Emergent Mexican Cinema

in CinéLatino – 32nd Rencontres de Toulouse

by Xavier-Daniel

The legacy of Mexican Cinema in this year’s program is pinpointed by Xavier-Daniel who also focuses in particular on Sanctorum (Santuario) by Joshua Gil, a film which both benefitted from and was rewarded, not least, for its visual and sound design.

The narrative and visual innovation has been outstanding in Mexican filmmakers – from Luis Buñuel’s pioneering surrealistic period in Mexico, with the films The Exterminating Angel (El angel exterminador, 1962) and Simon of the Desert (Simon del Desierto, 1965), through to Joshua Gil’s current emergent cinema with Sanctorum (Santuario), via the outspoken Jaime Humberto Hermosillo, with Dona Herlinda and Her Son (Doña Herlinda y su hijo, 1985), eXXXorcisms (eXXXorcismos (2002); and Arturo Ripstein, with The Place Without Limits (El lugar sin límites, 1978); this last title was also used to identify the current LGBT Film Festival in Ecuador.

In this global review of a provocative Latin American cinema, I would like to highlight Alberto Fuguet. Maybe the Chilean writer and filmmaker, with an indented sexual language, was inspired by his admiration for the prolific Mexican homosexual writer Luis Zapata. In Cola de mono (2018) he performs a decomposition of the prototype macho concept in the family union, by showing incestuous love with the same sex father-son and fraternal relations, as well as the recent struggle for the ‘normalization’ of so-called pornographic cinema in its controversial and current form with Always Say Yes (Siempre sí, 2019), whose motto could be ‘Porn to Power’, where he is breaking taboos and highlighting the pleasure of sex between men.

There is currently an extensive list for the making of short films and comes with the support of IMCINE (The Mexican Institute of Cinematography) for the production of short films, which serves as a platform for future filmmakers, and also gives support to filmmakers and graduates of film schools. For the final
calls in 2019, there were 375 projects submitted, including fiction, animation and documentary.

In the last decade, a great number of independent short films have been selected for many festivals as a quality cinema to be exported, especially regarding LGTIB themes: Vapor (2010) by Kaveh Nabatian, made in co-production with Canada; Trémulo by Roberto Fiesco, winner of the 2015 Ariel Award, following his now legendary David (2005); Wandering Clouds (Nubes flotantes, 2013) and I Am Happiness On Earth (Yo soy la felicidad de este mundo, 2014) by Julián Hernández, winner of two Teddy
Awards at the Berlinale for this pupil of JH Hermosillo, another icon of Mexican gay cinema.

The prestige achieved by Mexican cinema is reaffirmed by the grants obtained from abroad, including funding from Europe, films that have achieved the collaboration of the Sundance Film Institute, or have been awarded at the Sundance Film Festival, such as Identifying Features (Sin señas particulares, 2020),
by another emergent talent, Fernanda Valadez, winner of the Best Screenplay Award and the Audience Award here. Otherwise, there was the recognition in Europe for Sanctorum (Santuario) by Joshua Gil (Mexico, in co-production with Qatar and Dominican Republic, 2019), which was chosen for the Closing Night at the Venice Film Festival, and also won two awards at this festival.

Sanctorum is a visual effects feast that is enhanced by its sound design, which Gil said took up to a year and was crafted by sound designer-supervising sound editor Sergio Diaz, whose multi-awarded credits include such gems as Roma (2018), by the genius filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón, and Babel (2006) by Alejandro González Iñárritu (the director responsible for Amores perros (2000).

With a poignant and ethereal point of view, Sanctorum captures, under a unique landscape, the harsh daily tribulations of rural communities in the Mexican drug trafficking crisis. This shocking mystical film serves as a social denunciation and at the same time a message of hope.

Joshua Gil debuted with the award-winning La Maldad in 2015, and subsequently obtained a one-year mentorship from the Tribeca Film Institute for Sanctorum at the Impulso Morelia, the work-in-progress program of the 14th Morelia International Film Festival.

The producer Carlos Sosa explained the making of Sanctorum in this way: “We wanted to make this film in order to denounce the unfortunate circumstances that Mexico is living in, and where the government hardly helps to the vulnerable communities, but above all, it’s a call for peace and harmony in our country.”
For Joshua Gil, “Sanctorum (Santuario) approaches the socio-political conflict in Mexico from the perspective of its original people. Like many other enlisted natives, a soldier lives a dilemma: now he is most of the film in the Mixtec language,
placing the viewer as an invader of this sanctuary.

Edited by Steven Yates