CREDIT: LOS CABOS FILM FESTIVAL
MEXICO CITY — Launching in 2012, backed by industry heavyweights such as agent Micah Green and Mexican mogul Alex García, Los Cabos Intl. Film Festival was designed, in an inspired move, as a U.S., Mexico, Canada crossroads.
It has proved the right meet at the right time in the right place. Few film events anywhere in the world have grown so fast. Below, 10 key points about 2017’s Festival, which unspools Nov. 8-12 in Baja California:
1.- MORE FEST, SAME BASIC INDUSTRY
The 6th Los Cabos Fest, the first under producer, line-producer and former film commissioner Hugo Villa, is certainly much more of a festival, adding a tribute to Paul Schrader, World Highlights, including a clutch of foreign-language Oscar front-runners, – Sebastian Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman,” Samuel Maoz’s “Foxtrot” – and American Specials. In one, Margot Robbie delivers a “delectable performance” as Tonya Harding in Craig Gillespie’s “I, Tonya,” Variety wrote; it called Gillian Robespierre’s “Landline” “a lively wisp of ‘90s New York nostalgia.” As superhero franchises sometimes falter, “actors and the studios are looking for more interesting content and achieving excellence,” Villa said.
2.- MEXICO’S INDUSTRY ATTRACTION REMAINS
And that is likely to attract, one more year, a notable U.S. delegation to Los Cabos. Following Eugenio Dérbez’s “Instructions Not Included” which grossed $44.5 million in the U.S. in 2013, three of the six highest-grossing foreign-language movies in the U.S. have been Mexican. Mexican talent is crossing over ever more into the U.S.; backed by Eficine tax coin and state subsidies, Mexican producers can step up to the plate with some muscle on co-productions with both the U.S. and Canada.
3.- HIGHER-PROFILE INDUSTRY PLAYS
There’s no new Dérbez or Greg Alazraki in this year’s line-up. But Martin Scorsese producer Gastón Pavlovich has a first option on “Dive,” by David Pablos, who impressed at Cannes’ 2015 Un Certain Regard with “The Chosen Ones”; Cannes (“Heli,” 2013) and Venice (“The Untamed”) best director winner Amat Escalante is producing “Rio Perdido,” from Gerardo Naranjo (“Miss Bala”) and Emiliano Rocha (“We Are the Flesh”), a summer camp-set social allegory.
4.- BUZZED-UP TITLES
Los Cabos’ world premieres are largely grouped in its Mexico Primero five-pic section and, in an industry sense, Work in Progress and Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund projects. Very few have been seen or reported on. That said, there’s a rave buzz out of a Morelia Fest Sundance Lab on Tatiana Huezo’s new project “Noche de fuego,” which marks the celebrated young Mexican documentary filmmaker’s fiction feature debut. Of movie projects, there’s good word too on Evan Prosofsky’s “Grand Prairie” and Trisha Ziff’s “Israela and Talleen.” Unveiled at August’s Sanfic Fest in Chile and starring Pablo Larrain regular Alfredo Castro, “My Tender Matador” marks one of the most talked-about productions coming out of Chile. In Works in Progress, there’s good word on Lila Avilés “La Camarista” and Kyzza Terrazas’ “Bayoneta.” Los Cabos itself promises further discoveries.
5.- LUIS GERARDO MENDEZ
Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna act – in English and Spanish – direct and produce, taking productions to another level in international profile through their participation. Could Luis Gerardo Mendez go the same way? Los Cabos 2017 certainly is his festival. Best known a comic in the U.S. and Latin America, thanks to “The Noble Family” and Netflix’s “Club of Crows,” Méndez stars in Mexican main competition entry “Road to Mars,” a big late-year release from Mexican distributor Videocine, which is two parts road movie and last-chance romance, one part comedy. He strays even further from type, Mexico and language in Kyzza Terrazas’ English-spoken “Bayoneta” as a Mexican boxer trying to make it in Finland. Represented by Hollywood’s Paradigm, having taken an associate producer and co-writing credit on “Club of Crows,” and an associate-producer credit again on “Road to Mars,” a hyphenate future beckons.
In “Road to Mars,” Mendez plays an alien who takes on human form, or so his character thinks, then falls in love; Rafael Mariño’s “Yesterday Wonder I Was” has an entity transmigrating between human bodies; set in 1860, Mexican horror Western “My Demons Never Swore Solitude” portrays a gold-panner sensing he’s lived scenes from his life before. “There’s a sense of a search which goes beyond a magical to a near metaphysical realism in many of the Mexican films we’ve selected which still, however, express our common emotional baggage,” Villa reflected.
7.- TV SERIES
“Local creatives are breaking the paradigms of what storytelling has traditionally looked like in Latin America,” Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, said in August in Mexico City. Villa agrees: “Mexico produces highly-interesting personal films and well-produced, globally interesting series.” Again, the TV series projects at Los Cabos are largely unknown propositions. But two, with some profile, underscore the ambition of current Latin American TV drama: The 17th-century “Penumbra,” from Diagonal, the Colombian producer on “Narcos,” has a brilliant young woman astronomist in a Caribbean hell-hole port settlement, fighting a battle of wits with a serial killer; from Panorama, producers of Gael Garcia starrer “Museum,” “Litempo” is set in the early ‘60s at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, a hot-bed of CIA counter-espionage whose importance was underscored by last week’s declassification of 500 CIA files related to Kennedy’s assassination.
8.- PAUL SCHRADER
Expect Paul Schrader’s tribute press conference, whatever he talks about, to be one of Los Cabos’ highlights. Few of the New Hollywood filmmakers have stayed their own auteur course as much as Schrader – Variety praises “First Reformed,” his latest movie, as a “testament” spanning his quintessential “high/low art/pulp” obsessions – or are so brutally frank in their opinions.
“He’s one of Hollywood’s most intellectual and metaphysically-involved directors who’s been able to escape the Hollywood grinder. ‘First Reformed’s’ powerful visuals really and formal search really moved me,” Villa said.
9.- IMCINE-CANADA MEDIA FUND PARTNERSHIP
Geographically, the U.S. is Mexico’s neighbor. In film terms, however, Canada might be closer, harnassing public-sector film subsidies and targeted incentives. On Thursday, Mexico’s Imcine film institute will announce a joint venture with the Canada Media Fund. Just what they reveal remains to be seen. But state subsidy systems, such as new bilateral co-production funds, tend to have an immediate impact on Latino production sectors.
10.- ALL TOGETHER NOW: ME CABO
Rather than spread out along the Baja coast, industry delegates are all put up at ME Cabo, which become for three days a superb networking facility set against a Pacific Ocean backdrop. When it comes to context, doing business has rarely been so pleasurable.