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15 Films That Could Become Mexico’s Oscar Entry

15 Films That Could Become Mexico's Oscar Entry

Countries around the world have slowly begun announcing
their official submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award or
shortlists of films that are being considered for the distinction. In the case
of Mexico there is no clear candidate for the Mexican Academy to
select this year, which leaves an open field of diverse films from the art house and
commercial realms.

Undoubtedly, the best Mexican film audiences around the
world, and in Mexico itself, have had the chance to see in 2015 is Alonso Ruiz PalaciosGüeros,
and some have even speculated that the black-and-white love letter to Mexico
City could become the country’s Oscar candidate and even be among the
favorites. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t qualify because it was considered to
become the official entry last year, when it lost the opportunity to represent
Mexico to the financially successful biopic “Cantinflas.” Ruiz Palacios’ film
would go on to win five Ariel Awards (Mexican Academy Awards) including Best Film and
Best Director. It’s in fact the best choice, yet it simply can’t be anymore.

Each year the Mexican Academy sends out a call for entries
for filmmakers and producers to submit their films. The organization will only
consider those films that are entered by their respective creators, which means
that even if a film qualifies if it’s not submitted it won’t be considered. The
submission period is over now and the Mexican Academy will announce a list of
films competing to represent the nation at the Oscars and the Spanish Goya’s in
the upcoming days. Even without a gem like “Güeros” there are still other
likely choices and many others that don’t stand a chance against the world-class
works that will be send from across the globe. Commercial successes like “A la Mala,” “Tiempos
Felices” or “Visitantes” will have a hard time finding support, but I wouldn’t
be surprised if they are entered to be in the running anyway.

After looking carefully at release dates, festivals, last year’s films
in competition, and having seen several of them, here is a list of 15 films
that look like reasonable choices to represent the Mexican film industry at
Hollywood’s most prestigious award show. Let’s see how many of these are
actually on the official list.

600 Millas” (600 Miles)

Dir. Gabriel Ripstein

Winner of the Best First Feature at this year’s Berlinale
and starring Tim Roth, Gabriel Ripstein’s gun trafficking drama is a gritty and
powerful statement about one of the numerous complex issues afflicting both
Mexico and the U.S. However, giving the duality it deals with, the film is
partially in English, which could become a tricky problem when deciding if it
can compete as a foreign language work or not. Furthermore, “600 Miles” hasn’t
had a theatrical release in Mexico yet, something that AMPAS requires for a film to qualify. If selected a one-week qualifying run would be mandatory.

Alicia en el País de Maria” (Alice in Marialand)

Dir. Jesús Magaña Vázquez

Starring Stephanie Sigman (“Spectre”) and Uruguayan-born
actress Barbara Mori, this highly stylized romantic fantasy follows a love
triangle between reality and a strange dreamland. This is Magaña Vázquez
highest profile film to date and premiered at the Guadalajara International
Film Festival earlier this year. It’s non-linear narrative and the fact that it
hasn’t screen much outside its homeland might play against it, but it’s still
appears to be an interesting choice. The film opens August 28 in Mexico.


Carmín Tropical

Dir. Rigoberto Pérezcano

A personal favorite from what I’ve seen and one of the
strongest candidates on this list, “Carmin Tropical” tells the story of Mabel,
a “muxe” or physical male who lives as a woman, who returns to her hometown to investigate
the death of her estranged best friend, also a “muxe.” After winning the highest award
at the Morelia International Film Festival, the film has gone to screen in
festivals around the world including Outfest Los Angeles and the Sarajevo Film
Festival. Added to this, Pérezcano’s work earned
him the Ariel Award for Best Original Screenplay at this year’s ceremony. Its
relevant ideas regarding gender identity and hate crimes could give it some
traction.

