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LatinoBuzz: Morelia FF Unveils Most Impressive Mexican Competition Yet

LatinoBuzz: Morelia FF Unveils Most Impressive Mexican Competition Yet

The 11th edition of the Morelia Film Festival (FICM) which will take
place in Morelia, Michoacan October 18-27, announced its raison d’être
 Mexican competition of 88 films consisting of 11 narrative features, 23
documentaries, 43 short films and finally 11 films in their Michoacan
section, in which for the first time in its 11 years a feature narrative
will compete.

Further proof the festival is at the fore of social media muscle and
hipness, (FICM boasts the 2nd most followers on Twitter out of all
international film festivals, second only to Sundance), FICM organized a
Google Hangout to discuss the lineup announcement, forgoing the boring,
stuffy press conferences that typically accompany festivals’ film
announcements.    You can watch it here.    

Festival Director Daniela Michel, Producer & Programmer (and film
producer) Daniela Alatorre and Festival Advisor/Soulful spirit (and
also a filmmaker) Alejandro Lubezki were onhand looking and sounding
their ever poised, smart, warm, enthusiastic, professional selves.  The
team underscored their deep appreciation and privilege of getting to
know their beautifully rich and profound country via the images and
stories of the filmmakers over the course of the festival’s history.
 Coining this year’s edition as the “First year of the Second Decade”,
Daniela Michel exudes a reinvigorated energy as she and her esteemed
partners forge ahead in producing the most renowned, anticipated and
beloved film festival in Mexico.

Since the program’s inception in 2007 (the festival did not include a
narrative feature competition until four years after the festival
launched in 2003), the Official Narrative Competition was exclusive to
1st or 2nd time filmmakers.  This year FICM opened it up, making room
for such international superstars as Fernando Eimbcke and Michel Franco.
  There are brand spanking new titles yet to premiere anywhere else
like Paraiso by Mariana Chenillo, A Los Ojos by Michel Franco, and Manto
by Michael Rowe. However, it’s hard to say if they will still
be world premieres upon their Mexico bow in October since San Sebastian
and Toronto are still unrolling their program selections.

Here’s a closer look at each of the 11 narrative features in Competition

this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard, La Jaula de Oro by Diego
Quemada-Diez, a startlingly authentic portrait of Guatemalan migrant
youths traveling by “La Bestia”, or “The Beast”, as they call the dangerous
train on which thousands hitch a ride on at their own peril.  A first
feature by the Barcelona born filmmaker who has accumulated a host of
experience with varying camera operator credits on Hollywood films and
has notably worked with Ken Loach.  The film was called the unglamorous
non-Hollywood version of Sin Nombre.

Empty Hours (Las Horas Muertas)
 is Aaron Fernandez’s second film after
2007′s Partes Usadas.  It was in San Sebastian’s treasure trove Works in
Progress last year and is world premiering in this year’s New Directors
competition. Shot in Veracruz, its about a 17 year old who has to
caretake his uncle’s motel on a remote stretch of tropical coast.

Last year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard winner and Mexican entry to the
Oscars was Despues de Lucia by Michel Franco. Apparently he had been
working on A Los Ojos before then and it was actually tipped for this
year’s Cannes per IonCinema.
 Oaxacan actress Monica Del Carmen who gave a fiercely intense and
breakthrough performance in Michael Rowe’s Leap Year stars.  Michel’s
sister Vicky Franco co-directs.

The idiosyncratic titled, Amazing Catfish (Los Insolitos Peces Gatos) by Claudia Saint Luce is a first feature and only one of two female
directed films (not counting Vicky Franco) out of eleven.  An
unexpectedly heart tugging film about a solitary twentysomething who
becomes inadavertently folded into a dysfunctional family household run
amok by the single mother’s worsening health, she becomes an
indispensable honorary family member which ensues with the typical
sibling rivalry.  The film world premiered at this  year’s Locarno Film Festival and according to sales agent Pyramide’s website, it will
also screen at the upcoming Toronto Film Festival even though it has not been announced on TIFF’s website yet.  Claudia is for sure a talent to watch!

Somos Mari Pepa which
just had its world premiere at the Guanajuato Film Festival is drawn
from the short film, Mari Pepa which endeared audiences all over the
world and won Morelia in 2010.  An unassuming, empathetic, immediate yet
nostalgic portrait of youth as they finish their last year of high
school, having to grapple with the gravity of what to do for the rest of
their lives. Another  discovery to look out for as this first feature
is certain to launch the talented filmmaker’s career.

