FICG Diaries Part 2: Film Awards, Freddy Mercury Impersonators & Post-Festival Depression

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Was it all a dream?

The 29th Guadalajara International Film Festival (known as FICG for its initials in Spanish) has finally drawn to a close. The festival’s headquarters at the massive Guadalajara Expo Center has been torn down, packed up, and shipped back to wherever it came from. In its place, a convention on plastics manufacturing. Yes, this week the parties will be theirs. Industrial waste management contracts will be signed where only days ago distribution deals and co-production agreements were being negotiated. People will discuss pollution caps with the same passion and intensity that drove debates on national film laws and screen quotas. And life goes on.

Will there be Mexican Freddy Mercury impersonators? A chorus line of transvestites singing “New York, New York” as a suspiciously green, pungent cake is distributed freely throughout the audience? I don’t know if plastics gets down like that. Nevertheless, in part thanks to my decision not to eat the cake, they are memories I will carry with me, well, until the next Guadalajara Film Festival.

In the meantime, careers have been made, dreams dashed, and many bottles of tequila consumed. Of this year’s lucky winners, two films garnered particular attention: Nicolás Echevarría’s doc Eco de la montaña, picked up the prestigious Premio Mezcal for best Mexican feature along with the Special Jury Prize for documentary; while the festival’s other clear favorite – Matías Lucchesi’s narrative feature, Ciencias Naturales (Argentina) – picked up three prizes, including Best Ibero-American Film.

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In all, 17 prizes were given out in categories ranging from Best Animated Short to Best First Film, with winners from countries ranging from Ecuador and Chile to Brazil. In addition, two works that I found particularly striking that did not make it to the podium were Marcos Pimentel’s Sopro – a beautifully meditative piece on life and death in the isolated mountains of Brazil’s Minas Gerais, and Max Zunino’s Los Bañistas – a reflection on solitude, youth and old-age set in a semi-fictional Mexico racked by street protests.

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Indeed, if one conclusion can be drawn from the top-to-bottom quality of this year’s program, it’s that Latin American cinema is only getting deeper and richer as the years go on. Far from the poverty-porn ghetto to which the region’s production had been relegated for so long, today’s Latin American cinema reflects the tremendous diversity of experiences and worldviews that characterize nuestra américa. There are fresas, indigenas, and the everyday working folks in between – with dreams, fears and voices that are all there own. That’s the beauty of an event like FICG, an event that celebrates self-representation and regional empowerment in an industry so heavily dominated by American cinema. As summarized by this edition’s slogan: Todas las pantallas son nuestras (all the screens belong to us).

Now I guess there’s nothing left but to do but sleep off the post-festival bajón and get back to the real world. In the meantime, I’ll be hittin’ the streets trying to hustle my next dose of festival life. Yeah, it’s addictive, but everything is healthy in moderation, no?

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