Now in its 9th year, the Hola México Film Festival is bringing 20 films to the downtown Los Angeles area, including Demián Bichir’s directorial debut, a doc on the bustling hip-hop scene across the border, and a pair of romantic comedies for those looking for some lighter fare. If you needed a reminder that Mexican cinema is blooming, this showcase is it.
As fest director Samuel Douek puts it, this edition has something for all kinds of movie lovers, mixing both award-winning and critically acclaimed films with more mainstream Mexican fare. It even boasts five films that are making their U.S. premieres. With Q&As with the filmmakers following many of the screenings, the four sections of the fest (Hola México, Documental, Nocturno, and Nuestras Voces) are a chance to catch some of the best projects coming from our neighbors to the south. In case you need some help finding something to catch this weekend, we’ve rounded up our list of Top Picks below. Check them out.
A polyphonic portrait of the independent hip-hop and rap scene in Mexico. For young people who’ve been offered little or nothing by society, there is refuge, creative liberation, community, strength, and survival to be found in their passion for the word. From Guadalajara to Mexico City, Monterrey to Tijuana, this documentary lets the rappers speak for themselves and draw us into their raw worlds with freestyle and rhyme.
La región salvaje
In this eerie film, Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante has crafted two halves of a hypnotic whole. One half is a family drama about Alejandra (Ruth Ramos) and her ultra macho husband Angel (Jesús Meza), whose outward homophobia is actually masking the affair he’s having with his wife’s brother (Eden Villavicencio). The other is a body horror flick centered on a mysterious woman whom Alejandra meets and who will allow her to access the inner strength she didn’t know she had. Set in Guanajuato, its fog-ridden imagery adds to the sense of danger and fear that lurks under this seemingly straightforward narrative that just gets wilder and, yes, more untamed as it unfolds.
Focused on the violence and impunity that afflicts Mexico, the film is driven by the voices of two women, Miriam and Adela. As we listen to their stories, director Tatiana Huezo offers us beautiful images of the cross-country journey that Miriam took after being released from a cartel-run prison, where she’d been held for her alleged involvement in human trafficking. After no evidence of her participation in trafficking was found, Miriam was eventually let go, becoming instead a public scapegoat for an increasingly common problem in Mexico. Interwoven with the harrowing tale of Miriam’s stay in this torturous environment is the story of Adela, a circus clown, who’s been searching for her abducted daughter who went missing over 10 years ago. Evocative of Terrence Malick, but infused with a staunchly politicized message, Tempestad is both lyrical and political.
Un cuento de circo and a Love Song
Populated by acrobats, clowns, and various other circus performers, Demián Bichir’s directorial debut is focused on Refugio. Played by Bichir as an older man and by his nephew, José Angel Bichir, in his younger circus years, Refugio will come face to face with the father he never knew (Jorge Perugorría) and who’d left the big top harboring a secret he may finally have to own up to. And if that classy telenovelaesque synopsis weren’t enough, Bichir’s film also co-stars Eva Longoria, Stefanie Sherk, and Arcelia Ramírez in the film the famed Mexican actor-director calls “a tale about the possibility of love, redemption, and fate.”
Diana (Daniela Ramirez), a pregnant woman with an absent husband, is feeling overwhelmed taking care of her first-born child, Martin (Matias Bassi), who has developmental disabilities. Nearing her breaking point, she hires a Filipino nanny, Luz (Aida Jabolin), who, at first, turns out to be a blessing for the family, especially since Martin’s behavioral problems seem to improve while he is under Luz’s care. However, Diana begins to wonder if her new employee is using her status inside the family to turn Martin against her. Motherhood is at stake when another matriarch comes into the house and disturbs the domestic hierarchy.
It is the end of the 16th century in New Spain: the violence and slavery brought by Spanish conquest are ravaging the indigenous people of what will one day be Mexico. When a Spanish woman with noble blood agrees to be a witness in defense of a rebellious indigenous town, she and a tameme––an indigenous porter––must flee. Pursued by soldiers on a perilous journey across the vast landscape of New Spain, the two confront the complex tensions between them and the bonds that begin to grow.
El Charro De Toluquilla
Jaime García appears to be the quintessentially machismo mariachi singer, yet beneath his magnetic confidence lies a man struggling to maintain a relationship with his estranged family while living as an HIV-positive man. In Jose Villalobos Romero’s remarkable cinematic debut, he utilizes vivid tableaus and stylized perspective to paint a beautifully unique and emotional portrait of a man divided.
Can a room tell the history of a country? That’s the premise behind this anthology film. Directed by 8 different filmmakers, including Natalia Beristáin, Carlos Carrera and Alfonso Pineda Ulloa, Tales of Mexico offers vignettes set in key moments of the country’s 20th Century history—the Ten Tragic Days of the Mexican Revolution, the anti-Chinese campaign, the Tlatelolco Massacre, and the 1985 Earthquake. Together they weave together a painfully personal tapestry of the impact national events have on the everyday lives of its population.