A Brief History of the Morelia International Film Festival

This October, the Morelia International Film Festival celebrates its 15th year. For the first time ever, the festival will feature animation films to open and close the event. What is remarkable, is that the world premiere of Coco by Pixar Animation Studios will take place on October 20, the opening night. When the festival closes on October 28, Ana & Bruno by Carlos Carrera will premiere in Latin America.

Morelia, Mexico is famous for its annual Day of the Dead festival, as is the neighboring village of Patzcuaro, with its lovely lakeside ambiance. With many celebrants arriving for the colorful religious festival, the film festival often has participants who stay on after the closing day to enjoy the artistry typical of Day of the Dead celebrations. The area is renowned for its wonderful pageantry.

This year, the film festival is scheduled to premiere more than 50 entries from Mexico and around the world. It’s an important event for Mexico. It was founded in 2003 and created to provide an established forum which would promote talented Mexican cinematographers. The cultural wealth of the Mexican state of Michoacán is rapidly becoming known to the world, as the festival continues its outreach to the international community and growth of local Mexican cinema.

One integral part of the festival is that a special tribute is paid to a significant figure from the state of Michoacán, honoring his or her contributions to Mexican cinema. Filmmakers, cinematographers, actors and actresses have been included:

Filmmakers

  • The Alva brothers
  • Fernando Méndeza
  • Miguel Contreras

Cinematographers

  • José Ortiz Ramos
  • Ezequiel Carrasco

Actors

  • Damián Alcázar
  • Julio Alemán

Actresses

  • Lilia Prado
  • Stella Inda

The film festival has established partnerships with the Cannes Film Festival, and the United States Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). The Cannes Critics’ Week shows winning Morelia festival films at Cannes, while a selection of Critics’ Week films is presented at Morelia. The Morelia festival is officially recognized by AMPAS, so winning films from Morelia can be considered for Oscar nominations. Distinguished guests from around the world are hosted as well. Some notable names include Quentin Tarantino, Tommy Lee Jones, Werner Herzog, Salma Hayek, Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo del Toro, and many more.

When the annual October festival concludes, the winning feature films, documentaries and short films are shown at selected venues in Mexico City. Throughout the year, film conferences, exhibitions, round tables, outdoor screenings and film series take place in Morelia, Pátzcuaro, and Mexico City.

The excitement surrounding the world premiere of Coco, is particularly high, as the animated feature is set in Mexico and centers around Day of the Dead activities. Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter met Festival Director Daniela Michel in Lyon at the Lumière Festival and the idea of unveiling at Morelia was the perfect possibility from the start. Coco’s production team will be at the festival for the premiere.

Also attending will be Guillermo del Toro and his film The Shape of Water, which won the Venice Golden Lion. Former United States President Al Gore will be on hand to air An Inconvenient Sequel on October 21. He is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and his documentary is expected to bring some political relevance to the event. French filmmakers will be there, as well.

Particularly distressing is that there will be more than one hundred projects from Mexico screening this year, but the recent earthquakes and steep devaluation of the peso will adversely impact the festival this year. Due to the crises, many filmmakers have projects which are only 90% completed. However, Latinos will support the festival, and there is no shortage of international films making their Latin-American debuts. The festival will present stunning selections, and tickets are free. It’s promising to be an excellent time, with plenty of opportunities to discover what Mexican cinema is about today.

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