POV Intern and DOC RED member Melissa Saucedo reports back from a recent meeting.
Over the past few years, the production of documentary films in Mexico has increased considerably. The latest report from the Mexican Institute of Cinematography (IMCINE) found that productions climbed from six productions in 2007 to 33 in 2012.
Documentary film festivals such as Voices Against Silence (started in 2000), the traveling festival Ambulante (started in 2005 by actor-filmmakers Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal) and DocsDF (started in 2006), have gathered a cumulative audience of almost 140,000. They have proven themselves as important venues where directors have found a space to present their films. (And two more festivals, The Morelia Film Festival and The Guadalajara International Film Festival, have a longer history of supporting fiction and nonfiction talent.)
But the landscape for documentary filmmakers to produce or present their films remains bleak — you’re more likely to see a Hollywood fiction film at a Mexican theater than a Mexican film. In 2011, reports from IMCINE show that 315 movies premiered in Mexico, of which 55 were Mexican-made, and fewer were documentary films.
Academic programs about documentary filmmaking, such as those at the University Center of Cinematography Studies (CUEC) and the Film Training Center (CCC), are rare.
In 2012, documentary filmmaker Everardo González (Old Thieves, Drought) told CNN Mexico, “While you are not in the current agenda of certain private companies, it is difficult to sustain the film, and it’s always like that.”
Early in 2012, Documentalistas Mexicanos en Red (DOC RED) was formed as a national organization to find opportunities to open up more venues, funds and support for the documentary filmmakers and supporting organizations across the country. Almost 100 filmmakers have joined, representing 23 of Mexico’s states and Mexico City, including Luciana Kaplan (Eufrosina’s Revolution, Hot Docs 2013) and Alejandra Islas (The Shelter), along with many organizers of film festivals, like Inti Cordera of DocsDF.
In December, DOC RED met at Semana de Cine Documental in Jerez, Zacatecas, to organize, discuss, and bring forward the challenges of the genre in four main areas: production, funding, education and distribution. Over four days, DOC RED engaged in conversations addressing issues such as the creation of an all-Mexican documentary film catalog going back to 2010, with support from IMCINE; the efforts to organize events around the country as alternatives to movie theaters; and the strategies to expand and obtain support from other government organizations.
It may take time to bring together all of the organizations, activities and peers that support documentary filmmaking in Mexico, but the results will be worth waiting for.