Mexico’s Monterrey Film Festival (ficmonterrey) is chasing new ambitions in a bid to raise its international profile. Buttressed by generous state, local and private backing as well as some federal funding, the festival, running Sept. 28 – Oct. 4, aims to become Mexico’s most prominent international film festival and a key creative hub in Mexico.
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This year’s 19th edition boasts a new director, Janeth Aguirre, also its first female director, and new hires: Diana Cadavid, a programmer for Toronto (TIFF), LA Latino Int’l Film Fest (LALIFF) and Colombia’s Cali, who has taken charge of the festival’s burgeoning industry section, and LA-based PR agent Alvar Carretero of Joshua Jason Public Relations.
In recognition of its country guest of honor, South Korea, the fest will open with “Little Forest” by Yim Soonrye, one of the few prominent women film auteurs in South Korean New Wave cinema. Five of her films will screen as part of the tribute to her.
“The focus will be on Korean female directors,” said Aguirre, who added: “Nuevo León has a very important Korean community, given the presence of KIA and Hyundai car factories in the state.” She also noted the worldwide success of South Korea’s film and television output.
Ficmonterrey does not seem to be struggling from post-pandemic cutbacks, unlike other festivals in Mexico and elsewhere around the world, and in the extreme case of Los Cabos Film Festival, which called off its 12th edition two months before its November opening date.
The festival benefits from the fact that Monterrey, the sprawling business and industrial capital of the northeastern Mexican state of Nuevo León, boasts the highest per-capita income in the country.
Home to major multinational companies, including steel, cement and car factories, Monterrey and the state of Nuevo León will eventually include Elon Musk’s Tesla, which announced in March that it would build a new Gigafactory near Monterrey, an estimated $10 billion dollar investment that expects to employ thousands of workers.
But Nuevo León’s young, dynamic governor, Samuel Garcia, who turns 36 in December, is keen to diversify the state’s investments, with an eye at bolstering its creative industries, said Aguirre, who also points out that he has first-rate advisors.
The festival boasts three world premieres, nearly a dozen Latin American premieres, 22 Mexican premieres, several short films in competition and a host of international guests that include Canadian-Italian helmer-scribe Floria Sigismondi, whose credits include Sundance title “The Runaways” and episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Writer Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (“Blue Beetle,” “Contrapelo”); Emmy and Peabody-nominated producer Emerson Machtus, vice president, BLKBX Original; Adhrucia Apana, director and founder of Curiosity Entertainment/GP of Curiosity Media Finance; conceptual artist Julián Calle; Paul Pérez, producer of the third reboot of “Father of the Bride,” starring Andy Garcia, Gloria Estefan and Diego Boneta, and Lebanese-American filmmaker/producer Oualid Mouaness (Max Richter’s “Sleep,” “1982”).
Among pics vying for the festival prize, the Cabrito de Plata, named after Nuevo León’s emblematic dish, roasted kid goat, are David Galán’s rapper comedy “Matusalén,” co-written with Fernando Hernández Barral and produced by Spain’s Enrique Cerezo; Philippe Van Leeuw’s “The Wall,” starring “Phantom Thread’s” Vicky Krieps; “The Rescue” (El rapto”), Daniela Goggi’s political thriller, fresh out of its triumphant world premiere in Venice; Chilean Matias Bize’s multi-prized “The Punishment” (“El Castigo”) and award-winning Venezuelan-U.S. sibling drama “The Shadow of the Sun” (“La sombra del sol”) by Miguel Ángel Ferrer.
A Cannes Palme d’Or Best Screenplay and Queer Palm winner, “Monster”by Hirokazu Kore-eda, will have its Latin America Premiere at the fest where it opens the industry section on Sept. 29.
Also leading the fest’s World Highlights are “The Space Race,” a documentary by Lisa Cortés and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza about NASA’s first black pilots, engineers and scientists and the obstacles they had to face, and Robert Rodríguez’s sci-fi action thriller “Hypnotic” starring Ben Affleck and Alice Braga.
GALLERY- WORLD HIGHLIGHTS
“Monster,” Hirokazu Kore-eda (Japan, Latin American premiere)
“The Space Race,” Lisa Cortes and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza (U.S., Latin American premiere)
“Peafowl,” Byun Sungbin (South Korea, Latin American premiere)
“Waiting for Dali,” David Pujol (Spain, Latin American premiere)
“Afire” (“Cielo rojo”), Christian Petzold (Germany, Nuevo León premiere)
“La piel pulpo,” Ana Cristina Barragán (Ecuador, Nuevo León premiere)
“It’s a Wrap,” Amit Miller and Miri Urman (Israel, Latin American premiere)
“Hypnosis: Deadly Weapon,” Robert Rodriguez (U.S., Mexican premiere)
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILMS IN COMPETITION
“From You,” Shin Dongmin, South Korea (Latin American premiere)
“The Wall,” Philippe Van Leeuw, Luxembourg, Denmark, U.S. (Latin American premiere)
“Dear Memories,” Nahuel López, Germany, Switzerland (Mexican premiere)
“Matusalén,” by David Galán Galindo, Spain (world premiere)
“Opponent,” Milad Alami, Sweden (Latin American premiere)
“Un hogar sin armarios,” Eduardo Cubillo Blasco, Spain (Latin American premiere)
LATIN AMERICAN FEATURE FILMS IN COMPETITION
“The Punishment,” Matías Bize, Chile, Argentina (Mexican premiere)
“Ese soplo,” Valentina Baracco Pena, Uruguay (Latin American premiere)
“El Rescue,” Daniela Goggi, Argentina, U.S. (Latin American premiere)
“Las preñadas” Pedro Wallace, Argentina, Brazil (Mexican premiere)
“La sombra del sol,” Miguel Ángel Ferrer, Venezuela, U.S. (Mexican premiere)
MEXICAN FEATURE FILMS IN COMPETITION
“Un mundo mejor,” Janett Juárez (world premiere)
“Sal Azul,” Alejandro Cervantes Polanco (world premiere)
“Amor Fantasma,” Marusia Estrada (Mexican premiere)
“No quiero ser polvo,” Iván Löwenberg (Mexican premiere)
“La Pipera,” Miguel Pérez (Nuevo León premiere)
KOREAN GUEST COUNTRY
“Little Forest,” Yim Soonrye
INTERNATIONAL TRIBUTE – YIM SOONRYE:
“Promenade in the Rain”
“Forever the Moment”
“Rolling Home with a Bull”
KOREA GUEST COUNTRY: A LOOK AT CONTEMPORARY KOREAN FEMALE-DIRECTED CINEMA
“The World of Us,” Gaeun Yoon
“Moving On,” Danbi Yoon
“Honest Candidate,” You-jeong Chang
“Next Sohee,” July Jung
“The Summer,” Ji-won Han
“The Apartment with Two Women,” Sein Kim