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“In its fifteenth year, the Film Festival leaves San Miguel”: Sarah Hoch

By Jesús Ibarra

Fifteen years after its foundation, first as Expresión en Corto, then as the Guanajuato International Film Festival, GIFF, in 2012, the festival leaves the place where it was born, San Miguel de Allende, to be totally held in Guanajuato city. This was announced by Sarah Hoch, director and founder of GIFF. In an interview with Atención, Hoch reported that the main reasons for moving from San Miguel are the budget cuts by the state government and the lack of infrastructure in San Miguel.

Jesus Ibarra: Sarah, why does GIFF leave San Miguel?

Sarah Hoch: The most important reason is the reduction of over 30 percent of the support that the state government gives us, because of budget cuts for 2012. We sent official letters and to recover the 100 percent of the support, even told them that not having the budget in its entirety would force us to leave San Miguel de Allende, but they said that this year would not be possible because of different expenses incurred by the state government.

JI: Why leave San Miguel and not cut some of the days in Guanajuato?

SH: We had to cut the festival in the venue with no infrastructure. We could not cut Guanajuato because we would have nowhere to show the movies. It is also very difficult to hold the festival in San Miguel and then suddenly to move everything, in the middle of it, to another venue. When we brought international guests to San Miguel –last year it was Paul Shrader, script writer many of Martin Scorcese’s films –we ask them to excuse us for the technical limitations in San Miguel, because they will eat at the finest restaurants and will stay in the best hotels and that San Miguel has a wonderful atmosphere. San Miguel is magical and they fall in love with it, but when they come to the city of Guanajuato and they see the professional technology, they forget the rest.

JI: Will the San Miguel days be lost or will they be recovered in Guanajuato?

SH: The festival will be shorter this year. We will cut five days in San Miguel and we will extend one day in Guanajuato, so the festival will be from July 20 through 26, just in Guanajuato. Now we are adding two theaters in Guanajuato, the Juarez and the Cervantes. These two spaces provide more seats on one single day than five days in San Miguel. We are also asking for the auditorium of the university, with 1200 seats.

JI: Last year, the festival used the Cine Los Aldama, why not to rent it this year?

SH: The owners do not want to rent it, they want to sell it and the festival cannot afford to buy. There is a movement to build a project for the state government to acquire and condition Los Aldama. It is known that San Miguel requires a space like this. Besides GIFF, it could be used by other events like music festivals, or the San Miguel Writers’ Conference, which no longer fits in the Real de Minas; it could also be used to accommodate business tourism conventions during the week. I think it’s time to fight for a place there. If San Miguel lives from tourism, we need to create spaces that benefit tourism. If our stronghold is culture, we must promote cultural projects.

JI: Was there no support from municipal government?

SH: The municipal government’s support decreases each year. This year there were 100,000 pesos as a donation to the civil association. It is also the first administration that charges for using the Angela Peralta. The Tourism Council did not support us for three years because they believed that the festival was not important. This year, they offered 40,000 pesos, but that does not take us out of the trouble. Anyway, we would like to thank them. I think it is not enough just to say “we don’t have money.” It is necessary to know how to download federal funds; it is necessary to know how to generate projects that meet the requirements of the state and federal governments and to know how to properly direct those funds. On the other hand, local government employees have always given great support to the festival, such as Civil Protection, the Traffic Department and Alumbrado Público (Street Lighting), who have always given us a wonderful service.

JI: Do you consider that the GIFF can return to San Miguel in the future?

SH: It was a very difficult decision having to leave San Miguel, because we love it. We do want to come back, but for that, we need the Cine Los Aldama, as well as an alternative project for a convention center and another theater. We cannot show films of international importance and bring international guests in a Teatro Angela Peralta with just 300 seats or a Teatro Santa Ana with only 80. I want to thank and apologize to all sanmiguelenses who have supported us, both hoteliers, restaurateurs and members of the public.

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