Reminder: Hola Mexico Film Festival, April 29 – June 6, 2010

03/05/2010 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

Since 2006, the Hola Mexico Film Festival, a traveling showcase of new and classic Mexican features and documentaries, has presented what Festival Director Samuel Douek calls, “The best Mexican cinema has to offer.” The program made its United States debut last year, unspooling in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. This year, Douek expands his festival to three additional American cities: Miami, San Francisco, and Washington DC.

The 2010 festival offers some fantastic Spanish-language films. Alamar (González-Rubio, 2009) is a beautifully crafted, intimate, and observational documentary/drama about a father bonding with his son and teaching him how to fish in Banco Chinchorro. But this study of both work and family also considers the bond between man and nature. Spectacularly photographed—the sequences on the fishing boat, in the coral reefs, and underwater are superb—this is a truly hypnotizing film.

Equally mesmerizing is the documentary Los Que se Quedan (Those Who Remain, Hagerman and Rulfo, 2008). This affecting film chronicles individuals and families who choose to live in Mexico while others head to El Norte in search of better jobs. Those Who Remain features remarkable scenes of folks at work or rest, just eking out their lives in front of the camera. Moreover, the subjects’ heartfelt testimonies—about why they stay or their hope for their children to return home—are incredibly poignant and moving.

Screening many titles at festivals like Guadalajara, Douek believes that Mexican documentaries in particular, “have been more powerful than the features films in the last 24 months.” He acknowledges that Mexican features and documentaries are “amazing…we have not seen films [of this quality] since the golden age back in the 40s. There is a real artistic quality to these films. The filmmakers tell their stories the way they want to.”

Los Que se Quedan is a smart companion piece to Norteado (Northless, Pérezcano, 2009), a memorable feature about Andrés (Harold Torres), a would-be immigrant who hopes to cross the border into the United States. While Andrés waits to cross, he befriends two women in Tijuana and their friendship forms the emotional center of this compassionate film.

Sexo, pudor, y lágrimas (Sex, Shame, and Tears, Serrano, 1999) is one of the Hola Mexico Film Festival’s “flashbacks.” This entertaining sex comedy, based on a popular play, has three men and three women dividing up along gender lines when two couples fight. The film, a big hit in Mexico upon release, is filled with energetic, comic performances, especially by the Demián Bichir as the irresistible Carlos, who causes trouble for one of the couples when he re-enters their lives.

Douek explains that he chose to spotlight older films such as Sexo, pudor, y lágrimas in the festival, “Because they are not competing for audiences. I like having different sections, such as a retrospective of sexy comedies, and I loved Asesino en serio (Murder Seriously, Urrutia, 2002). I thought I’d never screen it. By presenting it [with Sexo, pudor, y lágrimas], it allows us to show both together.”

His curatorial strategy is smart. One of the strengths of the festival is that it runs just six days, and programs a dozen-plus films, which allows viewers to see many of the festival’s offerings in one theatre over a few days. Filmmakers often are on hand for post-screening Q&As, and at the festival’s opening night party. The goal is to immerse viewers into Mexican culture, and Douek does this by showing terrific films that address everything from social issues like immigration and poverty, to sex comedies and psychological thrillers. Moreover, he is conscious of people’s perceptions of Mexico, and as such, he is eager to show films that shed new light on the country and its people.

He describes his agenda thusly, “I don’t want to do tortillas and quesadillas and burritos. I want to show a rich culture and thousands of years of heritage. I wouldn’t mind playing a film that disrupts [a stereotype]. Some films show how corrupt the political system is. I wanted to show Presunto culpable (Presumed Guilty Hernández, 2008), and I am sure the government won’t love this film because it shames the justice system in Mexico.

The Hola Mexico Film Festival deliberately appeals to multiple markets—from Latinos in the United States who want to see films from their homeland, to lovers of foreign films. “About half the American audiences are art film lovers, and the other half, the Mexican population,” Douek says, adding, “Last year, our animated film, Otra película de huevos y un pollo (Another Egg Movie and a Chicken, Riva Palacio Alatriste, 2009) was seen by 95% Mexicans.”

The films are selected from the festival circuit, and Douek often scouts out award winning films from international film festivals, such as Berlin, Toronto, and Venice. He emphasizes, “I try to see films that are liked by a lot of people—popular, but well made. There are films that lack production values, or have amateur editing, or music. We try to make a varied program, and carry more than one voice of Mexican cinema. We are not here to showcase unknown talents, or films no one has seen before. We want to show the best of Mexico.”

Whether the Hola Mexico Film Festival is a platform for discovering new filmmakers, or recognizing existing talents, Douek wants to do both. “I hope to bring Guillermo del Toro, or Carlos Carrera,” he claimed, noting that he greatly admires the work of Fernando Eimbcke (Lake Tahoe, Eimbcke, 2008), and Carlos Reygadas.

But it is, ultimately, the quality of the film, not the name of the filmmaker that informs Douek’s choices. “We need to keep growing. We take these films to the cinemas and see how people respond.” Hopefully, audiences both American and Latino will react positively, and the Hola Mexico Film Festival can continue to expand for years to come.

The festival begins April 29 – May 4 in Los Angeles, and begins on May 6 – 9 in Miami, May 13 – 18 in San Francisco, May 20 – 25 in Chicago, May 27- June 1 in Washington, DC, and ends in New York, June 2 – 6.

For more information on the Hola Mexico Film Festival, visit



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