The Los Cabos International Film Festival has created a niche for itself as the only major festival that brings together North America’s film industry titans. For the fourth year in a row, the seaside fest screened movies written, directed, and produced by creatives from Mexico, the United States, and Canada, alongside a smaller selection of films from outside of North America. Through a series of roundtable sessions called Meet Your Neighbors and an enviable yacht ride, the fest fosters networking and relationship building amongst producers and filmmakers from the three countries.
After spending four days in Los Cabos watching the latest crop of Latin American movies that have circulated the globe – from the Cannes Film Festival in France to the Berlinale in Germany, plus stops in Venice, Buenos Aires, and Miami – it’s safe to say that Mexico is killing the indie film game.
The México Primero competition showcased the varied themes that contemporary Mexican cinema seeks to uncover. From Las Elegidas, an intense drama on sex trafficking, to Te prometo anarquía, a film focused on the sordid world of black market blood-selling skateboarders, the stories coming from Mexican auteurs have mostly strayed from the typical drug smuggling narratives that gringo directors are currently fixated on. While both of the awards for Best Mexican Film (awarded separately by FIPRESCI and the festival’s jury) went to Te prometo anarquía, other contenders included Katina Medina Mora’s tender, heartbreaking love story Sabrás qué hacer conmigo and Jack Zagha Kababie’s deadpan comedy Almacenados.
Often times at festivals, much of the fanfare and awards go to the director, but the organizers of Los Cabos make it a point to highlight others working behind the camera. We went ahead and took their lead by shifting our focus to the industry side of things and began to pay closer attention to the producers responsible for the indie gems that competed in the México Primero, Works in Progress, and Cabos TV sections. Here’s our list of 10 Mexican film producers you should know.
Yossy Zagha Kababie
Born in Mexico to an American father and an Israeli mother, Yossy Zagha Kababie studied communications at the University of Texas, Austin before founding Mexico City-based Avanti Pictures along with his brother Jack. To date, Avanti has dedicated itself primarily to producing Jack’s three features, including Adiós mundo cruel (2010) and En el último trago (2014), on which Yossy also served as co-writer. Jack’s latest film as director, Almacenados, was based on a hit play by Spanish playwright David Desola and picked up a Mexico Primero Art Kingdom Award at the Los Cabos Film Festival. The film tells the claustrophobic story of an unlikely friendship between an older warehouse worker on the verge of retirement and his 20-something trainee.
María José Cuevas
Producer-director Cuevas’ new documentary Bellas de noche has been in the works for the last three years after receiving a grant and being screened in the Cabos in Progress section. The film follows a group of former female cabaret entertainers (vedettes) from the 70s and 80s as they come to terms with the disappearing burlesque industry. It was influenced by other documentaries like Grey Gardens, The Kid Stays in the Picture, and Inside Deep Throat. Along with producing and directing, Cuevas, who is the daughter of artist José Luis Cuevas, is also the writer and cinematographer of the film.
Reyes has been in the industry since 2001 and has over 20 titles in her filmography as a producer. She founded her own production company (Zensky Cine) in 2007 with Ramón Orozco Stoltenberg. Her most recent film is the 2015 comedy-drama Almacenados, directed by Jack Zagha Kababie and written by David Desola. The film, which won the México Primero Art Kingdom Award at Los Cabos Film Festival, follows the work relationship of two employees in a warehouse, one who is about to retire (José Carlos Ruiz) and the other who will be taking his place (Hoze Meléndez). “I like making films with small or medium-sized budgets, lean crews, and with directors who have stories to tell,” Reyes told Variety.
After the breakout success of 2014’s Güeros, producer Alberto Muffelmann teamed up with fellow producers Gerardo Gatica and Moises Cosio to form the production company Panorama Global, which will be taking a open-minded, multi-platform approach to audiovisual production, covering film, TV, and even web series. His latest feature Sabrás qué hacer conmigo tells a typical boy-meets-girl story within a novel three-part structure that changes perspective between each chapter. Sabrás screened as part of Los Cabos’ Mexico Primero competition, while the upcoming documentary he is producing entitled Bellas de noche competed for finishing funds as part of the Cabos in Progress competition.
Since co-executive producing Alejandro González Iñárritu’s breakout Mexican hit Amores Perros in 2000, Sosa has turned her attention to documentary film. Her newest project is Rush Hour with Cactus Films and Video and director Lucina Kaplan. The doc, which was awarded a Gabriel Figueroa Film Fund grant at the Los Cabos Film Festival, explores the “emotional cost of commuting” in major cities like Mexico City, Istanbul, and Los Angeles. In the past, Sosa produced the Emmy-winning 2011 documentary Presunto Culpable (Presumed Guilty) and is producing two other films: Mi Primer Amor (My First Love) with production company La Sombra del Guayabo and Plaza de la Soledad with Monica Lozano’s outfit, Alebrije Productions.
Under his Machete Producciones imprint, Edher Campos has quickly made a name for himself as an international-caliber producer. His short filmography already includes festival phenoms like 2010’s Año bisiesto and 2014’s La jaula de oro, both of which picked up prizes at Cannes before cleaning house at smaller festivals and award ceremonies like the Ariels and the Premios Fénix. His latest project, La habitación, is an ambitious omnibus feature that takes place at eight critical moments in the history of Mexico, with each short helmed by a different director. La habitación recently won the Cabos in Progress FOX+ Award at the Los Cabos Film Festival, which consists of $30,000 in cash for the film’s Latin American broadcast rights.
The first Mexican female to win the Golden Palm for a short fiction feature film at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival for her film Ver Llover, Miller has since made three feature films: Vete más lejos Alicia, About Sarah, and El placer es mio. Her newest project, which is currently in the development stage, is Skin Deep (A Flor de Piel), a feature she is planning to co-produce and co-write with video artist Paulina del Paso. The film, which was presented in the Cabos Discovery section and won the Cabos Discovery & Rentals Award, follows a young girl’s sexual awakening in a bakery. Miller studied at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica in Mexico City, where she graduated in 2008.
Canana may be best known as the production company founded by Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, but beyond the name brands, the real muscle behind Mexico’s most illustrious production company is undoubtedly co-founder Pablo Cruz. With a mind-boggling 32 production credits to his name since 1996, including festival faves like Miss Bala and multiplex fare like César Chavez, Cruz is clearly a man who stays busy. Slowing down from a 2013 high of six production credits, 2015 found him behind David Pablos’ human trafficking drama, Las Elegidas, which tells the story of a Tijuana teen lured into human trafficking by her boyfriend. The feature premiered at Cannes before competing in the Mexico Primero section at Los Cabos.
It sounds like a joke to point out that Gaz Alazraki only has one feature credit to his name. Mostly because that credit belongs to Mexico’s highest grossing film of all time, Nosotros los Nobles, which Alazraki produced, directed, and wrote after making only three shorts. Naturally, the unprecedented success of Nosotros turned some heads up north, and a little over a year later, Netflix had contracted his Alazraki Entertainment production company to shoot their first Spanish-language original series, Club de Cuervos, which screened at Los Cabos as part of Cabos TV. His ambitious upcoming feature, Casi el paraíso, follows an impostor Italian prince who is fêted by post-revolutionary Mexican high society and was also selected for the Cabos Discovery networking platform.
Valencia works for San Diego-based production company Specola. She will produce filmmaker Ricardo Silva’s new work El fracaso, which screened in the Cabos in Progress section and received the Cabos in Progress Award. Valencia and Specola also produced Silva’s last film Navajazo. Set in Tijuana, El fracaso tells the stories of a famous musician going through a breakdown and a teenager battling his inner demons.