XV years, 15 editions: from the short film to the first featureBy: Mariana Linares
Elisa Miller was 24 years old when she was first in competition at the Morelia International Film Festival (FICM). It was October 2006, the fourth edition of FICM. Miller her short film Ver llover and many postcards to promote it carried under her arm. It was normal to see her in those days distributing her cards in the streets, parties, universities or restaurants. She wanted to make noise and she succeeded: Ver llover was FICM’s Best Fiction Short Film that year. Later, she would make history by taking the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival – the first Mexican to do so.
Miller returned to FICM two years later to compete with Roma in the Short Film Section. She won again. This time, it was the García Bross Award to produce her next work. It was not a short film, but it did return to Morelia. Vete más lejos, Alicia was Miller’s work competing in the eighth edition of the festival in the Mexican Feature Film section, dedicated to first and second films.
Miller’s story is an example of how FICM grows at the speed of a generation of Mexican filmmakers. “Nothing could have prevented us from the vertiginous advances of the last years: the artistic triumphs of the Mexican directors in the world scene; the acceleration of international co-production and distribution; and the result of long-awaited changes in economic policy that have spurred unprecedented growth in independent filmmaking,” wrote Shannon Kelley, artistic director of the festival in 2007, when FICM presented its first call to feature films for competition.
The section opened a space, for the first time in Mexico, for new directors. The idea had two origins. The first was the encouragement and collaboration between FICM and Cannes’ Critics Week, which inspired replicating the competitive call of this section of the French contest in Morelia. The second, as in the case of Miller, was that many Mexican short filmmakers who had already participated in the festival were finishing their first feature films. The conditions were perfect.
For ten consecutive years – 2017 will be the eleventh – FICM has awarded the Best Mexican Feature Film. In 2007, this category was made up of six works: Cochochi, by Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas; ¿Dónde están sus historias? by Nicolás Pereda; Cumbia callera, by René U. Villarreal; Quemar las naves, by Francisco Franco Alba; Todos los días son tuyos, by José Luis Gutiérrez; and La zona, by Rodrigo Plá. For 2012, there were nine films; and in 2016, fifteen features integrated the competition. A total of 92 Mexican films have participated in this category.
There are several filmmakers who, like Miller, premiered their presence at the festival with a short film and have returned, some years later, to make their feature film debut. We present the directors that traveled the way from the short film to the opera prima with works of fiction in alphabetical order:
Alejandro Gerber was in competition during the first FICM in the Mexican Short Film Section with his work Morada, and in the Mexican Documentary Section with Onces. His debut film, Vaho, was in competition in 2009 and won the Special Mention of the jury. In 2015, he returned to FICM with the short film Luces brillantes.
Alejandro Iglesias Mendizábal competed in the tenth edition of FICM in the Mexican Short Film Section with his short film Contrafabula de una niña disecada. Two years later, in 2014, he returned with the short El humo denso que nos oprime el pecho. In the 2015 edition, he presented his opera prima, La sopladora de hojas.
Daniel Castro Zimbrón presented his short film Bestiario in competition in 2006. In 2012, he competed with his debut film Táu, which began a trilogy that includes the feature film Las tinieblas, which was part of the official selection of FICM 2016.
Elisa Miller won the award for Best Fiction Short in the fourth edition of FICM with her work Ver llover. In 2008, she returned to the festival to compete with Rome, short film that won the García Bross Award. Vete más lejos, Alicia is her debut film and was in competition for Best Mexican Feature in 2010. In 2015, her film El placer es mío won the award for the First or Second Mexican Feature.
Hari Sama participated in the competition in 2005 with his short film Con la cola entre las patas; in 2011, he returned to FICM to compete with his debut film El sueño de Lú, winner of a Special Mention of the jury. Then he returned in 2014 with the short film La tiara vacía; and in 2015, with the feature film Sunka Raku Alegría evanescente.
Jorge Michel Grau competed in 2005 in the Mexican Short Film section with his work Mi hermano; a year later, his short film Kalimán was in the competition; and in 2010, he presented his debut feature, Somos lo que hay, in the official competition.
Kyzza Terrazas premiered at FICM with her short film Matapájaros in 2005. Her debut feature, El lenguaje de los machetes, competed in the Mexican Feature Film Section at the ninth edition of the festival. In 2016, she returned to FICM with the documentary Somos lengua.
Mariana Chenillo was in competition in 2004 with her short film Mar adentro. In 2008, she presented her debut film Cinco días sin Nora, which won the Audience Award for Best Mexican Feature. In 2010, she returned to FICM with the feature film Revolución, and three years later, in the eleventh edition of the festival, with Paraíso.
Matías Meyer participated in 2004 with El pasajero, winner of the Best Fiction Short Film Award at FICM, and in 2006 with the short film Verde. In 2008, he presented, out of competition, his documentary Wadley; in 2009, his debut film El calambre was in competition in the Mexican Feature Film Section; in 2011, he returned to FICM with Los últimos cristeros; and in 2015, his film Yo won the Mexican Feature Film Award.
Michel Lipkes was in competition in 2005 with his short documentary Escupir contra el viento. In 2011, he presented his debut film Malaventura, which won a Special Mention of the jury in the category of Best Mexican Feature.
Nicolás Pereda has an inverse path in FICM to that of his colleagues. In 2007, he premiered with his debut film ¿Dónde están sus historias? with which he won the festival’s award for Best Feature Film. In 2008, he was in competition with his short film Entrevista con la tierra; in 2010, he presented, in a special screening, Verano de Goliat, feature film starring Teresa Sánchez and Gabino Rodríguez; in 2012, he presented the film Los mejores temas; and in 2014, Los austentes.
In 2003, Rigoberto Perezcano won the only award that FICM has granted to a documentary short film with his work XV en Zaachila. In 2009, the Oaxacan filmmaker returned to the festival to compete with the feature film, Norteado. In 2014, his work Carmín tropical won the Best Mexican Feature Film Award.
Sebastián Hiriart directed the short film Perspectiva, with which he entered the competition in the sixth edition of FICM. In 2010, he returned to the festival to participate in the Mexican Feature Film Section with his debut film A tiro de piedra.
According to the Statistical Yearbook of Mexican Cinema of the Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE), 162 Mexican feature films were produced IN 2016. Consolidated trajectories and new filmmakers that are part of an industry that requires more exhibition spaces are the ones that keep alive the production of cinema made in Mexico. FICM knows this and has therefore included in its programming, since the first edition, the release of Mexican feature films out of the competition. Little by little the filmmakers who began with short films at the festival, who continued their career presenting their feature films, will be those that are part of this category.
“In analyzing the works received this year, we are surprised by their variety, depth and bill, as well as their willingness to examine a variety of themes and scenarios, and to investigate the Mexican soul,” Kelley wrote in 2007, a statement that year after year, continues to define the selection of works in competition of the Mexican Feature section.