Picking up the slack where our local festivals have not is the Hola Mexico Film Festival (HMFF), which—in its second year touring the U.S.—has included San Francisco among its roster of cities. And just in time, as 2010 brings about a monumental occasion for Mexico: the centennial of the Mexican Revolution and the bicentennial of the Independence movement.
Founded in 2006 by Samuel Douek with the express goal of exposing the international community to the creativity, ingenuity and charm of Mexican culture through film, Douek has organized a diverse but well-edited selection of films which allow viewers to experience the unique walks of life that characterize Mexican identity and culture and which exposes Mexican directors, producers and actors to the mainstream US market. At this stage, HMFF is the largest tribute to Mexican film in the world.
Alamar / To the Sea
DIR. Pedro González-Rubio (Mexico 2009, 75min, 35mm)
One of two entries in the current HMFF lineup that have just recently screened at SFIFF53, HMFF affords the opportunity to view González-Rubio's sophomore feature Alamar for those who missed it at the San Francisco International. I caught the film at its world premiere at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival and wrote it up then. It's been picked up as Film Movement's July subscription film.
Bala Mordida / Bitten Bullet
DIR. Diego Muñoz Vega (Mexico 2009, 112min, 35mm)
Cast: Damián Alcázar, Dagoberto Gama, Octavio Castro
Mauro Hernandez is a young cop who believes he can make a difference. But when he gets caught in the middle of a drug deal that involves his commander, things start to fall apart. Now Mauro has to decide whether he'll become part of the system or if he has the courage to fight back. In one of the best performances by Damián Alcázar (La Ley de Herodes, El Crimen Del Padre Amaro), first time director Diego Muñoz Vega tells a chilling story that depicts how the police functions on a day by day basis.
As Dennis West writes for Cineaste: "Diego Muñoz Vega's ponderous and truculent police drama Bala mordida ... sketches such an unrelenting vision of ingrained corruption in the Mexico City police force that a foreigner may be left wondering just how that nation's levels of bureaucracy function and co-exist. Here we have one government agency, the Mexican National Film Institute (Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografia), a co-producer of this major feature film, using its funding to relentlessly criticize another government agency, a municipal police force. Both entities live in each other's shadow in the same city."
DIR. Nicolás Pereda (Mexico/Canada/France 2009, 86min, 35mm)
Cast: Gabino Rodriguez, Teresa Sanchez
Gabino, a 24-year-old man, works as a moving-truck driver in Mexico City. He lives with his mother, Teresa, with whom he has a distant relationship. She wishes Gabino was more like Miguel, her other son, who she believes has a decent job and a good lifestyle. Miguel, however, doesn't care much about his family and never visits them.
As Neil Young dispatched from the San Sebastian Film Festival, Perpetuum Mobile "proved unexpectedly hilarious to many, though some were left bemused, baffled or bored by the quotidian verisimilitude of Pereda's approach. Every film festival has no shortage of these 33 1/3 r.p.m. enterprises among its selections these days, but the lo-fi, video-shot Perpetuum Mobile is executed with an unfussy panache that proves weirdly compelling—and, after the credits have rolled—hauntingly resonant." Dispatching to Twitch from the Guadalajara International Film Festival—where Perpetuum Mobile won Best Mexican Feature—Todd Brown wrote: "Anyone with a bit of Latin can explain to you the joke built in to the title of Mexican slacker drama Perpetuum Mobile. Because, despite what the title may imply, this is a film in which nothing ever happens. And that's kind of the point."
El Estudiante / The Student
DIR. Roberto Girault Facha (Mexico 2009, 98min, 35mm)
Cast: Jorge Lavat, Siouzana Melikian, Pablo Cruz Guerrero
Set against the colorful atmosphere of Guanajuato, this comedy captures the adventure of Chano, a retired 70-year-old man who decides—after mixed recommendations from his family—to enroll in college. His presence impacts on his classmates and breaches the generational gap. Chano gives his college classmates advice, and in the process learns a few lessons along the way.
Tres piezas de amor en un fin de semana / Love On A Wknd
DIR. Salvador Aguirre (Mexico 2009, 90min, 35mm)
Cast: Adriana Barraza, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Paola Núñez
Three social classes. Three different worlds. Three love pieces during a weekend prior to the most controversial presidential election in Mexico. Intimate stories of couples that did not change history. Starring Daniel Giménez Cacho (Arrancame La Vida) and Oscar®-nominated actress Adriana Barraza (Babel).
Vaho / Becloud
DIR. Alejandro Gerber Bicecci (Mexico 2009, 117min, 35mm)
Becloud is the story of Andrés, José and Felipe, three young boys facing post-adolescent limbo. The memory of a man's lynching—indirectly caused by them during their childhood—brings them together and at the same time separates them. The story takes place in Iztapalapa, a humble and forgotten area, lavish in its fervent demonstrations of faith but, undoubtedly, the most arid place in Mexico City.
