The 11th edition of the Morelia International Film Festival (or FICM, to use its Spanish acronym), came to a close last weekend in the picturesque town in Michoacan that gives the festival its name. Even though the festival is relatively young, it has managed in its decade of existence to build up a solid international reputation and has also created strong links to the local industry that it tries to promote. Indeed, it would not be amiss to suggest that as it enters its second decade, it has started maturing into adulthood.
The festival opened with the Mexican premiere of "Gravity," the box-office smash hit from former indie darling Alfonso Cuaron, who was in town to promote his film. His brother and "Y tu mama tambien" co-writer, Carlos Cuaron, was also in town to promote his own latest work, "Sugar Kisses" -- which, like “Gravity,” screened out of competition. A sweet children’s tale set in Mexico City's poorer neighborhoods, "Sugar Kisses" is about as different from "Gravity" as you can get, offering a snapshot of the interests and range of current Mexican cinema in a nutshell.
The presence of both films underlined the talent pool that's available locally and has the potential to work internationally. More specifically, it's a good indication of Morelia’s strong ties with local filmmakers and the nurturing function festivals can have on local talent, who won't forget where they came from even after they’ve hit the big time.
Morelia has an international outlook and growing reputation that's steadily overtaking that of the Guadalajara Film Festival in March, which also showcases Mexican talent (some films, including the eventual winner of both festivals this year, "Workers," screen at both). The international press, festival programmers and filmmakers in Morelia are first and foremost present to acquaint themselves or catch up with the new Mexican productions and mingle with the Mexican filmmakers, which can in turn only help increase their network and, potentially, their future productions.
While still a relatively young festival, its opening film and carefully curated competition suggests Morelia is becoming an increasingly important player in not only the national but also the wider international field. For the first time this year, the festival's main competition, until then dedicated to first and second Mexican films, opened up to other films as well, essentially because the festival wanted to keep following talents it had unearthed and showcased in earlier editions, such as "Duck Season" and "Lake Tahoe" director Fernando Eimbcke, who presented his third feature "Club Sandwich" in competition, and Michel and Victoria Franco's "Through the Eyes," another soberly observed mother-son story that's Michel's third feature (though it's the first time the director of "Daniel & Ana" and "After Lucia" co-directs a film with his documentary director sister).
Morelia got off the ground around the same time that a new group of filmmakers started making their first films some 10 years ago, and even in this year's competition, a lot of the films featured young people and focused on their growth and well-being -- something that seems typical of a cinema in which many of the directors are themselves very young ("film what you know" is a well-known motto for young filmmakers). It's a testament to the relationship between the festival and the directors that both felt the need to continue building after a first helping hand from both sides.