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Guanajuato International Film Festival Emerges as One of México’s Top 10 Yearly Events


Nicolas Cage

Yalitza Aparicio

By Jesús Aguado

San Miguel de Allende has its share of those who work in the world of film—directors, producers, and actors. But above all, it’s a city of movie lovers, with not just a megaplex cinema in town but also several small independent movie theaters set up in hotels, galerias, and the public library, all showing art films and documentaries from around the world.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that the city has embraced the Guanajuato International Film Festival (GIFF), now one of México’s most respected annual events, with open arms.

This year, GIFF will take place in San Miguel from July 19 to 23. The rest of the festival, which runs through July 28, will take place in the city of Guanajuato.

San Miguel will see many of the glamorous aspects of the festival this year. The 2019 program here will outdo itself with special guests from the world of Mexican and international film. Actors Nicolas Cage, Queta Lavat, and Jose Carlos Ruiz will all be here to receive special tributes, as will film directors Gus Van Sant and Terry Gilliam. Netflix’s Roma star Yalitza Aparicio will also appear at an event to support victims of domestic violence.

In addition, the festival returns with 223 movies from 47 countries, 120 of which will compete for awards. It will also showcase films from the Philippines.

Although the festival is, by tradition, completely free, organizers suggest to arrive early for events, as they fill up fast. When GIFF Executive Director Sarah Hoch announced the location and the special guests for this year’s festival online, thousands of posts quickly flooded social media, indicating a healthy interest in attending GIFF and in visiting the city.

The special guests

Cage will participate in various events, starting with a July 21 ceremony in the Jardín, where he will receive the festival’s Silver Cross, its emblem. The ceremony begins at 9pm. Later in the evening, his film Mandy will be screened. Then, on Monday, July 22, at 9am, the actor will lead a talk at the Ángela Peralta Theater. Festival organizers especially recommend that people arrive early for this event since the theater only fits 400. Those left out can watch the talk on closed-circuit TVs that will be set up in the Jardín.

In addition to his own tribute ceremony, Van Sant, known for My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy, and Elephant as well as photography, music, and painting, will share his thoughts, experiences, and advice on directing on Sunday, July 21, from 1 to 3pm at the Ángela Peralta Theater.

The Asociación de Mujeres en el Cine y la Televisión (Association of Women in Movies and Television) will highlight females in film, honoring two exemplary women in particular, Queta Lavat and Guadalupe Ramírez. Lavat is a veteran actress who has starred in many classic Mexican films in a career going back to the 1940s. Her continued work in theater, television, and voiceovers has made her one of the nation’s most recognizable actresses. Meanwhile, Ramírez will be honored for a life dedicated to some of the least-recognized yet most essential jobs in film production: negative cutting and film restoration.

Not just glitz and glamour

This year, GIFF has joined forces with the Salud del Estado de Guanajuato (Secretary of Health of the State of Guanajuato) in a campaign called Zero Violence Against Women. The festival organizers want to promote awareness of the many forms violence against women can take so that women are empowered to combat violence with support and solidarity between both genders.

Aparicio will appear at the Ángela Peralta Theater on Saturday, July 20, at 11am to share her own experiences with a group of domestic, sexual, and gender-specific violence victims.

The opening gala

The festival will open with a gala event on the evening of July 19 at 8pm, featuring many guests from the world of Mexican and international film. It will take place in the Jardín, where “we are all equal,” says Hoch.

This year’s honorees will be present, accompanied by a live band, mojigangas (larger-than-life papier-mâché puppets), costumed locos dancers, and more.

The best in México

Hoch turned the once-obscure Expresión en Corto (Short Expression) Festival into the GIFF, now one of the 10 most important festivals in the nation recognized by the British Academy of Film and Television Awards. Although GIFF’s federal grant was lowered this year from 10 to 5 million pesos due to policy changes, the federal government still views the festival positively, says Hoch.

GIFF will be the event to save the summer tourist season, says Hoch. With Van Sant—a director with a cult following—and Aparicio featured, she predicts a high turnout.

Since the federal government has placed GIFF at the same level of importance as other major Mexican events—such as the Feria Internacional del Libro (International Book Fair), La Guelaguetza (an annual indigenous culture event in Oaxaca), and The Guadalajara International Film Festival—Sanmiguelenses should take advantage of it, Hoch said.

“San Miguel doesn’t realize it, but we must seize the moment and remember that the government considers GIFF one of the top events in the nation and that they are the ones who give us the most support,” she said. “We need, as a city and a community, to recognize that GIFF is much respected, not for the overflowing occupancy of hotels and for providing employment but because we do our part culturally and artistically and with proven results.”

Hoch invites the residents of San Miguel to make GIFF their own. “You need to attend, participate, meet the visitors, live it, and appropriate it,” she said. “It’s our event, it’s in our town. Support us so that this does not end.”

For more information, check out partial listings of GIFF’s programming in Que Pasa.


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