As reported earlier on The Evening Class, Becloud was selected for the Global Lens 2010 series and—based upon that association—is being featured as HMFF's opening night film and toasted at HMFF's Opening Night Fiesta at Mexico DF with live music and cocktails (tickets for the film and fiesta are $25). Director Alejandro Gerber Bicecci will be in attendance to introduce the film and for a post-screening Q&A.
As Andrew Schenker writes at The Village Voice: "Bicecci's sophisticated flashback structure makes palpable the sense of buried guilt running through generations."
Naco Es Chido / Kitch Is Cool
DIR. Sergio Arau (Mexico 2009, 90min, HDCAM)
Cast: Yareli Arizmendi, Sergio Arau, Francisco Barrios, Armando Vega Gil
Directed by Sergio Arau (A Day Without A Mexican), Naco Es Chido is a rock comedy. In 1988, members of the famous Mexican rock band Botellita de Jerez disappeared along with the new record after a fist fight in a taxi cab. The story evolves 20 years later when the famous missing recordings are found in a junk yard. This incites the investigation to search for members of the band and the discovery of the plot that caused the disintegration of the group and that threatens them yet again.
Sucedio En Un Dia / It Happens In One Day
DIR. Julián Hernández, Gustavo Loza, Daniel Gruener, Mariana Chenillo, Issa López, Ignacio Ortiz Cruz, Alejandro Lozano, Beto Gómez (Mexico 2010, 102min, HDCAM)
Cast: Dolores Heredia, Irene Azuela, Dagoberto Gama, Adriana Barraza, Joaquín Cosio
Eight talented and experienced directors have 24 hrs to shoot and edit a short film in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Not your typical short film program, Sucedio En Un Dia, also known as Rally Malayerba PRO, show us a mix of short films that promise to make you laugh and cry.
La Mitad Del Mundo / The Half of The World
DIR. Jaime Ruiz Ibáñez (Mexico 2009, 92min, 35mm)
Cast: Hansel Ramirez, Paulina Gaitan, Ignacio Guadalupe, Fernando Becerril
Mingo is a young, shy and innocent young man with a mild mental retardation. He is a romantic and a kind of poet. After an unusual sexual awakening, he gets involved with an older woman who introduces him to the highest pleasures and introduces him to some of her friends, she makes a lover out of him; although he surrenders to such temptations, Mingo is secretly in love with a girl that lives near him. Soon enough his adventures become common knowledge and that awakens his mother's worries.
Norteado / Northless
DIR. Rigoberto Perezcano (Mexico 2009, 95min, 35mm)
For those who missed Norteado at this year's San Francisco International, HMFF provides a second opportunity. Andrés travels from Oaxaca to Tijuana to cross the US border. Things don't result as planned and he has to stay in Tijuana where he starts working in a grocery store; there, he meets Elia, Cata and Asensio. What Andres finds in Tijuana makes him think about what he's about to do and become aware of what he's leaving behind. Norteado talks about the illusion that the United States represents for those who decide to cross the border searching for a better life.
As Jay Weissberg details at Variety: "Rigoberto Perezcano's understated, warm, non-exploitative take on a young man's failed crossings, and the temporary life he has in Tijuana, reps an impressive debut and heralds a much-needed new voice." At the Village Voice, Melissa Anderson concurs that Perezcano's "deceptively modest first feature is expansive enough to focus not only on the frustrations (and perils) of wanting to be elsewhere but also on the pleasures, however fleeting, to be found in transitional spaces." And as synopsized at the LA Weekly: "With a mostly unadorned, documentary-like (but beautifully photographed) style that allows for the dignity of broken souls to rise above a harsh environment, Perezcano nudges his talented actors toward moments of quietly powerful clarity, without histrionics or predictably fated ends. What's left is a sobering, charming and ultimately moving depiction of the geographical and emotional spaces that exist between places left behind and the ones we're in a hurry to get to."
Northless has garnered several awards at the Rotterdam, San Sebastián, Thessaloniki, and Marrakech film festivals, including the FIPRESCI prize at the Bratislava International Film Festival.
Oveja Negra / Black Sheep
DIR. Humberto Hinojosa Ozcariz (Mexico 2009, 85min, 35mm)
Two friends that work on a ranch herding sheep are fed up with their mistreatment by their boss. They come up with a plan to steal the sheep and sell them at the Mexican-American border. Jeronimo, the boss's son, will do anything in his power to catch them and not let them get away with anything that someday will rightfully be his.