La Vida Despues/Life
is from David Pablos, an alumni from the thriving film school
CCC, Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, who is currently
finishing up at Colombia NYC Film School.  He co-wrote Skin, a
mesmerizing short film, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film
Festival, directed by Jordana Spiro.  The Life After which will have
its world premiere at the prestigious Venice Film Festival before its
FICM premiere, is about two teenage boys who embark on a road trip in
search for their mother who disappears, leaving nothing but a mysterious
note.  Pablos’ previous film was the 2010 documentary Una Frontera,
Todas Las Fronteras
which premiered at world’s greatest doc festival
IDFA in Amsterdam.  His short film, La Cancion de los Ninos Muertos
played the Morelia Film Festival in 2008 and went on to win the Ariel
Award in 2010.  You can watch it here

Workers by Jose Luis Valle played the Berlin Film Festival’s Panorama section and was
notably in competition at the L.A. Film Festival.  The
film has a tinge of black humor in portraying a maid and a janitor who
expect a retirement pension after decades of devoted service, only to
take things in their own hands when they get shafted.  Like David
Pablos, this is Jose Luis Valle’s first dramatic feature after having first
made a documentary feature.  The Salvador born filmmaker who attended
the most famous and oldest film school in Mexico city, UNAM’s  Centro de
Estudios Cinematográficos (CUEC), caught the attention of several
Mexican festivals with El Milagro de Papa, a documentary he made when he
read in the newspaper about a Zacatecas boy whose Leukemia was “cured” by a visit from Pope John Paul II.

The addition of feature length film Enero
by Adrián González Camargo gives FICM lots of personal pride since for
years they’ve made grand efforts to strengthen Michoacan produced films
by having a competitive Michoacan film category, resulting in today’s
thriving filmmaking scene.  Adrian is not only an alumni and
collaborator of the festival but he also run a series of indigenous film
screenings in the Michocan area.  He attended CCC and will be attending CSU Northridge
on a Fulbright scholarship this year.  The film sounds like a dark, on
the run thriller about a man who kills his wife and hits the road with
his lover, only to find that their own happiness together might not be
their destination after all.

Camera d’Or winner for 2011′s Leap Year, Michael Rowe, the Australian
born Mexico based filmmaker is back with his second feature, Manto
Acuifero/The Well
.  Shot in Puebla, the film is about an 8 year old
girl who longs for her father to return even though her mom has moved in
with another man.  A well in the backyard of their house becomes a
secret place that inspires her imagination.   The Well is one of two
films produced by Canana in this competition. Rowe has already secured
funding for his third film, Rest Home which will be his first film in English

– Shot on 16 mm this film premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival and
is currently making the international festival circuit tour including
Edinburgh Film Festival.  Eduardo Villanueva’s previous film was the
trippy, wildly intriguing and strikingly shot German/ Mexican film Trip
To Tulum

Eimbcke is back with his third feature.  He made a big splash back in
2004 with his first feature, Duck Season, produced by Canana also, a jewel discovered at the 2004
Guadalajara Film Festival which went on to play Cannes’ Critics Week, won
AFI’s Grand jJury Prize and won the Ariel for Best Film.  His followup
was in 2008 Lake Tahoe, a script developed at the Sundance Institute
Screenwriters lab and which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival
where it won the Fipresci Prize.  Club Sandwich (ISA: Funny Balloons).  It
is set to world premiere in competition at the San Sebastian Film

last but certainly not least, I’m super excited for Mariana Chenillo’s
sophomore feature, Paraiso.  Chenillo won the Audience Award at FICM 2008
with her beautifully dramatic and humorously pitched film, 5 Days
Without Nora
. It went on to be a hit at many international festivals and
won Best Film Prize at the 2010 Ariel Awards (Mexico’s top film honors).  The
film is about an overweight couple who moves to Mexico City where they
immediately feel the social pressure of being overweight surrounded by
beautiful people. When they decide to go on a diet together, their
relationship is put to the test when one of them successfully makes
progress while the other continues to struggle. It is produced by Canana’s
Pablo Cruz.

Below is the list recapped with International Sales Agent info.

*Denotes first feature (Opera Prima)

Sección de Largometraje Mexicano

1. A los ojos. Michel y Victoria Franco
2. Club Sándwich. Fernando Eimbcke  (Funny Balloons)
3. Las horas muertas. Aarón Fernández (Urban Distribution International)
*4. Los insólitos peces gato. Claudia Sainte-Luce  (Pyramide)
*5. La jaula de oro. Diego Quemada-Diez  (Films Boutique)
6. Manto Acuífero. Michael Rowe  (Mundial, the new joint venture between Canana and iM Global)
7. Paraíso. Mariana Chenillo   (Mundial)
8. Penumbra. Eduardo Villanueva
*9. Somos Mari Pepa. Samuel Kishi Leopo  (Figa Films)
10. La vida después David Pablos
11. Workers José Luis Valle  (MPM Film)

Not to ignore the bread and butter of the festival, the docs and
shorts – I’ll get to them in a later post.  In the meantime, to see the
rest of the competition titles click here.

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