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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Mexican film fest displays UA talent


    The Tucson Cine Mexico film festival went through many incarnations before becoming what it is today — a weeklong cultural enterprise focused on democratizing film, bringing people cinema from across the border in a way that honors multicultural film and showing off some of UA’s artistic prowess.

    Tucson Cine Mexico focuses on the work of Mexican directors, spotlighting a mix of narrative featurettes, short films and feature documentaries.

    A few UA students had the opportunity to get hands on with Tucson Cine Mexico as interns.

    “It’s a really important cultural service,” said Rafael Gomez, a media arts student and intern for the festival. “It starts these conversations about culture and society, and a lot of films that we’re showing affect the ethnic culture in Tucson.”

    After Gomez interned with festival director Vicky Westover, he was then recommended for Tucson Cine Mexico. He’s been working on organizing travel and transportation for visiting directors and had input on how the final festival product would turn out.

    “It’s not like being an intern anywhere else. It’s not a subordinate position,” he said, highlighting that there’s much more to festival programming than just reserving the films. “Everything has to be done in advance, and getting funds to book everything is a task.”

    But Westover is essential to the fundraising process as well as the festival’s final outcome, Gomez said.

    “Vicky is such a passionate person for film in general but she’s also just passionate for people,” he said. “She’s very passionate for cultures that are not her own and she recognizes the importance of culture in our society. She is what makes the festival so special. Without her, it wouldn’t be here.”

    In fact, before Westover, Tucson Cine Mexico didn’t exist. When Westover, a professor in the School of Theatre, Film and Television and director of the Jack and Vivian Hanson Arizona Institute of Film, moved from the East Coast to Tucson nearly 10 years ago, she felt that the city needed a festival that represented a culture that impacts the city.

    Taking her experience in programming film festivals for African-Americans as well as Russian immigrants in Baltimore and her education in film appreciation with Simon Field at the London Institute of Contemporary Art, she created one of just a few Mexican film festivals in the country.

    “It’s the right kind of film festival that Tucson should have,” Westover said. “We present the best in contemporary Mexican films and we bring the films to Tucson. It’s usually a rare opportunity to see them, these films that receive critical praise at Cannes and Berlin and Toronto.”

    The focus of this year’s festival is female directors, according to Westover, and the main film is “Miss Bala.” Presented by 20th Century Fox International, “Miss Bala” was produced by Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, and Pablo Cruz. It was also the Mexican contender for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

    Westover said the Tucson Cine Mexico film festival might be the only place in the state where “Miss Bala” appears on the big screen.

    In partnership with the Mexican Consulate in Tucson, the Tucson Museum of Art, the Tucson Film Office, Harkins Theatres and the Fox Tucson Theatre — along with UA parternships with the Latin American Studies department and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese — the festival will run through early next month.

    But for Westover, it’s all about what kind of service Tucson Cine Mexico gives to Tucson.

    “It’s a gift to the community,” Westover said.

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