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Guanajuato International Film Festival announces new GIFF Residence

By Daniel Kandell, GIFF

Although for the past 15 years the Guanajuato International Film Festival (GIFF) has been a 10- day event held in San Miguel de Allende and the city of Guanajuato in late July, the festival is actually in operation throughout the year, when its community outreach activities and educational initiatives go into high gear.

Come January 2013 it will be the first Mexican film festival to host an artist-in-residence program, known as the GIFF Residence, creating a permanent space that welcomes instructors from around the world to mentor talented young creators, allowing time for rigorous instruction in both theory and technique.

The new GIFF Residence, whose headquarters will be located on the premises of Fábrica La Aurora, will be an epicenter for cinematic training in the country. Sarah Hoch, executive director of GIFF, says the idea of ​​the residence has been developing for years and it will now become a reality, taking advantage of partnerships that have been cultivated with various institutions from around the world, such as the Cannes Film Festival, Binger FilmLab and the Vancouver Film School.

“The GIFF Residence is actually a house that will be occupied by eight filmmakers at a time, who may each be working on different stages of a given project, and who will be advised by national and international experts, with the common goal of completing their films,” said Hoch.

For the past five years GIFF has been host to the annual MexiCannes Summer Residence Program, which yearly welcomes the 12 laureates from the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinéfondation during the 10 days of GIFF in July. Now GIFF will be able to offer similar opportunities to young filmmakers year-round, allowing them between one and five months to concentrate on completing their projects.

“The idea is to bring the most important national and international talents to Guanajuato, not only showing the best of world cinema, but also participating in its creation,” said Hoch.

Although the GIFF Residence won’t officially open its doors and host filmmakers until January 2013, very soon we will begin to see some activity, as the participants of the Collegiate Documentary Contest “Identity and Belonging,” the 48-Hour Collegiate Production Rally and the aforementioned MexiCannes program will all have their workshops and master classes within its facilities.

Documentary contest, collegiate production rally and MexiCannes

For the third year GIFF is organizing the Collegiate documentary contest “Identity and Belonging,” whose goal is strengthening young people’s national identity by giving them a sense of belonging. Each 10-minute documentary is produced with the theme of Identity and Belonging, which each team is free to interpret in its own manner, be it through their educational, family or social environment. The contest seeks projects that are extremely personal, professional and universal and that can compete on an international level. The participants have the opportunity to consult on their projects with noted figures in the film industry on the subjects of theme, structure, production, audio production and post-production, offering them the knowledge and tools necessary to create a professional short documentary that is screened during GIFF.

GIFF challenges film schools and universities from across Mexico to participate in the 48-Hour Collegiate Production Rally. Universities are invited to submit five-minute short fiction scripts, with open theme and subject matter, written by currently enrolled university students. Eight projects are chosen from nearly 200 submissions, and the selected universities compete against each other in the city of Guanajuato during the festival, as they race to shoot, edit and present a short film shot in high-definition video in 48 hours. All locations, sets, props and wardrobe must be sourced within Guanajuato, meaning that the eight teams must literally knock on the doors of the Guanajuato community and ask for these items to be lent for the production. The shorts include the participation of recognized professional actors and the films are screened before thousands of spectators. A jury of film industry professionals selects the winners. During the four months of pre-production the teams receive media attention, as well as workshops aimed at giving them the tools necessary to create quality short films. The workshops are given by prestigious companies such as Panasonic, EFD (Equipment and Film Design) and Encore Sound, as well as important filmmakers who offer them a glimpse into real-world production through discussions on film production, lighting and photography, camera operation, audio production and design and directing.

For the fifth consecutive year, GIFF offers the 12 Cinéfondation Residence Laureates, some of the most promising young filmmakers in the world chosen each year at the Cannes Film Festival, the opportunity to present their projects to international producers, investors and diverse film funders during the international pitching market. The laureates are also invited to participate in workshops and private master classes with acclaimed national and international luminaries of film invited to GIFF, who in the past have included Spike Lee, Deepa Mehta, Spike Jonze, Shyam Benegal, Peter Greenaway, Eliseo Subiela, Lucrecia Martel, Alejandro González Inárritu, Bong Joon-ho, Paul Schrader and Larry Clark.

What does the new GIFF Residence mean for San Miguel?

The GIFF Residence is a nod to the educational and artistic tradition that begat the cosmopolitan spirit of San Miguel de Allende and made it a famous “artist colony” where Mexicans and foreigners came to study art and culture for decades.

“I grew up in San Miguel and the reason it attracted so many foreigners was because of its artistic and creative spirit. I believe the city has lost some of this reputation, and I think we now have an opportunity to once again turn it into a place that inspires creative energy while in the process helping create major artistic projects,” commented Hoch.

The GIFF Residence will offer an alternative for postgraduate or advanced studies in San Miguel and will be a one-of-a-kind facility in the state of Guanajuato and the country, offering filmmakers from Mexico and around the world the opportunity to receive personal instruction from some of the top professionals from countries such as France, Holland, the US, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Korea and Hong Kong. Backed by 15 years of history, experience, contacts and infrastructure, the GIFF Residence will be a pioneer in cinematographic education and will offer a geographic alternative for cinematic instruction within Mexico.

If you are interested in learning more or participating in the GIFF Residence project, please contact Adriana Castillo at

 GIFF’s economic impact

The Secretary of Tourism Development for the state of Guanajuato reported that last year’s GIFF brought in 139,157,196 pesos, an increase of 5 percent over 2010. This figure is calculated from the sum of investment in both San Miguel de Allende and the city of Guanajuato by the festival’s own organization and logistics, local audiences, special guests, filmmakers, press and attendees from out of town.

Also last year, during the GIFF tourism was up 20 percent compared to the previous year, and relative to previous weeks hotel occupancy rates in San Miguel increased 13 percent. In Guanajuato hotel occupancy rates increased 10 percent during the GIFF compared to the previous weeks that same summer. And in both cities, hotel occupancy during the summer was highest overall during the festival.

GIFF was responsible for generating a total of 440,202,188.50 pesos worth of promotion for San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato through 1,241 print articles, 586 notices in electronic media, 50 magazine articles, 372 mentions on radio, 50 interviews during the press tour, 614 spots on TV and exchanges with various media.

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