Club Sandwich”

Dir. Fernando Eimbcke

While Fernando Eimbcke’s most recent indie has been around
since 2013 in the festival circuit, the film was not considered last year to
become the country’s entry as it only open theatrically in Mexico last November.
Given these facts this delightful comedy technically qualifies, though it’s
hard to say if the filmmaker will pursue the candidacy. “Club Sandwich” uses deadpan
charm to explore the relationship between a teenage boy and his mother while on
vacation yo a beachside town. The film screened during last year’s Los Angeles Film Festival.  

Las Elegidas(The Chosen Ones)

Dir. David Pablos

This is the obvious heavyweight at least on paper. In recent
years Mexican films that were selected to participate in the Cannes Film Festival have become
ideal selections for Oscar consideration. Carlos Reygadas “Silent Light,” Gerardo
Naranjo’s “Miss Bala,” Michel Franco’s “After Lucia,” and Amat Escalante’s “Heli,”
represented the country in their respective years. Despite being highly
regarded internationally, these type of hyperrealist art house films have failed to garner a nomination
from AMPAS, which could mean the Mexican Academy might want to look towards
more commercial projects like they did last year. Pablos’ film is similar to
some of the aforementioned titles in terms of the crude realities they depict.
Reviews were mostly positive and the film could definitely continue with the
Cannes-to-Oscar pattern, but might prove another hard sale for Academy voters. “Las
Elegidas” still hasn’t open theatrically in Mexico.

Elvira, Te Dariá Mi Vida Pero La Estoy Usando” (Elvira, I’d Give You My Life But I’m Using It)

Dir. Manolo Caro

A sophisticated romantic dramedy starring two of Mexico’s
most prolific actors Cecilia Suarez and Luis Gerardo Mendez (Netflix’ “Club de
Cuervos”), the film represents a departure for filmmaker Manolo Caro from the more
conventional romantic comedies he’s done in the past. When Elvira’s husband
goes missing she embarks on a search to find him, even if the outcome of her
quest is not what she expects her devotion is unwavering. The film had its U.S.
premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June and it’s opening in Mexico
this weekend.

Estrellas Solitarias” (Lonely Stars)

Dir. Fernando Urdapilleta

By far the most unconventional choice, this irreverent
comedy about dreams of stardom focuses on a pair of transvestites hoping to get
their big break while working in a dingy and unglamorous bar. Music plays a big
role in Fernando Urdapilleta’s sophomore feature, which shines a light on
characters rarely seen in Mexican cinema. Produced by the Centro de
Capacitación Cinematográfica the film has screened around the country and competed
for the Maguey Award to LGBT films at the 30th edition of Guadalajara
International Film Festival (FICG).

Gloria

Dir. Christian Keller

Working from a screenplay by Sabina Berman, Swiss filmmaker
Christian Keller crafted a searing biopic about one of Mexico’s most iconic pop
stars, Gloria Trevi, and her tumultuous career. The film took audiences and
critics by surprise mainly because of the authenticity brought to it by the young
actress Sofia Espinosa, who truly embodied Trevi’s outrageous personality and commanding
stage presence. “Gloria” opened in Mexico back in February and it screened at
SXSW in Austin last March. It’s also the only film in the list that has already
had a U.S. theatrical release, which has handled by Picturehouse. This would definitely
be a divisive selection given that Gloria is not widely known in the
English-speaking world.

La Guerra de Manuela Jankovic” (Manuela Jankovic’s War)

Dir. Diana Cardozo

Nominated for 3 Ariel Awards including Best Actress and Best
Supporting Actress this year, this peculiar drama opened late last year and
hasn’t travel much internationally. Set in the early 90s the film deals with
Manuela, a middle-aged woman who must take care of her bitter Serbian
grandmother who escaped to Mexico during World War II. Beautifully executed and
acted the film is a sleeper that could actually be an ideal choice given its unique
premise and approach. Stories about the Eastern European community in Mexico
have rarely been explored in film.

