The 8th Hola Mexico Film Festival returns to Melbourne with a powerful and diverse mix of contemporary films. We asked Festival Director Samuel Doeuk for his thoughts on where Mexico stands in the world of cinema.
I think there’s many ways to answer this question. But it doesn’t hurt to look back to the year 2006, which is the year Hola Mexico first started in Australia. The year 2006 was a landmark year for Mexican filmmaking for two main reasons:
1) The 226 law entered into action. The 226 allowed Mexican companies to give 10% of their taxes to the production of Mexican cinematographic production.
2) Los 3 Amigos of Mexican filmmaking released Oscar-contending films – Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu (Babel), Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Arzkaban) and Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth).
Before 2006, Mexican films were recognised randomly and had little notoriety, with scattered movies shown in festivals and even fewer Mexican actors achieving stardom.
Fast-forward to 2013 and film production in Mexico has increased from 12 titles a year to between 80 and 100. And the quality? Well, Mexican films have taken home awards at major festivals like Cannes, including two of the films screening this year at Hola Mexico – After Lucia (Después de Lucia) and Light After Darkness (Post tenebras lux) – while other Mexican offerings have entered competitions at Berlin, Sundance and Venice film festivals.
Meanwhile, companies like Canana (owned by actors Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal), Lemon Films and Carlos Reyagadas’ Mantarraya have started producing quality films that have secured international sales and snagged awards. Without a doubt, since 2006 Mexican cinema has been enchanting audiences and critics alike.
But not everything has been accolades and good reviews. Mexican cinema is yet to win over Mexican audiences. It wasn’t until recent years, with the release of films like Hell (El infierno) and Presumed Guilty (Presunto Culpable), that Mexican cinema started to gain traction within Mexico itself. Now these films are favourites of Mexican audiences.
Despite their success, much didn’t change until now.
This year, Mexican films are expected to make more money at the box office than any year since the Golden Age of Cinema. Some of this commercial success is owed to our opening night film, We Are The Nobles (Nosotros los Nobles), which quickly became a sensation at the box office, despite starring unknown actors and being the debut film from Gary Alazraki. Resonating with audiences, in less than five weeks the film shattered the box-office record previously held by Carlos Carrera’s film The Crime of Father Amaro (El crimen del Padre Amaro).
To date, We Are The Nobles has made more than $37 million USD at the Mexican box-office and is still to be released in the United States this November.
Just last month, another Mexican film, Instructions Not Included, directed by and starring Mexican megastar Eugenio Derbez, was released in the USA and became the top Spanish-language film of all time in America, surpassing the $37.6 million earned by del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.
Another interesting development regarding Mexico’s efforts in Hollywood is the release of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, which is amongst the most acclaimed films of the year. Gravity has resonated with audiences and critics alike, becoming an early favourite to take out Best Film at the Academy Awards in 2014.
So where in the world of cinema is Mexico today? It is everywhere. It is popular. It is a winner and it sure is fantastic! Festivals know Carlos Reygadas and Michel Franco are formidable filmmakers that will attract audiences, today Hollywood realises that Mexican audiences will follow Mexican comedies with stars like Eugenio Derbez, and directors such as Alfonso Cuaron will continue to create cinematic history.
At the end of the day, there’s no one thing uniting all Mexican films, but we can definitely celebrate the achievements of Mexican nationals in the world of cinema. We hope you catch some of the best Mexican cinema at the upcoming 8th Hola Mexico Film Festival!
– Festival Director, Samuel Doeuk, Hola Mexico Film Festival
The 8th Hola Mexico Film Festival screens at ACMI from Thursday 24 October – Tuesday 29 October 2013.