Dispatching to Cineaste from the Guadalajara International Film Festival, Dennis West writes: "The best Mexican fiction feature I came upon was the young screenwriter-director Humberto Hinojosa Oscariz’s rural drama Black Sheep, set deep in the contemporary—and violence-prone—Mexican countryside. Many of the elements of this narrative hark back to musty Mexican melodramas and ranch comedies from the 1940s: the brutal and authoritarian hacendado (big landowner); his pampered son, a Mexican macho, who as a matter of course runs amuck; the thoroughly exploited peons who everlastingly toil on the ranch; and, of course, the inevitable class conflict in its many manifestations—from rustled sheep to affairs of the heart. Perhaps Hinojosa Oscariz's principal achievement is to creatively mix comedy and tragedy in order to make these characters well rounded yet unpredictable, and, even, human. The village priest, for instance, is not some sort of predictable stereotype. He routinely purloins funds destined for the poor to straightforwardly satisfy his selfish and all-too-human desire to buy himself the very latest model TV. In an unusual turn of events as far as the awarding of prizes at international film festivals goes, Black Sheep captured both the FIPRESCI Prize for the best Mexican opera prima and also the Prize of the Public. Seldom do the general admission ticket holders and the supposedly sophisticated international critics make identical artistic decisions."
Los Que Se Quedan / Those Who Remain
DIR. Juan Carlos Rulfo and Carlos Hagerman (Mexico 2009, 96min, 35mm)
Those Who Remain is a film about the families of those who have crossed the border to the United States in search of better opportunities. A film that explores the melancholy, memories and identity of the families of those who have crossed the border. A film about absence, about the families whose lives are defined by the voids emigration has created.
Winner of the Mayahuel Award at the 2009 Guadalajara Film Festival and the Best Documentary Awards at the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival and the 2009 Biarritz International Festival of Latin American Cinema.
Los Herederos / The Inheritors
DIR. Eugenio Polgovsky (Mexico 2009, DVCAM)
At an early age children begin to work in the Mexican countryside. The Inheritors is a portrait of their lives and their daily struggle for survival. These children work farming, sculpting, and laboring in a myriad of other activities. They have inherited tools and techniques from their ancestors, but they have also inherited their day-by-day hardship. Generations pass, and child workers remain captive in a cycle of inherited poverty.
Winner of the Silver Ariel for Best Editing and Best Feature Length Documentary at the 2009 Ariel Awards and winner of Best Documentary at the 2009 Lima Latin American Film Festival. At The Hollywood Reporter, Neil Young characterizes The Inheritors as an awareness-raising "indictment" of child labor practices in modern rural Mexico.
Sexo, Pudor & Lágrimas / Sex, Shame & Tears
DIR. Antonio Cerrano (Mexico 1999, 109min, 35mm)
Cast: Demián Bichir, Susana Zabaleta, Cecilia Suárez
Winner of six major festival awards, this Mexican blockbuster is an outrageous comedy that explores the battle of the sexes-and the exes! Sex-deprived Ana is nearly out of her mind with longing, until her wild ex-boyfriend, Thomas, shows up to visit Ana and her husband. Filled with outrageous humor and penetrating drama, Sexo, Pudor & Lágrimas is tantalizing from start to finish!
Asesino En Serio / Murder Seriously
DIR. Antonio Urrutia (Mexico/Spain 2002, 84min, 35mm)
Cast: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Jesús Ochoa
A Mexican entry into the "hip crime" genre popularized by Quentin Tarantino. Detective Martinez has been assigned to investigate a series of very unusual murders. It appears to the detective that a serial killer has been eliminating women by pleasuring them to death. Asesino En Serio is a sexy crime thriller with a heavily comic slant.
Hola Mexico Film Festival Schedule
HMFF will be venued at Landmark's Embarcadero Cinemas from May 6 through May 11, 2010. Be sure to check out HMFF on Facebook.
Thursday, May 6
7:30 PM Becloud
Friday, May 7
1:00 PM Perpetuum Mobile
3:00 PM Kitch Is Cool
5:00 PM Northless
7:00 PM Alamar
9:00 PM Half of the World
Saturday, May 8
1:00 PM Black Sheep
3:00 PM Becloud
5:30 PM Love On a Wknd
7:20 PM Bitten Bullet
9:30 PM Sex, Shame & Tears
Sunday, May 9
1:00 PM The Student
3:00 PM The Inheritors
5:00 PM Those Who Remain
7:00 PM It Happens In One Day
9:00 PM Murder Seriously
Monday, May 10
1:00 PM Love On A Wknd
3:00 PM Northless
5:30 PM Half Of the World
7:30 PM Perpetuum Mobile
9:30 PM Black Sheep
Tuesday, May 11
1:00 PM Murder Seriously
3:00 PM Bitten Bullet
5:15 PM Kitch Is Cool
7:40 PM The Student
9:30 PM Those Who Remain
Landmark's Embarcadero Cinema
One Embarcadero Center, Promenade Level
San Francisco, CA
Cross-published on Twitch.