07 · 16 · 17

XV years, 15 inaugural FICM films

By: Gabriela Martínez @GabbMartivel | Berenice Andrade

Throughout the history of the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM), the excitement of the inaugural film’s reveal has been experienced with intensity. Each of the tapes that kicked off FICM in the last years, had a significant weight in the trajectory of the festival and left their mark the world cinema.

Regarding the celebration of FICM’s XV years, and to recall those expectations generated, we review, with some curious facts, the 14 films that opened each of the last editions, starting with the film that will inaugurate the fifteenth edition.

2017 – COCO, by Lee Unkrich and Adrián Molina

According to Lee Unkrich, COCO is a “love letter” to Mexico and its culture, particularly to the Day of the Dead tradition. The film tells the story of Miguel, a boy who wants to become as great a musician as his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. His passion leads him to live an adventure in the world of the dead.

To make a worthy homage, part of the production lived in Mexico for two years to do research, and this is how they were inspired by Oaxaca and Guanajuato to create the world of the living and the dead.

Music is an important element in the film, so Mexican musicians like the band Tierra Mojada, Camilo Lara (Instituto Mexicano del Sonido) and the group Mono Blanco are part of COCO’s soundtrack.

2016 – Neruda, by Pablo Larraín

Pablo Larraín directed Neruda, a film starring Gael García Bernal and Alfredo Castro, about the political persecution of the poet Pablo Neruda. This is the third feature by Pablo Larraín, which premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, after No (2012) and Tony Manero (2008); it is also the second time that Larraín collaborates with the playwright Guillermo Calderón. The previous film by the director, El club (2015), also has a script signed by Calderón.

2015 – Crimson Peak, by Guillermo del Toro

Crimson Peak, by Guillermo del Toro tells the story of a young woman in love who is taken to live in a house on top of a blood-red mountain; a site that houses secrets that will haunt her forever.

Almost a decade went by from the time the idea and a first version of the script were born, in 2006, to its premiere in 2015. Originally, the main characters were meant for Benedict Cumberbatch and Emma Stone, but the characters ended up in the hands of Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska.

2014 – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, the story of an actor—famous in the past for playing an iconic superhero—who struggles to stage a Broadway play while fighting with his ego and trying to recover his family, career and himself, is Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s first comedy.

Although it seems to be filmed in a single very long shot, the truth is that it is composed of several sequence planes that last on average 10 minutes each.

2013 – Gravity, by Alfonso Cuarón

In a seemingly routine space mission that ends with her shuttle destroyed, Dr. Ryan Stone and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky lie in the middle of nowhere, tied to each other, spiraling into darkness.

Aningaaq, the man with whom Ryan Stone, a character in Gravity, speaks by radio, is the protagonist of the short film Aningaaq, directed by Jonás Cuaron. The character is an Inuit fisherman who talks to Stone about dogs, babies, life and death.

Among the actors contemplated to interpret the main characters, taken on by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, were Robert Downey Jr. and Angelina Jolie.

2012 – No, by Pablo Larraín

No, the story of how the young and daring publicist René Saavedra comes up with a bold plan to win the Chilean elections and free his country from the repression of the dictator Augusto Pinochet, was the first Chilean film to compete for the Oscar.

Patricio Aylwin, the first democratically elected president in Chile after the dictatorship of Pinochet, makes a cameo in the film interpreting himself.

2011 – A better life, by Chris Weitz

Demián Bichir stars in A Better Life, a film that tells the story of Carlos, an undocumented migrant worker living in East Los Angeles with his teenage son Luis. When Carlos’s truck is stolen, father and son begin a symbolic journey through the city to retrieve it.

Much of the story revolves around the latent danger of Luis being attracted to gangs in the area. In an interview, Chris Weitz stated that he recruited former gang affiliates to play members of those gangs.

2010 – Biutiful, by Alejandro González Iñárritu

In Biutiful, Javier Bardem plays Uxbal, a desperately lonely man, who lives in an area of Barcelona inhabited predominantly by immigrants from Senegal, China and Romania. There, he tries to maintain the balance between the tough survival within a marginal neighborhood and the fight to safeguard the future of his small children. But suddenly he discovers that he is dying of cancer.

For this role, Bardem earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. This was the first time in the history of the Oscars that a fully spoken Spanish-language role earned the nomination for Best Actor.

