A year ago, when vaccines were still a promise and in Mexico the contagion of coronavirus remained high, the most important film festival in the country resisted closing its doors. The Morelia Film Festival in 2020 bet on a hybrid format, face-to-face but with few people, and thousands of viewers watching movies virtually. The great honoree at the time, the Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who was celebrating 20 years of Love Dogs, attended the opening in front of a room without a red carpet or spectators. “A country without cinema is a blind country,” he said then. A year later the vaccines arrived, the cases fell, and the country is not yet blind: it has a lot of cinema to show. The 19th edition of the Morelia Film Festival begins this Wednesday and decided to keep the only good thing that the pandemic brought: the hybrid format.
“What we did last year was very brave because there were still no vaccines, we did it with a lot of security measures,” says the director and founder of the Festival, Daniela Michel. “To tell you that I always have a team of 100 people and last year we were only eight people. The others were in virtuality ”.
But Michel also explains that before the pandemic, no more than 90,000 people could see the festival’s films. In 2020, with the new format, more than a million viewers were able to watch the premieres from their homes – through Cinépolis Klic, FilminLatino or Channel 22. “I think it is something that we will maintain in the future,” says Michel about the face-to-face and virtual format. “I imagine that we will have to make adjustments, because there will be distributors or producers that eventually will not want their films to go to platforms once the cinemas are well reactivated. But there will be ways to keep digital for the Festival ”.
The 19th edition of the Morelia Film Festival begins this Wednesday the 27th until Monday, November 1, Day of the Dead, and will have in its programming three of the most awarded films in all the festivals in the world: Annetteby French director Leos Carax on the toxic masculinity of a comedian; Memoryby the Thai Apichatpong Weerasethakul who touches on the issue of violence in Colombia; The French Dispatch by American Wes Anderson, who narrates the adventures of a couple of chroniclers inspired by the magazine The New Yorker. Among the Latin American awarded this year in other festivals will be Box, by Venezuelan Lorenzo Vigas, about a Mexican boy who travels miles in search of his father; and Fire night by Mexican Tatiana Huezo, about mothers and daughters who try to avoid drug trafficking violence in a poppy field in Guerrero.
The festival’s competition has awarded Mexican productions since 2003, and this year 702 films were presented, of which 99 were competing in the official selection. There are films about corruption in the public force in Mexico City (A Police Movie, Alonso Ruizpalacios), homophobia in political parties in a conservative state (90 days to July 2, Rafael Martínez-García), or the isolation that patients with coronavirus live in a hospital in Tlatelolco, in a long-awaited documentary by director Juan Carlos Rulfo, Letters at a Distance.
“The great wealth of Mexican cinema is that it has a great variety of themes,” says the director of the Festival. “Among the films in competition this year is Nudo Mixteco about a community in Oaxaca; another called Hope, Soledad on a pilgrimage to a holy place; The Hole in the Fence on the issue of racism in the Catholic Church; or The other tom about a mother who fights to defend her son’s health. I think that what there is is a great mosaic of Mexican cinema ”.
On the diversity of genre and not of themes, Michel says that of the 702 works that were nominated this year –between documentaries or fiction, feature films or short films– only 27% were made by female directors. “There are years when there are only 10% of female directors [entre los postulados]”, He says. “The problem comes from a large and complex chain that has been questioning until very recently. The Cinematographic Training Center now has a quota of 50% male and 50% female students, but when I went to CCC many years ago we were only 3 women and 18 men. That is changing very little by little, and in the end the result of all this comes to the film festivals ”.
The director clarifies that “although there were very few women this year, we believe that percentage that arrived had an incredible quality and we selected them.” Among the 99 finalist films, 40% of those that were selected are directed by women. “Also every year the number of indigenous filmmakers increases,” says Michel. Looking at the most recent years, in 2018 and 2019 there were only 4 films selected with indigenous filmmakers; in 2020 the number increased to 8 selected films; in 2021 there are 9, two of these in the category of 10 best Mexican feature films.
Those two selected indigenous directors, Yolanda Cruz with Hope, Soledad and Ángeles Cruz with Nudo Mixteco, present in Morelia their first feature films focused on the history of women trying to find ways out of the grief of a mother, or a couple, or the difficulties of migrating from a Mexican city or from the United States to a small Oaxacan town.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.