June 2010, Volume 14, Number 3

Cultural Spotlight

MDC brings Hola Mexico Film Festival to Florida

Hola festival poster image

This year Miami Dade College brought a stellar array of international films to South Florida. Having selected winners even before the Oscars were announced, the 27th Miami International Film Festival (MIFF) featured an impressive roster, including the year’s Best Foreign Film Academy Award winner The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos) and The Milk of Sorrow (La teta asustada), which was nominated for an Oscar and also received the Golden Berlin Bear award

The film festivities didn’t end after MIFF’s successful run. Later in the spring, Miami Dade College’s historic Tower Theatre presented the Hola Mexico Film Festival (HMFF), which commemorated both the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence movement and the centennial of the Mexican revolution.

The brainchild of Samuel Douek, HMFF’s director and founder, this festival was launched in 2006 in Sydney, Australia, while Douek was pursuing a master’s degree in event management. Although international film festivals proliferate in the Land Down Under, Douek had noticed the conspicuous absence of works by Mexican cinematographers.

“I thought that Mexico had incredible films, yet they were not shown in Australia,” Douek said. “So I decided to do the same as all the other festivals, following their tried and true formula to fit my agenda.”

With other festivals sharing a strikingly similar format — 20 films from the previous year touring throughout Australia’s largest cities — Douek decided to begin with a similar, yet slightly abridged structure. He chose 15 feature films from Mexico and toured two cities in Australia. The following year he doubled that itinerary to four cities. But he didn’t stop there.

“In 2007 I visited New York and asked if there was a Mexican film festival, but there was nothing!” he said. “There were plenty of ‘Latino’ film festivals, in just about every city ... but nothing Mexican.”

Douek quickly developed a plan to replicate his Australian formula in the United States. In 2008, he brought his venture halfway around the world to
New York. By 2009, Hola Mexico was touring six cities in Australia and two in New Zealand, while its U.S. counterpart traveled to three cities.

Now on its third year touring the U.S., and its first visit ever to South Florida, this popular festival has expanded its reach to six cities across the nation, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami.

Among the films figuring most prominently in this year’s festival here in Miami was It Happened in One Day (Sucedió en un día), a series of shorts in the tradition of guerilla filmmaking. Eight renowned directors were given 24 hours to shoot and edit a short film in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. One of those was writer/director Julián Hernández, winner of the 2009 Best Feature Teddy at the Berlin International Film Festival for Enraged Sun, Enraged Sky (Rabioso sol, rabioso cielo) and the 2003 Best Feature Teddy for A Thousand Peace Clouds Encircle the Sky (Mil nubes de paz cercan el cielo, amor, jamás acabarás de ser amor). Hernández's presence at the opening night screening of It Happened in One Day added just the right touch of gravitas and glamour to HMFF, along with Babel Oscar-nominated actress Adriana Barraza, actress Dolores Heredia and actor Eckehardt Von Damm.

Douek could not be more ecstatic as he muses on what the future may hold for Hola Mexico. In hosting the event in South Florida, Miami Dade College’s Tower Theater has paved the way for Douek to dream even bigger.

“I’d love to see this festival go to 20 cities in the U.S. and perhaps eventually 20 countries around the world,” he said.

At the rate it’s going, Hola Mexico just may one day circle the globe.

— HP

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