The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Why Mexican cinema goes unseen

Illustration by Maliahguiya Sourgose on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. (Maliahguiya Sourgose)

Mexican cinema boasts an outstanding repertoire of movies from the past: “Macario,” “Nosotros Los Pobres,” “El Topo,” “Rojo Amanecer,” and “Y Tu Mamá También,” to name a few. Surely, great filmmakers make great movies.

However, the current stagnation of Mexican cinema is undeniable. It’s been a while since the world has heard about an exceptional Mexican film produced and shot in Mexico after “Roma.” The question is why.

The problem is not a lack of great Mexican movies, but rather the lack of film distribution. There have been masterful recent productions, such as “El Baile de los 41,” “Mano de Obra,” “Las Elegidas,” and the upcoming “Cassandro”–a film that I am very excited to watch. Many of these are praised by critics and audiences alike, but they have limited time slots in theaters compared to big American blockbuster movies, such as “Spider-Man: No Way Home” or “The Flash.”

There are many excellent Mexican films out there, but there is also a lack of financial support by the government. This has left many Mexican films unwatched around the world; some don’t even try a theatrical release, but instead go directly to streaming because it is easier to shine on Netflix.

The current state of Mexican cinema

I love the current releases of Mexican movies, so this isn’t me bashing on the movies themselves, but instead, it is a matter of what is being shown in theaters and what isn’t.

It’s hard to distribute a Mexican film to audiences. Not only does it cost a lot, but most of these films have to compete with Marvel movies, big IPs and big-budget American studio films. There are times throughout the year when no national films are screened because everyone is preoccupied with superhero movies (which I personally enjoy). Hence, many outstanding Mexican films end up getting lost in the shuffle.

Now, aside from the lack of space for local movies, there is also the issue with the types of genres screened – most are romantic comedies.

There was a movie in 2011 called “Nosotros los Nobles,” which was a very good comedy about rich kids being taught by their dad how to be humble and appreciate what they had. I personally recommend everyone watch it. But when this happened, Mexican studios noticed how well the romantic comedy formula worked, mostly because they aren’t a huge investment and tend to connect well with audiences.

“No Se Aceptan Devoluciones,” another fantastic film, came immediately after, which, at this point, is one of the highest-grossing Mexican films.

From that point on, Mexican cinema drastically shifted its format, which was fun and comforting at first. However, after a while, these comfort films have become repetitive, watered-down versions of those first two major successes, with character names and settings the only changing elements.

And if, on some rare occasion, a non-rom-com film is screened, you are likely going to see a remake of another movie, but with a Mexican cast. Originality is not common in many of these films.

A bleak future?

One of the recent issues that Mexican filmmakers are going through is the lack of financing by the government through the Mexican Film Institute (abbreviated IMCINE in Spanish), which had its budget cut by 19% in 2019. This has caused many projects to be short-lived.

When Maria Novaro, the director of the institute, was asked about this, she constantly said that there were no budget cuts by the government, even though there were many less productions approved for financing. For many filmmakers, the fact that this institution is approving less projects for financing shows a very bleak future for their upcoming projects.

On other fronts, Netflix recently released a special conversation between Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro titled “The Three Amigos.” This, of course, got a lot of hype from up-and-coming Mexican filmmakers, but on the flip side, many questioned how this event was presented.

It was a conversation between three Spanish-speaking Mexican directors, talking in English for an American audience. While not necessarily a bad thing, it did bring up questions regarding the ability of Mexico in creating new filmmakers. Many people noticed that the three directors in this event had one thing in common: they started their careers in Mexico. However, it was only after they moved to the U.S. that they became the recognized filmmakers that they are now.

There haven’t been any new Mexican directors that look like they are going to make that jump to the mainstream just like these three men did.

A great majority of the public say that this might be because there haven’t been any good filmmakers after them, but I disagree. There are a lot of amazing directors that are currently working in Mexico, such as Amat Escalante, Michelle Garza Cervera, David Pablos and many more.

The issue is that the Mexican government doesn’t seem to be very interested in promoting national cinema; they’d rather invest in big American blockbusters, affecting the reach that these amazing filmmakers could have.

What can be done?

As the saying goes, money talks. If there is a demand for Mexican cinema, there will be a supply of it. If studios and distribution companies see that people are interested in these films, they will go out of their way to provide that to bigger audiences.

You would have to do a little bit of research to find streaming services or theaters screening Mexican movies, but I assure you it is worth it. I hope that with time it won’t be as difficult to watch the work of these amazing storytellers.

Nearly every time, you will find the most beautiful cinematography and the most amazing stories in these movies because they are all made with a lot of passion since that is how many independent filmmakers produce their movies. Believe me, you won’t regret exploring Mexican movies.

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