With all its glorious neorealism, crude imagery, provocative documentaries and some screwball comedy thrown in the mix, Mexican Cinema arrives in town this weekend.
In its ninth year, Tucson Cine México brings for its 2014 edition seven films that showcase the quality and diversity of filmmaking south of the border.
Recent history says Mexico’s filmmakers are on a roll: Alfonso Cuarón won this year’s Oscar for best director for “Gravity,” and two Mexican filmmakers have won this and last year’s prize for best director at Cannes, said Carlos A. Gutiérrez, president of Cinema Tropical, which distributes Latin American films in the United States.
“I would say Mexico is one of the countries with the most interesting cinemas in the world right now,” said Gutiérrez, who curates the films for Cine México.
Six of the seven coming to the festival will be screened for the first time in Arizona and “Los Insólitos Peces Gato” (“The Amazing Catfish”) will have its U.S. premiere.
The most acclaimed film in the festival is “Heli.” Gutiérrez said it has been hailed as a visionary work of art, a New Wave film about the effects of the drug trade, with gruesome scenes. Director Amat Escalante earned the best-director award at last year’s Cannes International Film Festival.
“I think its important to mention that it’s the second time in a row that a Mexican filmmaker wins that prize,” Gutiérrez said.
Another filmmaker worth following, said Gutiérrez, is Gary Alazraki, the man behind “We Are the Nobles.” A runaway hit in Mexico last year, the romp pokes fun at Mexico’s young, frivolous and unapologetic elites who have a taste for top brand clothes, premium cars and speak a quasi preppie far removed from street Mexican Spanish.
The film tells the story of Germán Noble, played by veteran movie star Gonzalo Vega, a millionaire who realizes his three kids are spoiled brats whose only quest in life is to overindulge. Noble’s solution is to pretend that he is bankrupt. He takes his kids to a dilapidated shack and tells them they must do the unthinkable: Work.
For Vega, 66, who had been unable to act for three years due to an illness, the film was not only a comeback movie, but also a second chance at an active life. He credits the film’s lighthearted comedy elements and challenge for lifting his spirits and getting him back on the acting track.
Vega and Alazraki will be in person at the screening Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Fox Theatre Downtown.
For Alazraki, 35, “We the Nobles” was his satirical way of portraying some of the snobs he grew up with, inspired by a few of his close relatives and friends, he said. He hopes his film’s box-office success inspires other Mexican filmmakers to move on from what he describes as personal, condescending films that for decades have been geared toward elites at the expense of the masses.
“I think that this success will make many new filmmakers take on more seriously the idea of making a cleaner cinema, where there is no nudity, no bullets, no kidnappings, no drug dealers, no cuss words,” he said.
The Tucson series kicks off with “Quebranto,” (“Disrupted”), by Roberto Fiesco, a documentary about “Fernando,” a former boy actor in Mexico who transforms into a woman. “La Jaula de Oro”(“The Golden Dream”) is Diego Quemada-Diez’s “immigrant thriller” about four boys who perilously head north atop the “beast,” the infamous cargo train.
Two films by first-time filmmakers will be shown. Claudia St. Luce’s comedy about friendship in “The Amazing Catfish” and Samuel Kishi’s “We are Mari Pepa”, about a failed teen rock band from Guadalajara. An overly possessive mother faces a teenage girl over her adolescent son’s attention span in Fernando Eimbcke’s comedy “Club Sandwich.”
The festival is also presented by the University of Arizona’s Hanson Film Institute and the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson.