GIFF returns home, and the journey begins

By Antonio De Jesús

Cinema is a journey, and the journey of the GIFF (Guanajuato International Film Festival) will start on July 19 in San Miguel de Allende. This year “the festival that never left home” comes back with screenings of more than 170 short and feature films. The GIFF will feature Colombia as guest country and Latin-American premieres, as well as homage to Fernando Luján, Danny Boyle and Darren Aronofsky.

A 16-year journey

In 1998, in San Miguel de Allende the Expresión en Corto Festival (now GIFF) emerged, defined by its director Sarah Hoch as the most important platform for great cinematographic talents, which impels young filmmakers and promotes film production through its competitions, workshops, consulting and international exchanges with the most important cinematographic companies around the world. This is a festival that presents the best of the international genres, that takes risks and pushes toward new horizons. The GIFF is now recognized worldwide.

In 1998, a small film festival that lasted for at least two years in San Miguel was canceled, at the same time Hoch was preparing a project for the Guanajuato Film Commission. Around the same time, the Hermanos Aldama Cinema was closed (because of a strike) and in San Miguel there was left only the Cinemas Gemelos, at Plaza Real del Conde, which did not show high-quality movies or the work of Mexican filmmakers. Hoch commented that the Mexican cinema industry was in crisis, because in its golden age (the 1940s) more than 400 movies were produced, but during the 1970s and 1980s production was reduced to 80. “In 1995, just three movies were produced in Mexico, and seven in 1995; the Mexican industry was dead,” explained Hoch.

In1998, MTV, through its reality show Road Rules, produced a short film capturing a road trip in Mexico; they intended to present this short film in San Miguel at the film festival, but it was canceled that year. Sara had the idea of launching Expresión en Corto, which they put together in two months; they published a call for submissions of short films and received 38. “Road Rules was a success in the country; they were Americans making a road trip from the north to south of Mexico, and they made it; they arrived in San Miguel and attracted the Mexican media,” said Hoch. She also noted that in that year in San Miguel there were no entertainment offerings beyond bars and discotheques for young people, but the Festival attracted undergraduates from Mexico City, Querétaro and other states, who filled the Teatro Ángela Peralta, and they came exclusively for the festival.

Always at home

In 2001, the festival was extended to Guanajuato, because the venues in San Miguel were not large enough for the audiences; it moved from the Teatro Ángela Peralta (450 seats) to the Guanajuato Auditorium (2,000 seats). “Wherever we went, the festival kept growing,” commented the director. For its sixth edition the Festival returned to San Miguel, and in its 13th year they changed the name to GIFF. Hoch remarked that in the 10th year they started presenting more feature films and the name Expresión en Corto was preventing them from receiving feature films, because some producers thought it was exclusively for short films, even though they had such renowned guests as Tim Burton and Oliver Stone.

In 2012 GIFF left San Miguel again, but it is even stronger and back in its hometown, ready to take audiences on a journey to other universes during almost 10 days of 400 films shown in two cities and 21 venues.


The Film Festival has had special guests such as Oliver Stone, Tim Burton, Julie Taymor and Alejandro González Iñárritu, among many others. The organization also pays tribute to men and women who have spent their lives in the cinema industry. In San Miguel de Allende the tribute will be for Mexican actor Fernando Luján, who filmed his first movie in 1947 and since then has made more than 70 films, and counting. Some of his more recent movies are El Coronel no tiene quien le escriba (No one writes to the colonel), Cinco días sin Nora (Five days without Nora) and Cosas simples (Simple things). The homage will be held on Saturday, July 20, at 7:30pm at Cine los Aldama. The actor will offer a conference at the same venue the next day at 4pm.

In Guanajuato, the homage will be for Danny Boyle, on July 25 at 8:30pm, and it will include a red carpet in front of the Teatro Juárez. Danny Boyle is a British producer and director; some of his works are Trainspotting, The Beach, Slumdog Millionaire, Sunshine and A life Less Ordinary. He will offer a talk the same day at 2pm in the State Auditorium.

From the United States, the honoree will be Darren Aronofsky, renowned for movies such as Pi, Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan. The red carpet will be on Friday, July 26 at 8:30pm in front of Teatro Juárez. His talk will be in the State Auditorium the next day at noon.


The festival in San Miguel will open with the movie Fruitvale Station, which will be screened in the Jardín Principal on Friday, July 19, at 8pm (Hoch said that the actors might attend the GIFF). This American drama is based on the true story of a young man named Oscar Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan). Grant gets involved in a fight and at the moment of his arrest a police officer shoots and kills him. Several people record the scene on their cell phones and protests break out because the officer did not receive a harsher punishment.

The festival will also feature the Mexican movie Casi treinta (Almost thirty), which was filmed in Sonora and Mexico City on a budget of 22 million pesos. This movie tells the story of a group of friends who are about to turn 30 years old, and they realize that this is the last chance that they have to change their lives and fight for their dreams.

Colombia, as the guest country, on July 20 (Colombian Independence Day) will bring to the Jardín Principal at 9pm the feature film Apaporis. This film shows stunning landscapes of the Colombian Amazon forest, from Mitú to the Apaporis River, following the steps of ethnobotanist Richard Evans, who records indigenous knowledge and the oldest secrets to resurrect the dead.

The venues in San Miguel will be Cine Hermanos Aldama, Teatro Ángela Peralta, Jardín Principal, Galería Kunsthaus and Casa de los Condes de la Canal and the cemetery off Salida a Celaya, where horror movies will be shown, among other places.

More than movies

The festival includes concerts (one every night before the projection of the movies in the Jardín) and some book presentations, one of which is ¡Quiero ver sangre! Historia ilustrada del cine de luchadores (I want to see blood! Illustrated history of wrestling movies). The title Quiero ver sangre! comes from an expression commonly yelled by wrestling fans during a bout.

This edition includes more than 800 images of wrestlers, along with interviews and other writings. It discusses the emergence, rise, fall and resurrection of cinema. The presentation will be held at the Casa de los Condes de la Canal on Sunday, July 21, at 11am. The GIFF also features talks and workshops.

In San Miguel, said Hoch, the festival looks forward to a better cultural and artistic future, and they are seeking to create venues where the GIFF and all the festivals in the city could be held under the proper performance conditions and evolve, because in this city, she remarked, there are talented people who know how to do their job. Hoch also noted that this year the festival will be spectacular, with lots of glamour and glitz, red carpets, quality movies and many events.

Check the whole program out at and in Qué Pasa next week.


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