2009 – Inglorious Basterds, by Quentin Tarantino

In Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino proposes a daring alternative ending to one of the darkest episodes in universal history, through a vengeful Jewish-American military unit led by Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), who wants to destroy the Third Reich.

Originally, Tarantino had sought out Leonardo DiCaprio to play the bloodthirsty Nazi officer Hans Landa. In the end, the role was taken by Christoph Waltz, who won, among other awards for that role, the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Eli Roth not only acted in the film, but also directed the fake propaganda film Stolz der Nation which appears in chapter five.

When Brad Pitt’s character speaks in Italian, he introduces himself as Enzo Gorlomi, based on the name of director Enzo Girolami, who directed the film The Inglorious Bastards in 1978. Right on the scene where Brad Pitt is presented as Enzo Gorlomi, Enzo Girolami makes a cameo in the movie.

2008 – Che, by Steven Soderbergh

Che, starring Benicio del Toro, follows Che’s rise in the Cuban Revolution, from doctor to commander and his triumph as a revolutionary hero.

Ryan Gosling was selected to play the character of Benigno Ramirez, for which he even learned Spanish, but the delays in production made him abandon the project.

2007 – The orphanage, by Juan Antonio Bayona

The film produced by Guillermo del Toro tells the story of Laura, a woman who returns with her family to the orphanage where she grew up, with the intention of opening a residence for disabled children. A series of unexpected events will force Laura to dive into the dramatic past of her childhood home.

Sergio G. Sánchez wrote the script for The Orphanage in 1996, but it wasn’t until 2004, after they met at horror film festivals, that Juan Antonio Bayona began developing the project. Sanchez wanted to direct his own script, but several producers rejected him for being an unknown filmmaker.

2006 – Quinceañera, by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland

About to celebrate her fifteenth birthday, Magdalena discovers that she is pregnant. Her parents immediately reject her and she is adopted by her great-uncle Tomás and her Cholo cousin Carlos, who has also been rejected by his father for being a homosexual. Together they form a temporary family that is forced to resist social prejudices and the urban transformation that threatens their neighborhood in Los Angeles.

Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland conceived the Quinceañera idea after moving to Echo Park in Los Angeles and being invited by neighbors to photograph their daughter’s fifteenth birthday party.

The film was filmed in Echo Park and the neighbors of the two directors supported them lending their houses as locations, giving them technical advice and even as extras.

2005 – The Constant Gardener, by Fernando Meirelles

Tessa Quayle, a human rights activist in northern Kenya, is brutally murdered. The evidence points to a crime of passion. Justin’s determination to know the truth of his wife’s apparent infidelity leads him to a dangerous path of discovery.

The Brazilian Fernando Meirelles chose the novel of the same name by John le Carré, set in Kenya, to take to the big screen, but unlike the writer, he decided to tell the story from a third world perspective. Which makes Kenya a sort of third main character in The Constant Gardener.

2004 – Motorcycle Diaries, by Walter Salles

Adapted from the memoirs of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, this film portrays the moment in the life of the author, then a young medical student, when he embarks on an adventure through South America with his friend Alberto Granado, witnessing beauty and suffering.

Gael García Bernal was 24 years old when he filmed the movie, the same age Ernesto Guevara had at the time of the film’s history.

El Austral, newspaper that appears in the film, actually exists and is a newspaper that still circulates in the region of Araucanía, to the south of Chile. During one of the scenes, Alberto Granado, interpreted by Rodrigo de la Serna, complains about the newspaper mistaking his name for “Granados”. Decades later, in an article about the film, the newspaper misspelled the name again.

2003 – Nicotina, by Hugo Rodríguez

Lolo, a hacker who spies on webcams and manipulates his neighbor Andrea’s life through webcams, and the thugs Tomson and El Nene, are behind the twenty diamonds that the suspicious Russian Sbóvoda must pay to El Nene for a CD recorded by Lolo with the secret access codes to a Swiss bank. The unexpected arrival of an impossible love of Andrea’s that comes from Spain to take her away, and Lolo’s inability to live outside his virtual world complicate things to the point of putting all their lives at risk.

Nicotina is director Hugo Rodriguez‘s second film, which he filmed almost 11 years after his first feature film, En medio de la nada (1994). The original title of the film was “Cigarros, desamores y 20 diamantes”.