Mexican cinema after NAFTA

The Brazilian writer Frei Betto says that "in neoliberalism, culture is reduced to mere entertainment; the art happens to be worth, not for the aesthetic value of the work, but for the fame of the artist ".

Stock image of Oscars
Stock image of Oscars

In Mexico, a country with a great artistic tradition, it is worthwhile to recount what happened after the entry into force of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the seventh art: cinema.

In recent times, our country has captured the international media spotlight, since of the last five installments of the Oscar Award for best director, four times it has been obtained by Mexicans (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013, Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2014 and 2015; Guillermo del Toro, 2017).

Despite the positive image that this has brought to Mexican cinema, none of the productions for which they were awarded is of national production, since they have had to resort to foreign funding.

Neoliberalism and NAFTA, a before and after for Mexican cinema

According to José Méndez Morales, economist and researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), in his article "Neoliberalism in Mexico: Success or Failure?", He points out that the economic system referred to begins in the six-year term of Miguel de the Madrid (1982-1988).

Also, in one of the characteristics that it finds as fundamental for the functioning of neoliberalism, it points to the signing of free trade agreements with other nations. Precisely in this tenor, Mexico has 12 agreements of this kind.

The best known is the North American Free Trade Agreement, entered into force in 1994 and currently in force until its substitute T-MEC (Commercial Treaty of Mexico, United States and Canada) complies with their respective legislative processes in each country.

The doctor in communication sciences from the University of Havana and current researcher at the Autonomous University of Nuevo Leon (UANL), Lucila Hinojosa Córdova, has dedicated much of her academic career to analyzing Mexican cinema in the context of NAFTA.

"There is a before and after the cinema with the FTA. Before this time there was a law that reserved 50 percent of the rooms for national films, was enacted in 1949 and was in force until 1992, at that time the price of the ticket was regulated by the State and was even part of the basic basket".

Another characteristic of cinema before the FTA has to do with the relationship between the production and exhibition of films.

"There was a certain balance between production and exhibition, because still in 1990, two years before the signing of the FTA, 75 films were produced and 74 were presented. The country had 1,896 cinemas, 31 percent of the current, but attendance was proportionately greater: at that time, 197 million people attended the cinema, when we were 80. That is, 2.4 times per year ".

The tripling of the number of rooms, as well as the population increase, has led to Mexico having, according to the data provided in 2017 by the National Chamber of the Cinematographic Industry (Canacine), 348 million tickets sold, the fourth place at the level world.

In 1992, two weeks after the signing of the FTA, a new law was passed establishing that, as of 1993, cinemas must show Mexican films at a percentage of not less than 30 percent, gradually reducing to 25 percent. in 1994, 20 percent in 1995, 15 percent in 1996 and 10 percent in 1997, the percentage that currently prevails.

However, this norm is contradicted against what the FTA indicated, since the commercial agreement allowed up to 30 percent of national production in the cinemas of the three signatory countries.

"In a nutshell, NAFTA was more 'benevolent' than our own legislation."

The ten percent minimum exhibition has been translated into that, according to Canacine, only 22.4 million attendees (of 348 million) came to see a Mexican film, that is, only 6.4 percent of the total.

Migration and drug trafficking, main themes of Mexican cinema

After the signing of the FTA, Mexican cinema has been characterized by two themes that attract the public in other countries: migration and drug trafficking.

Suffice it to mention that the highest grossing Mexican film of all time is starring Eugenio Derbez, No returns are accepted, released in 2013, with a worldwide collection of 99 million dollars.

In this film, although it does not focus on migrant quality, it does present a main character who had to emigrate to the United States to get a job. In the same quality is the film A better life, which talks about the stereotypical work and family problems experienced by Mexicans living in the northern country.

The Mexican Academy of Sciences (AMC) researcher, Carmen Gómez Gómez, affirms that in the 21st century it is evident that Mexican cinema no longer has a problem with showing filmic pieces that exhibit social realities.

"The themes that go from fragmented families to the most radical ravages of neoliberalism that prevails in Mexico, Mexican directors have delivered a number of works on a decline in the role of the family in our society," shared the researcher.

After a lethargy, recovery ... relative

"Our film industry is in a clear recovery, as there is an increase in the audience of Mexican films. And of course, the new platforms help a lot to see more movies, but we have to think that in Mexico, 50 percent of the population still lives in extreme poverty, "explains Lucila Hinojosa.

Although it is palpable the increase of income that the Mexican cinema leaves annually, this has not been able to stabilize, because in the last five years it has had remarkable volatility. In 2012, the money collected at the box office was 444 million pesos, while in 2017 it was one billion pesos.

The peculiarity corresponds to that in 2016 they reached thousand 395 million pesos, but a year before had a dramatic decrease to 739 million pesos.

Source: https://www.conacytprensa.mx/index.php/ciencia/arte/24902-cine-mexicano-despues-tlc