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Who is responsible for the renaissance in Mexican cinema

01:00 Mon 15th Apr 2002 |

A. Think of Mexican cinema and most people recall films of the great Luis Bunuel, who was not Mexican but worked there, or stars like Carmen Miranda or Pedro Armendariz, who left Mexico to find fame and fortune in Hollywood.

A new film, Amores perros, however is about to change all that. The film, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, won a Bafta award for the best foreign language film of the year, and Mexican cinema has barely been able to contain itself since the film became an international success.

Amores perros was nominated for an Oscar in the same category, the first time that a Mexican film film had been chosen since 1976, and has had rave reviews in Britain and elsewhere. The Mexican crew and cast were stunned to beat Amelie, the French super-success and favourite at Bafta.

Q.� Why aren't Mexican films better known

A.� Hard of the heels of Amores perros, comes another international box-office success - Y tu mama tambien (And Your Mother Too), by Alfonso Cuaron. This is a road movie about two sexually rampant teenage boys who hit the highway with a beautiful married woman in search of a mythical beach called Heaven's Mouth.

Mexican cinema has suffered badly over the years. Production was dealt a devastating blow by the economic disaster of 1994, and by 1998, an industry which produced dozens of films each year, many of them profiting by being sold into America as fodder for the thousands of Mexican immigrants there, made a total of just 11.

Even the veteran Arturo Ripstein, once an assistant director with Bunuel and Mexico's one film-maker whose work was shown at international festivals, couldn't get an audience. He directed Profundo carmesi (Deep Crimson), a reworking of The Honeymoon Killers.

Q.� What happened to change its direction

A.� A bittersweet comedy, Sex, Shame and Tears, was made by Antonio Serrano, who like Inarritu, was making his first feature. It wasn't a worldwide hit, but at home was the biggest box office draw in the 60-year-old history of the Mexican cinema. It even earned more than Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

It made producers, directors and exhibitors change their minds and encouraged established directors like Alfonso Arau, Luis Mandoki and Guillermo del Toro to think about returning from America.

Then Amores perros proved to be the biggest domestic earner of the year and fifth highest grosser behind Hollywood epics such as Gladiator and Mission Impossible: II. It was produced by Altavista Films, a new company whose stated policy is the reach a midpoint betweeen commercial crowd-pleasers and art-house movies. Other companies are now sprining up like Videocine, the film branch of Televisa, the most powerful TV network in the country.

The main funding comes from Imcine, the state company which has been instrumental in the survival of Mexican cinema.

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By Katharine MacColl

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