Like most countries around the world, in Mexico the entertainment industry has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With production halted, movie theaters closed, and no federal plan in sight for business to reignite, thousands of talented technicians and craftspeople are out of work. According to the country’s National Chamber of the Film Industry (CANACINE), around 30,000 Mexican families depend on the film and television fields as their main source of income.
To alleviate some of the economic burden, the Mexican film community has launched Sifonóforo, Fondo de Emergencia Audiovisual, a new emergency fund for audiovisual workers that will provide affected below-the-line crew members with financial assistance. Born out of the solidarity within the industry and independent from any governmental aid, the initiative currently has accumulated 10 million pesos (around $445,000), which will be distributed based on need.
Donations came from notable individuals such as Alejandro González Iñárritu, Guillermo del Toro, Salma Hayek, Issa López, and “Sense8” actor Alfonso Herrera, as well as nearly 50 production companies and distributors including Alfonso Cuarón’s Espectáculos Fílmicos El Coyúl, Gale García Bernal and Diego Luna’s La Corriente del Golfo, Nicolás Celis’ Pimienta Films, Carlos Cuarón’s Besos Cósmicos, Jonas Cuarón’s Esperanto Kino, Bertha Navarro’s Tequila Gang, animation house Anima Estudios, and traveling documentary festival Ambulante, to name a few.
Sifonóforo takes its symbolic name from a siphonophore, a floating colony of microorganisms, each with a highly specialized function carried out in harmony to survive in the ocean. The term directly relates to people who earn a living working on sets as part of a collective.
The fund was announced today during a virtual press conference that featured Oscar-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu; Monica Lozano, president of the Mexican Film Academy (AMACC); and producers Leonardo Zimbrón, Inna Payán, and Julio Chavezmontes. (Watch the full conference below.)
“What’s unique about this fund is that it was born out of the enthusiasm of each of the individuals in this community, without expecting any governmental support or from any corporation, to contribute as much money as each of us can,” Iñárritu told Indiewire during a Q&A session following public announcement. “While we have all been affected, this is a way to create a safety net for our most vulnerable colleagues who are most at risk of hitting the ground face first. It’s about protecting those people who are most fragile. This unique willingness as civilians and collaborators that comes from the solidarity in the Mexican film industry is very particular. I don’t think it happens everywhere in the world.”
AMACC, the institution tasked with managing the fund, has set up a point system to evaluate each case and allocate resources by prioritizing the most pressing emergencies. Each beneficiary will receive $20,000 pesos (around $900). Those interested in receiving support via Sifonóforo can apply starting today through AMACC’s website. Applications will be accepted until the funds run out; however, organizers hope that as weeks go by others will continue to donate so that help can reach a larger number of affected families.
The swift creation of this new fund attests to the strength and unity of creators across the Mexican film industry, at home and abroad. Just weeks ago they came together to fight legislators trying to eliminate Foprocine and Fidecine, funds that help artists bring their visions to the screen, and won that battle.
Sifonóforo comes two months after Netflix and AMACC also started a relief fund in support of Mexican film workers. And while both funds aim to support a similar segment of the industry, the significance of Sifonóforo, as organizers noted, lies in that it was launched for and by Mexican creators without any other motivation than to uplift one another.
“The entire system has been conceived and discussed by all of us who brought forward this idea, in order to figure out who we are going to help with this fund and how we are going to help them. It’s been a sort of democratic committee. We don’t do [fundraising] for a living, but as an industry, as colleagues, and as human beings, we wanted to find a way to hold each other’s hands during this time. That makes me very proud,” said Iñárritu.