GUADALAJARA FILM FESTIVAL - DERAILED!

By Michael Kutza

(Founder & Artistic Director,  Chicago International Film Festival)

I've been attending this Mexican Film Festival for years and always found it a terrific event and an unparalleled opportunity to see what's new in Mexican feature and documentary film production. Until now!  What's valuable about a national film event is just that…it's NATIONAL. You screen all the latest, newest product of that country - like the noted Hungarian Film Festival every February, which shows only the entirety of the year’s Hungarian films. But here was the Guadalajara Film Festival, opening with the most recent John Water's feature "A DIRTY SHAME" and closing with "KINSEY" and in between a 12-film Greek film Tribute, and a tribute to Mia Farrow for her service with UNICEF plus collections of films from South America, Central America and Latin America. In fact the festival must have set a new record, with 22 different sidebar sections!  But what happened to the Mexican films I just flew 6 hours here to see?  Well, they where there, somewhere, but they took a lot of finding.

The Festival’s new style is probably a vast improvement for the public, able to see the world of film in their own home town, but for guests from overseas,  it has lost its prime purpose, its concentration on Mexican cinema. The Festival no doubt suffers from being an organization run by a university that regularly changes its staff and leadership. The changed style of Guadalajara is a big loss to the world press and international festival and cinematheque programmers who have used the festival for so many years to discover what is new in the thriving Mexican cinema.  “International” festivals are two-a-penny.  This was the only Mexican festival.  Sadly a lot of this year’s guests were saying they will not be back for yet another international film festival.

All of that being said, did we see anything that made the trip worthwhile?  Absolutely - once you  found them! A few first time feature film directors stood out. THE MAGICIAN (El Mago) by Jaime Aparicio is the story of a mortally sick street magician who spends his last weeks seeking redemption through resolving the relationships in his life. DISTANT NEWS (Noticias Lejanas) by another newcomer, Ricardo Benet, is an often harrowing story, with a brutally realistic setting, about a quarry worker who sets out to resolve old family traumas.  The famous Mexican cult director Jamie Humberto Hermosillo had a winner with TWO AURORAS (Dos Auroras), the story of an incestuous love affair that ends in not just tragedy, but cannibalism!

But it would have been a great deal more economical for people looking for national cinema to head to Mexico City and see the latest films right at the source.