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Hola Mexico Film Festival Returns To Digital Gym Cinema

Fest celebrates contemporary Mexican cinema

Photo credit: Woo Films

Surrounded by extravagant luxury, Sofía de Garay (Ilse Salas) lives in a dreamlike cloud of opulence in 1980s Mexico City in "Las niñas bien" screening as part of Hola Mexico Film Festival.

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

Hola Mexico USA Tour 2019

"108 costuras"

"Dulce familia"

"La boda de mi mejor amigo"

"Las niñas bien"

"Ocho de cada diez"

"El ombligo de Guie'dani"

"Como si fuera la primera vez"

"Si yo fuera tú"

"Mirreyes vs. Godinez"

This year's Hola Mexico Film Festival Tour 2019 features nine of Mexico's popular films and art-house releases.

Starting Friday Hola Mexico returns for the second year with a showcase of contemporary Mexican films that range from ridiculous comedy to brutal dramas to artful musings by new filmmakers.

"Hola Mexico is a traveling film festival featuring nine Mexican films released in the past year that are crowd-pleasers or soon to be art-house classics," said programmer Moises Esparza. "The Digital Gym Cinema is happy to be the exhibiting venue for this festival in San Diego as the programming aligns with our mission of bringing local audiences Spanish language content on a year-round basis, outside of the traditional San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF) dates. We're really the only venue where San Diegans can see Latinx content on the big screen every month. It also allows us to re-connect with SDLFF festival supporters and get them excited about our upcoming edition in March of 2020."

If you want escapism there is plenty on hand in the comedies "Si yo Fuera tú," about a feuding couple that experiences a "Freaky Friday" body swap; and "Como si fuera la primera vez," a Mexican remake of "50 First Dates." Comedy with a little more on its mind can be found in "Mirreyes vs. Godinez," a comic exploration of class and power; and "Dulce familia," that delivers a message of body positivity with humor.

I got to preview a trio of the darker hued films that reveal a diverse palette of cinematic styles.

"Las niñas bien" is mesmerizing from its first frame of Sofía (Ilse Salas) getting her hair washed. It's the 1980s in Mexico and Sofía lives a life of luxury untroubled by anything in the real world. But the Mexican economy is about to take a nosedive. Director Alejandra Márquez Abella gives the film an oddly dreamy and seductive quality even though there is some brutality going on under the surface in terms of how Sofía's clique of rich women treat outsiders and how she treats others. The film is beautiful as it examines some human ugliness and an ever-shifting economy that reshuffles the social hierarchy.

"Ocho de cada diez" is a bleak tale that criticizes Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and notes in an opening title that "During his six years in office more than 144,000 people have been murdered." The film breaks down that number to make it more real for the audience by suggesting that could be "six while you are watching the film."

Aurelio and Citlali cross paths in a Mexico City hotel and connect over the violence each has experienced. Director Sergio Umansky Brener delivers a brutal, intense story with a riveting performance by Noe Hernandez, who also excelled in "We Are the Flesh," which screening at the San Diego Latino Film Festival.

"El ombligo de guie'dani" tells an intimate story of a Zapotec teenager who joins forces with a rebellious teen to find her own identity in a society that often mocks her culture.

Films run through Oct. 17 at Digital Gym Cinema.

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