Hilda

Dir. Andres Clariond

Dealing with classicism within Mexican society, this
Audience Award-winning film at the last Morelia Film Festival paints a
disturbing picture about the divide between the elite and the working class.
Starring Veronica Langer as Mrs. Le Marchand, a wealthy woman depressed due to her
unfulfilled ambitions, the film is a psychological drama with darkly comedic
undertones. When Hilda (Adriana Paz) a new housemaid is hired, Le Marchand’s obsessive
behavior unravels. Andres Clariond’s debut feature is based on a French play by
Marie Ndiaye, the filmmaker certainly found parallels between the playwright’s
work and his homeland. “Hilda” will open in Mexico in early September.  

Las Horas Contigo” (The Hours With You)

Dir. Catalina Aguilar Mastretta

This endearing drama about a young woman coming to terms with
her grandmother’s imminent death has been a quiet success since it’s premiere
at the 2014 FICG where it won the Best Director award for debutant Catalina
Aguilar Mastretta. “Las Horas Contigo” was nominated for three Ariel Awards
winning the Best Supporting Actress statuette for veteran thespian Isela Vega.
The film’s U.S. premiere took place during the 4th edition of FICG
in LA and was also part of the Latin Cinema section at the Palm Springs
International Film Festival. It’s a well-made film that offers a handful of
moving moments that could resonate with voters, though in my opinion it’s a bit
slight.

Manto Acuífero” ( The Well)

Dir. Michael Rowe

Australian filmmaker Michael Rowe, who has made a career
working in Mexico, received great acclaim and accolades for his debut feature “Año
Bisiesto,” including the Camera d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival. “Manto
Acuífero,” his sophomore effort, premiered at the Rome Film Festival in 2013
and was produced by Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna’s Canana. Centered on a young
girl dealing with troubling situations at home, the film also screened at the Morelia
Film Festival. Its theatrical release didn’t happen until November of last
year, which based on AMPAS rules qualifies it for consideration. “Manto Acuífero”
was not considered last year.

El Más Buscasdo” (Mexican Gangster)

Dir. José Manuel Cravioto

By far the most commercial and most expensive-looking film
on the list, this action tale revolves around a bank robber whose alter ego is
a mysterious masked singer. Jose Manuel Cravioto’s narrative debut stars Tenoch
Huerta (“Güeros”) as skillful criminal Alfredo Rios Galeana and as al El Charro
Misterioso, the elusive and talented performer. Set in the 1980s “El Más
Buscado” showcases costumes, production design, and music from that period in a
Robin Hood-like story of a unique antihero. The film screened in L.A. as part
of the Hola Mexico Film Festival back in May but other than that lacks noticeable
international presence.

Las Oscuras Primaveras” (The Obscure Spring)

Dir. Ernesto Contreras

Moody and darkly sensual, this intense drama from director
Ernesto Contreras won the Knight Competition Grand Jury Prize as well as the
Best Performance Grand Jury Prize and the Miami International Film Festival. Cecilia
Suarez and Jose Maria Yazpik star as a childless married couple whose
relationship is threaten when he starts having a steamy affair with a lonely
single mother in need of companionship. “Las Oscuras Primaveras” also received
three Ariel Awards at the most recent ceremony for Best Editing, Best Sound,
and Best Original Score.  

La Tirisia” (Perpetual Sadness)

Dir. Jorge Pérez Solano

Last but definitely not least, the one film that, in this
writer’s opinion, is the best opinion from the pack. Jose Perez Solano’s poetic
feature follows two women in a remote community who have to choose between
their children and their partner in a chauvinist society. The beauty and
authenticity of “La Tirisia” have connected with audiences and juries from diverse
backgrounds. Karlovy Vary, Palm Springs, Thessaloniki, Chicago, and Guadalajara
were a few of the festivals that screened the film where it often was awarded
prizes for its director and cast. Actress Adriana Paz (“Hilda”) won the Ariel
Award for Best Actress for her work in the film, while Noé Hernandez took home
the award for Best Supporting Actor. It’s art house roots and segmented
narrative might work against it, but if voters at the Mexican Academy can look
past that, this might be the one to bet on.

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