Mexican cinema celebrates 123 years: from Porfirio Díaz to The Avengers

On August 6, 1896, Mexico was able to contemplate for the first time the moving images in the cinematograph of the brothers Auguste and Louise Lumière. 123 years have passed since then and today cinema is a compilation of lights, emotions, sounds and even movements that are far removed from the yellowish images and the informative work for which this means of communication was born.

In the early days, film screens were not conceived as art, but as a means of information, says Ramón Ramírez, director of Public Relations at Cinépolis.
In the early days, film screens were not conceived as art, but as a means of information, says Ramón Ramírez, director of Public Relations at Cinépolis.

The start of the projections in Mexico took place just eight months after its world debut since the first show was presented in Paris, France, on December 28, 1895.

Thinking about Mexican cinema brings to mind surnames like Soler, Infante, Del Río, Félix, even Del Toro, Iñárritu, and Cuarón, but nobody thinks about Porfirio Díaz.

Thinking about Mexican cinema brings to mind surnames like Soler, Infante, Del Río, Félix, even Del Toro, Iñárritu and Cuarón, but nobody thinks about Porfirio Díaz.

"Porfirio Diaz was the first star of Mexican cinema," says Ramon Ramirez, director of Public Relations at Cinepolis in an interview with El Sol de Mexico.

The relationship he maintained and the admiration Porfirio Díaz had for French culture led the cinematographer to arrive through Europe and not the United States. For the then president, cutting-edge technology from France was synonymous with development, and cinema was no exception.

"The cinematographer has had since the end of the 19th century and the projection of stills lasted more than 100 years, because it was until seven or eight years ago that he formally initiated digitalization in the world and changed from having the projection of 24 frames per second, but the projection through celluloid remained in force, although the material changed because before it was very flammable," he adds.

It is precisely the flammable material that is one of the peak moments of Inglorious Bastards, where Quentin Tarantino gives us a nod to the history of celluloid.

The conspiracy to put an end to the Third Reich, which is the plotline of the film, takes a turn when Shoshana, a persecuted Jew, decides to burn all the films to put an end to the Nazi political dome.

During World War II, Adolf Hitler's speeches were broadcast on big screens. At that time, the end of cinema was propagandistic and played a fundamental role in the dissemination of the National Socialist message of the Fürer, who relied on Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda minister, to carry his message to the end of the world.

"People went to the cinema to see the news. That was the way people found out in tents or in the first cinemas in the world. Later, fiction cinema began," Ramírez says.

Another film that interweaves the history of the seventh art is Cinema Paradiso, directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, where in addition to talking about the flammability and danger represented by the tapes of yesteryear, the director narrates how the priests of the small towns censored the parts that they considered "immoral" for the people.

"There is a film called El Cometa, directed by Marisa Sistach, that talks about the history of the exhibition of Mexican cinema in circus tents," says the director of Cinépolis.


Ramón Ramírez comments that in cinema there were different technological and socioeconomic milestones that marked paradigm shifts in the way we appreciate from the great classics to the Avengers saga.

"The sound was the element that had the fastest evolution because the image remained stagnant for many years in black and white," he said.

At the end of the 19th century, the cinematograph had no sound, but the format had to evolve and the tents began to set up live music.

The sound within the movies came in 1929 and then evolved into two channels, which became known as stereo, with a brand called Ultra Stereo, which divided the audio into two channels.

"Today we have the Dolby Atmos technology, which is called the Voice of God, which is so enveloping that it seems that God is speaking to you. The technology has more than 11 channels, which allows you to have a sound so involute that it looks like an airplane is passing over you," he said.

But the changes were not limited only to content or technology, as the rooms were also modified.

In Rome, Alfonso Cuarón remembers the Cine Metropolitan, through a quote from Cleo, the main character of the story, with her boyfriend. The Metropolitan was a single room the size of a theatre that is far removed from the stadium-like spaces that dominate the current panorama.

Until 1994, cinema was integrated into the prices of the basic basket, which limited the possibility of making large investments in the sector and the predominant technology, as well as the arrival of foreign brands.

Between the end of 1993 and 1994, the ticket left the basic basket, which allowed the arrival in Mexico of chains such as United Artists, Cinemark, which was bought by Cinemex, and Cinépolis was born in Tijuana, with a set of nine cinemas. Just a year later, Cinépolis opened its first website.

But the offer is not limited to stadium halls since in 1999 the company directed by Alejandro Ramírez Magaña launched the concept of VIP lounges.

"In 2003, the loyalty program of the different brands began, which encouraged people to return to theaters," he adds.

