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Mexico: 2011Guanajuato International Film Festival (GIFF)

 Formerly known as Expresion en Corto, the Guanajuato International Film Festival was held from July 21 – 31 in San Miguel de Allende and the state capital Guanajuato. It has remained the largest international Mexican film festival with more than 3000 submissions from about 10o countries presenting in its final program 350 productions. The festival still receives most of its funding from the state of Guanajuato and other public agencies offering screenings, conferences, and other festival activities at no costs to the public. Programming for this growing event has been exceptionally comprehensive over the last years in addition to the customary standard fare of film festivals. Every year there   is a tribute to an important foreign country distinguished by its film industry. There are   comprehensive selections of shorts, feature films and documentaries, including a focus on first productions and student films, as well as homages to important film directors, production rallies, pitching and incubator markets and seminars. Among GIFF’s unique components are the Women in Film and Television International sessions, the MexiCannes a summer residency program arranged with the Cannes Film Festival, the Oscar screenings and what still remains the biggest program of shorts in all genres presented in Latin America. Over the last years the proportion of Mexican and International feature films offered has been grown steadily.
 The new designation of the festival as the Guanajuato International Film Festival reflects the decade long shift. While once this was a festival specializing in short films it has now developed its international focus and reputation presenting large a platform of feature films and related film festival services. The new name also draws more attention to the education and film activities of the state Guanajuato and its attraction for foreign tourist. It is noteworthy that this film festival’s tourist traffic has generated close to an estimated US $1.5 million this year. The state tourist office considers the festival visitors as crucial marketing tools. The 2011 edition brought other innovations.  In San Miguel a new festival venue opened, the Cinema Aldama, an old but completely refurbished film theater that had not been used for many years.  More electronic subtitling was provided in both cities for the films screened and a new program was added.  The festival continued with its unique and popular special screenings of horror films, Movies with Mummy in San Miguel’s graveyards, the Midnight Madness screenings of innovative erotic films at the San Miguel Kunsthaus, a private art gallery, and in the underground tunnels of Guanajuato. What was added this year was a "Documentaries with an Impact" selection, attracting an overflow audience. This program presented feature length documentaries from Mexico (PRESUMED GUILTY), the USA (WARTORN 1861-2010), and Cambodia (ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE) which had demonstrated consequences. GIFF is the first international film festival offering such program.  
 Against the background of a comprehensive screening program with Korea feature films, documentaries and shorts several industry panels on distribution and co-production served to enhance film cooperation between the Republic of Korea and Mexico. Among noteworthy  productions were Kim Tae-Young’s LATE AUTUMN, an  original fascinating  portray of  24 hours spent together by a woman on leave from a prison with  the male companion for hire of older woman  set in Seattle’s American Korean community.  Park Jungbum’s feature THE JOURNALS OF MUSAN is a superb analysis of how a North Korean defector survives in the slums of Seoul. The restored version of   Jon-hwa Ahn’s 1934 silent film CROSS ROADS OF YOUTH is an intriguing period presentation which was narrated by an actor who   gave his voice to the different characters in the film with the story line supported by a live music band.
 In the main program several features by first time film makers were significant.  Some had been cherry picked from other festivals, such as Richard Atoyade’s   SUBMARINE a hilarious coming of age story from England and Gustavo Taretto’s MEDIANERAS, an Argentine, and German, Spanish co-production. MEDIANERAS comes close to a perfect visual and narrative demonstration of the impact urban life in the city Buenos Aires has on everyday life of individuals, on their isolation and segregation but eventual coming together. The US American director Victoria Mahoney’s first feature YELLING TO THE SKY is a passionate film addressing the survival against all odds of a teenager from a peer group engulfed in drugs, alcohol and orgies. Mahoney directs from her gut in part because she grew up in that setting but, I suspect also because she had no professional training as film maker predefining her approach.  BOMBAY BEACH which received the award for the best documentary serves as another demonstration of a first time director who has no prior professional training as a film maker. In this most sensitive and compelling coverage of  the everyday life  and struggles of  underclass family members living in the poorest California community  at Slaton Sea , constant insights are provided about  the injuries of  poverty and the ingenuity of survival. The film maker Alma Har’el succeeds since she lived for a long time in this community and gained the trust the trust of its members.  Not working with a crew she did all the sound and film recording by herself with small equipment thus receding into the background.  YELLING TO THE SKY and BOMBAY BEACH are original and compelling productions and may be successful because their creative directors have no professional training. These productions and other festival entries evidence that film schools are not the royal road to creative film making.

 Ever expanding film schools (like law schools) have become profit centers for the universities in which they are embedded and have certainly contributed to a flood of film productions and of  certified film, or video makers. Yet their substantive contribution or that of the immense cottage industry of film training programs to creative film making has yet to be shown. As Paul Schrader observed during the festival, film schools have become a racket and “it has become more and more difficult to find creative writers for to the film industry”. His comments should be taken seriously since Schrader has written more than 20 screen plays and directed 22 films in a career spanning more than 30 years working closely with Scorcese, Spielberg, Lucas, and Coppola. A critical seminar on professional training programs and the film job market would certainly enhance next year’s edition of the Guanajuato International Film Festival.
 
 

Claus Mueller, New York  Correspondent
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About Mostra Internazionale d Arte Cinematografica Venice


Oldest festival in the world, MOSTRA is Non-specialised competitive event for features and shorts. Two competing sections and three Prizes: the Golden Lion, the Lion of the Year and the Lion of the Future to best director`s debut film.

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