Latin American Filmmakers: The Upcoming Talent By Chiara Arroyo

in 22nd Guadalajara Film Festival

by Chiara Arroyo Cella

The 22nd edition of the Guadalajara Film Festival benefited from the international attention Mexico’s cinema is generating nowadays, as festival attendees looked for the next Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón or Guillermo Del Toro who, by the way, received the festival’s new Guadalajara Prize for his long standing career achievements. The festival profile of this edition seems to be the right one to become the most important event in Latin America and to substitute what was in the past the Havana Film Festival. The reasons for this evolutionary link is former producer and fest director Jorge Sanchez Sosa, who has also raised the level of the festival market, the only one in Mexico, with nearly 300 buyers and sellers showing up.

However, there are still a few disadvantages to solve. One: the proximity of the Cannes Film Festival, six weeks later, makes it difficult to choose the best Ibero-American features. Some of their directors prefer not to show up at Guadalajara and try to be a surprise at the French Riviera instead. Two: in the last few years we have seen that most of the talented new filmmakers came from Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. Therefore it is not understandable why there was only one Argentinean feature (The Other (El otro) by Ariel Rotter) in the Ibero-American competition and two from Ecuador instead (Those are not Sorrows (Esas no son Penas), by Anahí Hoeneisen and Daniel Andrade, and How Far It Is (Qué tan lejos) by Tania Hermida). The festival wants to embrace, as many Latin-American countries as possible, even if in some cases the quality of the films is not good enough. But this geographical priority could be against the interests of the Festival.

This year the Ibero-American competition screened 16 films: Brazil, Ecuador, Spain, Mexico, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, Argentina and Portugal were the countries represented. Brazil appears to be one of the countries where most talented filmmakers come from, according to films seen in Guadalajara as well as in other festivals. Alice’s House (A casa de Alice), directed by Chico Teixeira is a very good example that underlines the director’s background as a documentary filmmaker. The film won the FIPRESCI Prize, Jury Special Prize and Best Actress Prize. The picture is a portrait of a working-class family in Sao Paulo, focused on Alice (an extraordinary performance by Carla Ribas), a manicurist in her 40’s who lives with her three children, her taxi driver husband for the last 20 years and her mother. Alice struggles to make compatible her dreams with her hard reality. Alice’s story depicts the drama of many women in a direct way and with such a sensibility that it almost seems directed by a woman.

World premieres were concentrated in the Mexican selection, which included eight first works out of 12 features. The Festival received more than 40 submissions, a sign of Mexico’s surging local production. Two Loves Stories (Dos abrazos), directed by Enrique Begne stood out amongst the Mexican films in the Ibero-American competition. Altavista’s much buzzed picture links two sets of characters that fall into unlikely emotional relationships. The Jury, though, preferred the first feature from Ernesto Contreras, Blue Eyelids (Párpados Azules) that won the prize for Best Feature Film and Best Screenplay. The film puts a lonely girl in a dilemma when she wins all-expenses paid vacation to a beach paradise and decides to invite a complete stranger. Another surprise was Aaron Fernandez’ Used Parts (Partes Usadas), a Mexican co-production from France and Spain, about an adolescent boy’s turn to crime in order to pay for passage to the United States. Standout premieres included the first feature of Jonas Cuarón, Alfonso’s son, Year of the Nail (Año Uña). Filmed as a series of digital stills, the story follows a boy in his puberty who attempts to romance a 21-year-old American adrift in Mexico. Altavista’s second production was the first feature by Simon Bross, Bad Habits (Malos hábitos), a dark drama that follows a family wracked by an array of eating disorders.

Incidentally, Alice’s House, Happy Desert (Deserto Feliz) by Brazilian Paulo Caldas, Blue Eyelids, Bad Habits and Used Parts have all been selected for the Golden Globe Awards for 2008.

Most of the films represented in the Ibero-American and Mexican competitions had two things in common: the genre and the characters. All features were dramas with sad endings and the leading roles were played by lonely, sad, even obsessive people. Abandoned teenagers with no perspectives, lost adults that don’t know how to communicate or how to express their feelings. If it’s true that art is a reflection of reality, the panorama shown at the Guadalajara Film Festival is not very optimistic. What is encouraging, however, is the talent coming from Latin America.