For its 11th edition the Hola Mexico Film Festival is yet again bringing some of Mexico’s best and brightest to Los Angeles. Showcasing both critically acclaimed films by up and coming directors as well as the kind of broad comedies that are box office hits across the border, the week-long celebration offers a snapshot of the country’s booming film industry.
The fest opens with Las niñas bien (The Good Girls) by Alejandra Márquez Abella, the stylish take on the downward spiral of an upper class woman’s life following Mexico’s 1980’s economic implosion. (It’s one of only two films by female filmmakers in this year’s slate.) Elsewhere, there are horror offerings and dystopian narco films, environmental docs and boxing flicks, rom com remakes and a Gael García Bernal vehicle. In sum, plenty of great projects to check out. So read through our list of top picks below.
Hola Mexico Film Festival runs May 31 – June 8, 2019.
Las niñas bien
Sofia (Ilse Salas) and Fernando (Flavio Medina) have it all — money, status, beautiful houses, servants. Fernando has inherited all his wealth, acquired by his father with the help of his uncle Javier. At dinner one night, Javier announces he is stepping aside. There are a few dark clouds on the horizon: their American business associates have backed out of a deal, and the President of Mexico has just appeared on television with ominous news about the economy. Initially, their world remains untroubled. Sofia watches with slight hauteur as two new arrivistes, a young woman and her rather gauche husband, try to enter her social circle. But gradually cracks appear in Sofia and Fernando’s manicured lives, as the social and economic order starts to shift around them. Alejandra Márquez Abella captures all of the interplay with complete assurance. Her film is perfectly cast, beautifully framed, and carefully observed – décor, clothes, setting. Nothing is out of place in this insightful, quasi-tragic look at a time that has many parallels in the present
Set in 1985, Alonso Ruizpalacios’ follow-up to Güeros stars Gael García Bernal as part of a group of criminals who break into the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City to extract 140 pre-Hispanic pieces from their showcases. While based on the real life heist that shocked the art world back in the 80s, Ruizpalacios has made it clear he’s taken some artistic license, going beyond mere changing the names of those involved to evoke something closer to what Terence Malick achieved with Badlands in terms of a film that’s both real and fictional at the same time.
Cómprame un revólver
Julio Hernández Cordón’s Cómprame un revolver i set in an imagined not-so-distant future world where women are a disappearing species. That’s why its young protagonist, Huck (played by Matilde Hernandez, the director’s own daughter) wears a mask. If the armed guys who employ her dad to keep up a baseball field ever found out she’s a girl, she’d surely be taken away. That’s what happened to her older sister and her mother. Shot in dusty desert landscapes with an eye for an anarchic sense of whimsy (Mad Max meets Hook), this narco-dystopia is a fascinating riff on contemporary Mexican violence.
Living with his mother and working as a farmhand in his hometown, fourteen-year-old Lalo (Eduardo Banda) sees buying a smartphone for his high-school crush the only surefire way into her heart. When his mother is forced to use his savings in order to pay for medical bills, Lalo decides to approach the local huachicoleros for help, who quickly enlist his aid in their business of illegally siphoning gas in order to take advantage of the country’s shortage and re-sell on the black market. As Lalo naively becomes more involved with the huachicoleros’ work, an uneasy air of violence begins to overtake the world around him, while investigators narrow their search for those responsible. Depicted in beautifully sun-drenched imagery and grounded in Banda’s remarkable first on-screen performance, director Edgar Nito crafts an intensely resonant and engrossing story of the tightening grip facing both his protagonist and his country with this feature debut.
Neri, a fisherman, splits his time between two women: his wife Juanita with whom he has a daughter and his lover Magdalena, mother of three additional children. Things are about to change for Neri as Juanita falls gravely ill and Magdalena prepares to take her place. Shot entirely in the beautiful beaches of Corralera in Oaxaca and featuring a cast of non-professional actors from the nearby communities, Black Mexicans — the first Mexican film about the Afro-mexican community — explores the social mores of and the discrimination faced by Mexico’s unacknowledged black community.
Eve (Gabriela Cartol) works long hours as a maid at a luxurious hotel in Mexico City. A young, single mother who travels far to get to her place of work, Eve has aspirations for the future and hopes that her diligence will get her a coveted spot as the cleaner on an executive floor. She enrolls in the hotel’s adult education program in her quest for a better life but quickly discovers that it’s not necessarily the most hard-working who get noticed for advancement. The Chambermaid, Lila Avilés’s striking debut, employs a quasi-documentary approach as it accompanies Eve on her daily routine. She quietly enters one indistinguishable guest room after another and we are struck by the intimacy behind the act of cleaning a stranger’s mess. The disparity between the guests and those working at the hotel — who often do not have hot water in their own homes — accurately reflects the reality in many Latin American countries.
Rita: El Documental
Celebrating the life of rock star and activist Rita Guerrero, this intimate and music-fueled documentary by Arturo Diaz Santana captures the energy and artistry of a brilliant performer who was taken too soon. As the lead singer of famous band La Santa Sabina, Guerrero became a central figure in Mexico’s ’90s rock scene and a fierce advocate for social justice who supported the Zapatista movement. Blending footage from her role as an entertainer that the audience came to love, with personal moments highlighting her offstage personality, as well as interviews with those who were touched by her magic, the film honors her legacy but also offers a portrait of a woman who was a fighter till the end. Adoring fans, as well as younger generations who will discover her for the first time, will enjoy this moving cinematic tribute.
La boda de mi mejor amigo
Julia (Ana Serradilla) is a well-known food blogger who is terrified of commitment and has never had a steady relationship. Despite that, she and her best friend Manuel made a pact with each other that if neither of them were married by the time they turned 35, they would marry each other. One afternoon, Julia gets a call from Manuel, who tells her that he will be married to someone else in four days. Knowing that she is the perfect woman for her friend, Julia will stop at nothing to keep the wedding from happening. Featuring Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Natasha Dupeyron, and Carlos Ferro.
Mamacita is a force of nature: businesswoman, former beauty queen, mother and grandmother. She built her family’s wealth by spearheading an enormous Mexican beauty empire. Now at 95, this matriarch remains as strong-willed and impassioned as ever. Accustomed to the spotlight, Mamacita is overjoyed when her grandson, Jose Pablo Estrada Torrescano, finally agrees to fulfill his promise to make a film about her. In his debut feature, Torrescano crafts a beautifully complex and honest portrait of his grandmother, shot primarily in Mamacita’s extravagant home. Great attention is paid to the ornate details that help conceal deep familial wounds. The film’s strength lies in the relationship between Torrescano and Mamacita and the realizations the filmmaker makes about their similarities and ways in which they open each other’s eyes to newfound emotional awareness.
Sea of Shadows
The Sea of Cortez is facing total collapse because of a war at sea. Mexican drug cartels have discovered the “cocaine of the sea,” a valuable fish called the totoaba—which is at the center of a multimillion-dollar business with the Chinese Mafia. To find the fish, these cartels are destroying the ecosystem with illegal gill nets and, in doing so, are killing the Earth’s smallest whale—the vaquita. Local fishermen, caught between the tight grip of the cartel and fighting to protect their livelihood, find themselves in a desperate dance for survival. A dramatic documentary thriller, Sea of Shadows follows undercover investigators, environmentalists, journalists, and the Mexican navy in their furious, last-minute efforts to rescue the vaquita from extinction and uncover this expansive black-market ring.