It’s become something like a law of nature that Latin American cinema is a dominant force on the European festival scene, and nowhere has this been more evident than in Mexico’s conquest of Cannes (aka Mexi-Cannes.) With an unprecedented back-to-back Best Director awards for Carlos Reygadas and his protegé Amat Escalante back in 2012 and 2013, the film world no longer had any doubts as to which country was calling the shots — and a Best Screenplay win for Michel Franco in 2015 served as a timely reminder to those who forgot.
So it was just a little surprising when the folks at Cannes announced the official selection for this year’s edition and not a single Mexican film made the cut. In fact, Latin America’s all around strong showing at last year’s festival gave way to a mere two titles representing from South American powerhouses Brazil and Argentina. But things aren’t all that gloomy for Mexican cinema. In fact, one could even say the future is brighter than ever, because Cannes’ Cinéfondation film school competition features two shorts from Mexican directors and one Venezuelan among the 18 films selected from around the world.
From Mexico’s world class Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica (CCC), Ernesto Martínez Bucio brings us Las razones del mundo (The Reasons of the World) which tells an all-too-familiar story of a kidnapping in Mexico City, though this time the story is told from the point of view of the perpetrators. In a recent interview with El País, Martínez revealed that the story was inspired by the experience of a close friend who was kidnapped when he was only nine years old.
Halfway across the world, another young Mexican filmmaker represents with her thesis film from the prestigious Sarajevo Film Academy. Entitled Dobro (Fine), director Marta Hernaiz Pidal was inspired by the prejudices that she witnessed toward the Roma (Gypsy) community throughout the Balkans, and put together a film that lays bare these prejudices while leaving a glimmer of hope for cultural understanding.
Martínez and Hernaiz will be accompanied by Michael Labarca from the Universidad de los Andes in Venezuela. His film about a single mother surviving a blackout and visit from a past lover is titled La culpa, probablemente (The Guilt, Probably). Sure, it may be a down year for Latin American film on the elite festival circuit, but the presence of young artists representing in the Cinéfondation competition leaves no doubt that the region’s cinematic history has really just begun.