From Mexican Showcase to International Film Festival By Orlando Mora

in 22th Guadalajara Film Festival

by Orlando Mora

This year, the Guadalajara competition celebrated an anniversary. It all started in 1986 when a group of film lovers, headed by director Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, presented the idea of organizing a film exhibition to the University of Guadalajara The project came to fruition, and from March 10th to the 15th the first edition of what was to be called the Muestra de cine mexicano de Guadalajara came into being.

Twenty years later, the directing team led by Kenya Marquez has decided to take a step forward and have transformed the event from a Mexican film showcase into an International Film Festival. This jump is taken at a time after which, the road traveled and the traditions that have been established, has invited some risk taking, looking perhaps to avoid dullness, a product of the continuous repetition of the same organizational scheme.

This is why, once the twentieth edition of the event ended on March 18th; one of the first things one feels curious about is to examine the scope brought forth with this change from Showcase to Festival. My first impression is that these changes were few if we compare its contents with those in the past few years, and that the changes are geared towards developing possibilities and alternatives for the future. Let’s look at these two aspects.

Since its origins, the Muestra de Guadalajara had a main programming line; the exhibition of Mexican material available in feature films, shorts, and documentaries, along with a central tribute to a grand creator of national film. Starting from this axis, and with the passing of the years, the organizers added new sections and activities, such as book publishing, talks and academic conferences.

The content of the added sections was defined by edition after edition until arriving at the current structure, which has been kept even now in the renamed International Film Festival. Even the profile of its competition comes from past years, having already made its appearance on the poster of the 2004 edition, which spoke of the 19th Muestra de Cine Mexicano e Iberoamericano (Showcase of Mexican and Spanish-American Cinema).

In that sense, we must say that this 2005 edition is currently just a model, very probably looking for more freedom when experimenting with changes in the immediate future. Currently, it has tried to open roads and gain a freedom of action which will surely materialize in upcoming years.

Nevertheless, I believe that the event in Guadalajara will never be able to renounce its central condition as a Mexican cinema showcase, because this is its raison d’être and it is this which explains the visit from people from many of the main festivals in the world, always searching for material from an important film country such as Mexico (even though its production has lived through a bad year).

For now it is clear that the move in becoming a Festival has been useful in finding new sponsors and to help the competition grow in size, a sure move to allow it to qualify for the title of main film festival in Latin America.

Its location within the calendar is not the best one for the rest of the program, but surely it’s the best for presenting what’s new in national production. Guadalajara has lived through a transitional edition and has also wanted to present an inventory of its history. This is why it has published a gorgeous book, both in editorial quality as in its content, called XX años de cine mexicano en Guadalajara (20 Years of Mexican Cinema in Guadalajara) a research work entrusted to the prestigious critic Nelson Carro. In reading this book the Festival’s definitive importance is discovered and one has the sensation that time has helped overcome the criticism that different editions of the Muestra has received.

Mexican film, its past and its present have been through Guadalajara. The book’s annex with the programs from each one of them shows this reality and invites us to think of the usefulness of keeping an event which brings benefits such as the spreading and knowledge of national Mexican cinema, whatever its name.