Friday, November 12, 2010
KPBS film critic Beth Accomando previews the Mexican sci-fi films playing at this month's Cinem en tu Idioma.
Science fiction films are having resurgence in Mexico and two new ones -- "Seres Genesis" and "Depositarios" -- will be showcased as part of the San Diego Latino Film Festival's Cinema en tu Idioma (opening Novenber 12 at UltraStar Mission Valley Theaters at Hazard Center).
Back in the 1960s, Mexico churned out wildly imaginative science fiction films like "Ship of Monsters" with Lorena Velazquez.
"This is almost 40, 50 year," Velazquez told me back in 2008, "So you have to see the picture, you have to see in Mexico we don't have all the money that the Americans have so this is a little bit cheaper the pictures."
Some things never change. Mexico is currently seeing a resurgence in sci-fi movies but filmmakers are still working with very little money. Today, a pair of Mexican sci-fi films open in San Diego against Universal Picture's "Skyline." The $10 million "Skyline" is considered low-budget by Hollywood standards yet it still costs more than twice as much as the two Mexican films combined. But that's part of what's driving the new wave of sci-fi in Mexico says Tijuana filmmaker Aaron Soto - it's now cheaper to make films: "Thanks to digital technology, computers, almost anyone can make a movie at home so I think it is making people more creative and they are starting to make these low budget but very interesting movies."
Movies like "Depositarios" and "Seres Genesis," the two films opening today as part of Cinema en tu Idioma. Soto thinks director Guillermo Del Toro has inspired fellow Latinos to pursue genre filmmaking.
"There's a new trend in genre films especially sci-fi films in Mexico after Guillermo Del Toro did 'Cronos,'" says Soto, "These are a new generation of filmmakers that they're coming from film schools especially from CCC."
That's the Centro de Capacitacion Cinematografica in Mexico City. Rodrigo Ordoñez attended that film school and "Depositarios" marks his feature film debut.
"It's an amazing movie," says Soto who saw the film last month at the Morbido Film Festival. "It's really a well-crafted movie and it plays kind of like a Mexican 'The Matrix.'"
In part, these movies are imitating or at least playing off of Hollywood films. Amazingly, though, director Ordoñez manages some impressive effects despite a budget of less than $2 million. But these films are also trying to establish a new voice for Mexican cinema. So even though "Seres Genesis" owes a lot to the American TV series "The X-Files," it also tries to say something about cultural change. Take this scene between an American general and a Mexican professor.
GENERAL: Professor do you really want to mess with the strongest country in the world?
PROFESSOR: You might be the strongest in the world but Mexico is a different country now General. We can take care of our own.
Angel Mario Huerta
For "Seres Genesis," Angel Mario Huerta adapted his own comic book to the screen. It's the first part of an ambitious trilogy. The film opens with a sequence showing a connection between ancient Mayans and extraterrestrials.The Mayan reference is another way of giving the film a uniquely Latin flavor.
"It is something that has always been in Mexican culture," says Soto, "in folk tales and fairy tales that the Mayans have had communication with aliens. It's even in myths and legends. So it identifies a country like Mexico that is full of magic and mysteries and beautiful legends."
"Seres Genesis" and "Depositarios" join a group of recent Mexican sci-fi films that cleverly triumph over low budgets to deliver creative genre films. Independent Tijuana filmmaker Aaron Soto is proud of where his fellow Latin filmmakers are going but he's not entirely satisfied… at least not yet.
"We have very good genre films but I still don't think we have our 'Blade Runner' and we need it," says Soto.
You can sample some of this new wave of Mexican sci-fi this week as the San Diego Latino Film Festival showcases "Seres Genesis" and "Depositarios." You can also meet the filmmakers at tonight's screening or at a workshop at the Media Arts Center San Diego on Saturday.
If you are interested in more Mexican sci-fi check out these from the Golden Age of the 1950s and 60s: "La Nave de Los Monstruos/Ship of Monsters," "El Planeta de las Mujeres Invasoras," "The Aztec Mummy vs. The Human Robot," and "Santo the Silver Mask vs. The Martian Invasion," just to name a few of the best.
For more recent Mexican sci-fi look for "Sleep Dealer," "Timecrimes," "Extraterrestre," "Omega Shell" (a short film from Aaron Soto), "Monsters" (shot in Mexico), "GB 2525"