its magnificent landscapes where horses
are part of the villagers’ lives as they are in many part of Mexican culture.  For a review and an interview with its director, click
here for the interview and here for the review on
SydneysBuzz.

Seeing
Iceland reminded me of Jim Stark, as did the Zellner
Brothers’ Kumiko, Treasure Hunter (ISA: Submarine), the sleeper of Sundance. 
This film of a young Japanese woman’s trip to Fargo, Minnesota in
search of the money Steve Buscemi buried in the movie Fargo, with its large snowy landscapes and cold snow which could
not be more the
opposite
of this lush tropical paradise reminded me of Jim Stark’s Cold Fever which was also about a Japanese fish-out-of-water in the
freezing Icelandic climates, though David Zellner was not aware of that film
until after his own was finished.  When we went upstairs for cocktails,
how surprised I was to see that Jim Stark himself is also there, as Marina’s
guest, giving master classes to the young Mexican filmmakers.  He is working on at least two features now
with Mexican directors and has bought a house in Mexico City just as he did in
Iceland when he was active there.

 

And
yet another coincidence: the star of Kumiko
is Rinko Kikuchi who played an important role in Arriaga’s Babel.  And, just to throw in one more coincidence, Babel’s director, 

Alejandro González Iñárritu will be one of the special guests at the next festival I am about to go to, Cartagena Colombia’s FICCI (Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena de Indias).  

Continuing the tradition of ArteCareyes showcasing emerging talent, eight young
filmmakers showed their shorts after
which we all had lunch and discussed their films and their plans with them.  The filmmakers will be ones you will hear more about in the near future,
so here are their names:

.      Manuel
Camacho Bustillo (Blackout, Chapter 4: Calling Neverland), a film Gary Meyer
particularly liked

.      Sofia
Carrillo (The Sad House), a film Jarrett and I loved.

.       Erik
de Luna Fors (Home Appliance).  Everyone
liked this darkly humorous animation

.       Amaury
Vergara Z (Tide).  We called him over to
discuss this dreamy, mysterious story of a young man of the land.

.       Indira
Velasco (Music for the ultimate dream). 
This film was a marvelous study of music and life

.       Lubianca
Duran (Supermodern times). Wonderful tug-of-war between Kodak and Digital.  Very funny old-fashioned silent take on
modern times.

.       Ricardo
Torres Castro (Dry Land). Animation with a message.  Well done 7 minutes.

.       Dalia
Huerta Cano (The End of the Existence of Things).  How a boy fasses the loss of a great
sadness.  Really libertating.

I
was sorry that I had to miss the closing night film ¡Que viva Mexico!  Partially filmed 1931 by the master Sergei Eisenstein shortly after the Mexican
Revolution but never edited and show by the great DP Gabriel Figueroa (whose show at Los Angeles County Museum of Art was extraordinary).  The 1931 uncredited version editor was Kenneth Anger.  Also uncredited technical advisors for foreign locations are the great muralists Orozco, Rivera and Siquieros (who coincidently has a mural newly restored on Los Angeles’ Olvera Street).  Completed finally in the 1970s based on Eisenstein’s writings and his own memories, three sements were shown with live accompaniment commissioned by ArteCareyes based on a guiding score Eisenstein worked on with Sergei Prokofiev by the Ensemble Cine Mudo. 

On
a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate this event as a 12.  It is an event
matched only by the million dollar trip to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Petershof
and the set of Stalingrad which 25 U.S. Distributors, Anne Thompson, Peter and
I were invited to by Rosskino in 2012 when our Italianate Eleonora Granata was
the Russian Film Commissioner in L.A.  

This
work in progress shows a promise reaching beyond this event.  The practical idealism and magic of the
location and the timing of such an Arts & Film event, together with the
other elements in this magnificent venue are thrilling.  I will always be grateful to Steven, John and
Filippo for including me.

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