Mar 22, 2007

Three Amigos to the Rescue

I was recently asked to write an article in the Mexican newspaper Reforma about the phenomenon of the Three Amigos and their multiple Oscar nominations and the impact this may or may not have in Mexican filmmaking.
A lot of people, when they hear I'm Mexican and we're talking movies, say "Oooh, Mexican film is so hot right now!" To which I need to append a correction: Mexican film is not hot, Mexican filmmakers who work in Hollywood are. And the reason why they work in Hollywood is that despite the healthy amount of homegrown talent and the existence of a solid infrastructure for film production in Mexico, Mexican film has not been able to get off the ground as a thriving industry. So talent finds a home elsewhere.
There are many reasons for this, but probably the most important is that there is no investment, or incentives for producers to invest in film production. The competition from Hollywood is unfair and ruthless. The distribution and exhibition system favors big Hollywood blockbusters instead of small local movies, for which theaters actually charge more of the box office take (!). There is unbridled piracy. There is an outfit, for instance, called Video Metro Chilpancingo, where they have every pirated movie you'd ever wish to see. My film buff friend Mauricio reports you can get movies on DVD that haven't even been made yet. Such is the efficiency of Mexican piracy.
And for the most part, the quality of the films themselves leaves much to be desired. I ascribe it to the fact that the scripts are mostly awful. And I have always wondered why it is that we have a great tradition of genius cinematographers (many of whom are working for Hollywood today), and an equally big tradition of bad screenwriting. My guess is that in general that the Mexican temperament is not one naturally suited to the terseness and synthesis that a script requires. We like florid, wordy stuff. We are experts in "rollo"; literally a scroll, an endless, interminable scroll of blabla. Such is most of our literature: very wordy, not much action, and thus such are most of our screenplays.
So when there is no incentive to produce, when people get paid bubkes for their work, when there is no healthy creative competition, the standards are set low. And except for a few notable exceptions (which have landed our fabled trio where they are today), Mexican film has been unable to rise from its limitations.
Producers have been pushing for new legislation that will help finance more films in Mexico and the government, in its typical inefficient, Kafkian way, has tried to accommodate them with a cumbersome new law. Enter the Three Amigos. Hopefully, with their shiny, glitzy aura of fame and success, they will be able to persuade President Calderón (a big fan of business) and the Mexican lawmakers (good luck with them) to help the Mexican film industry.
I applaud them, one because if somebody can hope to give a push to film in Mexico it would be them and two, because it never fails that there is always some envious Mexican who claims that they are doing nothing for their own country, which is simply untrue. At least in the case of Del Toro and Cuarón, imdb lists a couple of their productions set to happen in Mexico in the near future.
So I'm glad the Three Amigos are riding into town and trying to do some good.
We'll see what happens.

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