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From Mexico to Hollywood and the Oscars® at the 15th FICM

Daniela Michel, general director of the 15th Morelia International Film Festival (FICM), accompanied by the American director Gregory Nava, the President of the Academy of Arts and Cinematographic Sciences of the United States, John Bailey, and Mexican producer, Bertha Navarro, presented the program From Mexico to Hollywood and the Oscar®, a series of films that highlight the contributions of Mexican and Mexican-American filmmakers and artists to Hollywood history and the Oscar® awards.

Daniela Michel.

Among the titles that are part of the program are The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (1982, dir. Robert M. Young), Y tu mamá también (2001, dir. Alfonso Cuarón), Pan’s Labyrinth (2006, dir. Guillermo del Toro), Macario (1960, dir. Roberto Gavaldón), among others.

Gregory Nava spoke in perfect Spanish about the beginnings of the relationship between Mexico and Hollywood, when in 1914 the director Christy Cabanne made the film La vida del General Villa, a silent movie that portrays the real Pancho Villa in real battles, thus becoming the first Mexican star in Hollywood.

Later, he talked about how after several years of being among the glamorous stars of Hollywood’s silent cinema, Mexican actors like Ramón Novarro, famous for playing the first Ben Hur in 1925, and Dolores del Rio were pigeonholed in the same roles for their accents. Nava recalled that during the transition from silent to sonorous films, the films were filmed with English-speaking actors and then re-filmed with Spanish-speaking actors to fight the language barrier. However, on several occasions, the directors mixed actors from different nationalities and accents. “Sometimes the films with actors who spoke Spanish surpassed the original versions, as was the case with Dracula, (1931, dir. George Melford) with Lupita Tovar,” he added.

Gregory Nava, Bertha Navarro, John Bailey.

Both Bertha Navarro and Gregory Nava recognized the work of Mexican women who have put the name of their country up high, such as Katy Jurado, Adriana Barraza, Salma Hayek and, of course, Lupita Tovar, an actress who after having worked for several years in the United States, returned to Mexico at age 40 to consecrate herself as a star with Santa, the first sound film made in the country.

When his turn to speak came, John Bailey emphasized the importance of Mexicans who have attained nominations or Academy Awards, including Emile Kuri, Gabriel Figueroa, Anthony Quinn, and most recently, Guillermo Navarro, Emmanuel Lubezki, Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro.

The conversation was plagued by anecdotes about the work of Mexicans in the Hollywood industry throughout history. “The Academy does not have walls,” said Gregory Nava to invite the FICM to maintain this alliance that allows the Mexican public to approach film programs like this.