in 30th Guadalajara International Film Festival

by Barbara Lorey de Lacharriere

The Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara (Guadalajara International Film Festival, 6-15 March), which this year celebrated its 30th anniversary,  is considered one of the world’s most important showcases for the appreciation, promotion and distribution of Mexican and Ibero-American films. Supported by the University of Guadalajara, the Mexican Film Institute (Imcine), the National Council for Culture and the Arts (Conaculta), the State Government of Jalisco, and the cities of Guadalajara and Zapopan, the festival, under the direction of Ivan Trujillo, has grown considerably in recent years.

The center-piece of the official competition sections — an Ibero-American feature film and an Ibero-American feature-length documentary competition (each featuring 16 films), a rich short film section and the queer cinema Premio Maguey competion (18 films) – is the Mezcal Award for best Mexican debut film, chosen by a singular jury of young students and teachers from all over Mexico. This year, the Mezcal section  was comprised  of a highly eclectic and uneven mixed bag of 22 first feature films and documentaries made in Mexico and by Mexican directors working outside the country (in the U.K. Ireland and  Australia) and included even a feature animated film for children and family audiences. It was also in this competition section where our FIPRESCI jury had to select our winner for the best Mexican film.

Stars and Red Carpet Events

Highlights from the Red Carpet events included homages to the delightful Victoria Abril, Mexican icon Isela Vega, famous Mexican director and founder of the festival Jaime Humberto Hermosillo and producer-director Guillermo del Toro, who was born in Guadalajara. Del Toro spoke to a packed  master class (for the Talent Campus students) and created controversy at his  press conference with harsh criticism of the insecurity and social decay in his home country, where he even fears for his own safety.

Strangely enough, the political and social violence in Mexico, which has claimed more than 100,000 victims in recent years, was reflected only in a few films by the young Mexican directors.

This  year’s guest country was Italy, showcasing a best-of selection of 34 Italian films. Unfortunately, the much anticipated guest of honour, Bernardo Bertuolucci, had to cancel his visit at the last minute due to health problems and therefore couldn’t receive his Golden Mayahuel lifetime honor award in person.

Guadalajara Wants to Be More Than Just a Film Festival

The bustling industry film market, striving to become the biggest  industry event in Latin America, organized various meetings to develop  participation and cooperation on new projects and to help open new channels of international film promotion and financing: these included the Iberoamerican Co-production Meeting, the European Film Promotion Sales Support and the very successful Talent Campus, co-organized  with the Berlinale, now in its seventh year. 

Another highlight of the festival was the trendy, brand-new Film4Climate strand, backed by the World Bank,  that links films and climate change – a hot topic, and one that inspired festival director Ivan Trujillo to announce his intention to reduce by 50% the festival’s print publications in the future.

Undoubtedly,  the choice made a couple of years ago to move the festival center and main venues from the heart of the city to Guadalajara’s huge Exhibition Centre and the nearby Hilton Hotel, located in the monotonous  outskirts of Mexico’s second largest city, has  provided the necessary space to successfully expand the market and its various activities such as  co-production meetings and workshops.

On the other hand, for the guests  and juries mainly focused on watching films, the different  screening locations — in two shopping-mall multiplexes and an amazingly well-equipped theater within a university building – were quite far away, except for those which took place in the barely isolated, improvised screening hall in the Expo, right next to the noisy film market, or in two equally inadequate huge conference rooms in the hotel.

On the other hand, the warm welcoming and friendliness of the volunteers and festival staff, along with the social events and tequila parties organized almost every night by the festival, partly compensated for the feeling of being  disconnected from the real life of the city.


Unusual heavy rain poured on Guadalajara when the festival came finally to an end, but it didn’t spoil the festive ambience of the closing evening. The awards ceremony was a well organized and pleasantly diverting way of revealing the winners of the 30th edition. 

The jury of Guadalajara’s queer cinema Maguey competition, celebrating its fourth edition this year, chose the  Swedish film Something Must Break (Nånting måste gå sönder) by  Ester Martin Bergsmark for its award.

In the Ibero-American documentary section, the award went to a film from Chile, Tea Time (La Once), by Maite Alberdi, whereas Guatemalan writer-director Jayro Bustamente received two prizes, for best Ibero-American film and best director, for Ixcanul Volcano (Ixcanul), the winner of the Alfred Bauer Prize a month earlier at the Berlinale.

The prize for best debut film in the Ibero-American section went to Sebastian Schindel  from Argentina for The Boss, Anatomy of a Crime (El Patrón, radiografía de un crimen). And Mexican first-time director Celso Garcia walked away with no less than four awards, for best script, a special jury prize in the Ibero-American fiction competition, the audience award as well as the Mexican film critics award, for his road movie The Thin Yellow Line (La Delgada Linea Amarilla), a masterfully crafted little gem, produced by Guillermo de Toro.

The Mezcal Award in the  Mexican feature film competition  went  to Gabriel Ripstein’s gripping arms trafficking  drama 600 Miles (600 Millas), starring Tim Roth as an ATF agent who is kidnapped by a young Mexican arms runner; it also received the award for best first feature at the recent Berlinale. 

Last but not the least, our FIPRESCI Award, selected among the 21 films of the same Mezcal  competition, went unanimously to the haunting first feature-length documentary by Argentine-Mexican filmmaker Natalia Bruschtein, Time Suspended (Tiempo Supsendido), a film “that illuminates the tragedy of the ‘Disappeared’ in Argentina in the 1970s through the story of a woman who fights to maintain national memory even as her own memory slips away.”

It also received a special jury prize in the Ibero-American documentary competition.

Edited by Godfrey Cheshire