August 24, 2007

Baja Film Fest is a major movie platform in northern Mexico

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

For years, Baja California has been a major cultural center in northern Mexico.

Literature from the state is thriving, and the rest of the country looks to Baja California, especially to Tijuana, for its innovative writers and poets.

The visual arts are another area where Baja California has excelled. Its artists have developed into some of the most recognized creators in Mexico, and being recognized all over the United States.

And since Fox Studios decided to establish Fox Baja in Rosarito for the filming of Titanic in 1997, Baja California has attracted many major Hollywood productions for its natural and urban settings that offer filmmakers a diverse set of opportunities.

But not only major studios have turned their eyes to Baja California.

For the past four years, independent filmmakers from all over the world have participated in the Baja California Film Festival, which, from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2, will present its fourth edition with more than 100 films in Tijuana and Ensenada.

“This is the most important film festival in northwestern Mexico,” said Mario Hernandez Lamia, president of the Baja California Film Festival. “We’ve been able to make it to this fourth edition and we’re growing rapidly.”

The film festival includes 101 films, including feature films, shorts, documentaries, and animation.

“It offers a great variety of films for all tastes,” Hernandez said.

The festival had an open call for films and this year it received around 600 films from all over the world.

But the presence of Mexican and Baja California filmmakers is strong. Of the 101 films being presented this year, Hernandez said that 20 percent were made by Baja Californians.

The films represent more than 30 countries, including the United States, Puerto Rico, Iran, China, Brazil, and several European nations.

“We offer a diverse set of films,” Hernandez said.

The films will be shown in Tijuana and Ensenada. In Tijuana, the public will be able to see the movies at Cinema-Star Plaza Americana in Mesa de Otay and at CinemaStar Plaza Coronado in Playas de Tijuana.

Entrance to each movie screening costs 19 pesos, or about $2 dollars.

“It’s a very symbolic price,” Hernandez said. “We want many people to have the opportunity to watch films that they wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else in commercial movie theatres.”

The festival will also have special filmmaking workshops as well as presentations from directors, screenwriters, actors, and technical personnel.

This year among the stars that will be on-site are the Spanish-language cast of The Simpsons.

Hernandez said that although the festival is open to the general public, it serves as an important platform for filmmakers to make professional contacts.

This year, the Baja California Film Festival made an agreement with the Club de Niños y Niñas de México, the equivalent to the Boys and Girls Club in the U.S., to make a donation to the non-profit organization, Hernandez said.

He said Baja California is becoming a major fimmaking area in Mexico. Movies such as Gonzalez Iñarritu’s Oscar-nominated Babel were partially filmed in Tijuana.

The state especially attracts independent filmmakers.

Hernandez said that among the attractions that Baja California offers to filmmakers are the lower prices than in the United States as well as the spectacular locations for filming.

“We have natural resources that you won’t find anywhere else: We have deserts, forests, great beaches, all in just one place,” he said.

He also said that the state has technicians who are very professional and U.S.-trained to work in films.

“This attracts many independent filmmakers with a limited budget,” Hernandez said.

For a complete schedule of films and activities during the 4th. Baja California Film Festival, visit www.bajacaliforniafilmfest.org. The information is available in English and in Spanish.

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