Meet Edgar San Juan, the Mexican Producer Blurring the Line Between Commercial Films and Art House Cinema


The Los Cabos International Film Festival has slowly been making a name for itself as a venue for budding filmmakers. The Mexican fest remains committed to contributing to the growth of global film culture with a special focus on Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. And part of that mission means creating spaces for filmmakers, producers, and distributors alike to come together. In that vein the festival has launched a number of funds to help film productions in North America.

The Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund, for example, invites filmmakers and producers to submit American projects in the Development Stage and Work-in-Progress. And if the financial incentive is not enough, know that all all selected projects and films will participate in Los Cabos Industry Meetings, where they will have scheduled one-on-one meetings with international film industry members. It’s a perfect chance for filmmakers and producers to get a foot in the door.

To learn more about the Los Cabos experience, we reached out to Edgar San Juan, a Mexican producer and filmmaker who took a couple of projects to the fest last November and who, with the help of the fest, headed to the Tribeca Film Festival and Cannes earlier this year.

San Juan, who wrote the festival standout Norteado (Northless) and produced Sebastian Silva’s Sundance sensation La Nana (The Maid), is currently involved as a writer and producer of the upcoming project from Nosotros los Nobles and Club de Cuervos director Gaz Alazraki. The ambitious feature, which is an adaptation of the Luis Sota novel Casi el paraíso has required the filmmaking team to assemble a multinational co-production agreement with companies in Italy, Mexico, and the U.S., an element made all the easier by the help he got from the Los Cabos crew.

We hopped on Skype with San Juan to talk about his experience at the fest last year and to learn more about the ambitious project from arguably one of the most buzzed about filmmakers in Mexico today. Find some highlights from our chat below.

On His Experience At Los Cabos

We went to Los Cabos Film Festival last November with two projects. One project is called Casi el paraíso (which is Almost Paradise) which will be directed by Gaz Alazraki. This film is based on a novel with the same title that’s very famous in Mexico and it will be his second film. We went to Los Cabos because we already had a co-production with Italy and we were looking for a co-production partner from the United States. Los Cabos, for me, it was the first experience where I actually got the chance to close a deal with co-producers. Because I’ve at Cannes for like 18 years and you always meet people. But in Los Cabos, the festival is so focused on production between Mexico, USA, and Canada, that you go there to work. I mean, it’s a beautiful place — everyone wants to go to Los Cabos!  But it’s a place where you go to work and meet the people that you want to meet in order to co-produce. It’s perfect. I think the people from Los Cabos have created an ideal environment for co-production.

On Getting Help From The Fest To Head To NYC & Cannes

After that the invited us with the Market Badge for Cannes. I always go to Cannes every year but this year I wasn’t feeling so secure to go. But Los Cabos told me, “Hey Edgar, we have your badge. You can use it!” So with this little push I said, okay, let’s go to Cannes. And it was amazing because I only spent 3 days but I had the chance to work with our co-producers from the United States and introduce them to the people from the Mexican Film Institute and our Italian partners. After the first meetings of Los Cabos because even before heading to Cannes, also thanks to Los Cabos we went to the Tribeca Film Festival. And that was fantastic. It was my first time at Tribeca and I have to tell you, it’s a festival that I just adore.

‘Nosotros los Nobles’
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On Gaz Alazraki’s Upcoming Film Almost Paradise

Well Almost Paradise is based on this novel published in 1956 by a Mexican author called Luis Spota. It’s about an Italian prince, a beautiful, very handsome and very young prince, that is escaping from his lover, an old American widow who’s a millionaire. He escapes from her and arrives in Mexico where the country is in a great financial boon. But people want glamour. Because they’re like provincianos. So the Prince arrives and the Mexican high society adopt him and very quickly they start to adore him. He becomes the most important man in Mexico. The most important politician at that moment has a daughter which the Prince seduces, they fall in love, she gets pregnant but then we realize that the Prince’s past is catching up to him. It’s a comedy but we also want to criticize the corruption — the beginning of corruption, the beginning of our insecurities and complexes. We Mexicans have this “Malinche complex,” this idea that we always tend to prefer everything that comes from abroad instead of from here. And we want to play with that.

On Fighting Back Against the Arthouse vs Mainstream Distinction

“We’ve created this alliance to produce a film that has artistic values but with commercial values, that can speak to audiences in Mexico, Latin America, USA, and Italy.”

Well, I come from more of the “arthouse” scene — I produced a film called Norteando which toured festivals and won a bunch of awards and also Sebastian Silva’s La nana. But now we’ve built this alliance with Alazraki — they come more from the mainstream. He directed Nosotros los Nobles and Club de Cuervos, the first Netflix series in Spanish. So we’ve created this alliance to produce a film that has artistic values but with commercial values, that can speak to audiences in Mexico, Latin America, USA, and Italy, of course. Because, you know, as people see it, on this hand you have del Toro, Cuarón, Iñarritu, and on the other hand you have Carlos Reygadas, Amat Escalante. But there’s not that middle point that’s good for the films, good for the industry, and is also good for the audience.

On Assembling a Top Notch Team For The Film

It’s a period piece so we’re working with Luca Bigazzi, who was the D.P. from Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty. We’re working with Brigitte Broch who’s a production designer who works a lot with Cuarón and Iñarritu (she did Babel) and she also won an Oscar for Moulin Rouge! She’s the best production designer in Mexico. Then also with Martín Hernández, who worked on Birdman. So we are building a dream team.

The Los Cabos International Film Festival call for entries and the Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund calls for American projects close on August 19, 2016.