The rest of the history of cinema is made up of theaters with IMAX screens, which takes this type of screening out of the exclusivity of museums and cultural centers and brings it to the general public, as well as functions in the third and fourth dimension.

Source: El Sol de Mexico

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To address the lack of space for Mexican cinema in the film duopoly (Cinemex and Cinépolis), filmmaker Iván Ávila Dueñas considers it important to promote stories in alternative spaces and in art theatres, which he says "are gaining more and more strength".

In an interview with Notimex about the release of his latest film The Romantic Hairdresser, Ávila Dueñas mentioned that as part of the distribution strategy he has planned a route through the main cities of the country, in order to maintain an approach with the public and know what moves them and what they identify with.

For now, they have done the same in Nuevo León, Zacatecas, and Mexico City, but have yet to visit Querétaro, Tijuana, Hermosillo, Oaxaca, and Guadalajara. In the latter city, he will also present his films Adán y Eva and La Sangre iluminada, as part of a cycle of "Fantastic Cinema" from Guillermo del Toro's exhibition En casa con mis monstruos (At home with my monsters).

In this regard, Ávila Dueñas said:

"The current conditions of the exhibition are very complicated for Mexican cinema and what we are trying to do is to be close to the public. To go and present it and give us time to dialogue and feedback with the people."

According to the director, these approaches have been very pleasant, "because you realize what happened to the people, what happens to them. On Saturday the 29th I presented it at Casa del Cine, Mexico City, and one person was very moved. She came from the loss of her mother and was fully identified with the story.

What we are looking for, he added, "is a direct and frontal exhibition with the public, and try to take care of the people who like our films, to give them that attention. Mexican cinema is doing very well in terms of production levels, but we still have a bottleneck in the exhibition and apparently, we can't aspire to the duopoly.

Although he recognized that it is important to listen to the community for a possible reform of the Cinematographic Law, he mentioned that "the exhibition in Mexico is a business that is calculated to sell certain types of stories, where Mexican cinema that does not look for the box office in a blatant way, has no place.

He said that "we should not lose sight of the fact that cinema in Mexico is seen as a market good and not a cultural good, that's why cinema that talks about identity do not have the necessary space and we have to look for other routes.

In that sense, Ávila Dueñas, who was Arturo Ripstein's assistant in the film Deep Crimson, reflected that Mexican cinema is in search of how to exhibit their stories and how to approach the public within the spaces they have.

"We have a cultural circuit that is more and more solid, as well as networks of cineclubs. The reform of the law is important but we have to take into account that it is a particular business," concluded the Mexican filmmaker.

The Romantic Hairdresser

For 93 minutes, Iván Ávila Dueñas portrays the story of Victor, a solitary hairdresser from Mexico City who, after the death of his mother, begins to look for someone to fill the void she left in his life.

Although she tries to have affairs with women, she doesn't get lucky until she decides to let go of her past to embark on new experiences in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she finally manages to find herself again and live without the emotional burden of her past.

The film, which had its national premiere at the 16th Morelia International Film Festival (FICM), is an original story by Armando López Muñoz and Iván Ávila Dueñas, with the collaboration of Paula Markovitch.

Source: Notimex

Mexican cinema breaks record in premieres

Despite the problems of distribution and exhibition that filmmakers have pointed out, Mexican films broke records last year when they released 115 films, the highest number in the history of the country, and 17 more than in 2017.

According to the report, 115 tapes arrived in theaters; it is the largest number registered in the history of the country; there were 30.3 million viewers of national films This was announced in the Statistical Yearbook of Mexican Cinema 2018, presented by the Mexican Institute of Cinematography (Imcine).

Last year also increased the attendance of people to national films with 30.3 million, almost ten million more than two years ago. The multi-award winning film by Alfonso Cuarón, Rome, was the one with the most audience with more than 32 thousand spectators.

In 1996 the premieres of national films to cinemas began to be reduced, as soon as they achieved it 20. Another of the worst years for the industry was 1998 because only eight were released. However, as of 2007, it returned to rebound with 43 tapes.

According to the report, Mexican production also continues its growth, since 176 films that were shot in 2017, it went to 186 in 2018.

Of the 186 works, 79 were documentaries, 47 films directed by women and 67 international co-productions with 28 countries. The highest percentage of productions was made in Mexico City, followed by Jalisco, State of Mexico and Oaxaca.

The report also highlights that Mexico has ranked among the 20 countries with the most film productions in the world, as well as the fourth place with the largest exhibition. However, the national cinema has not managed to reach the majority of the audience. The next yearbook would incorporate the figures of people who do not have access to the cinema in the country.

The film industry also generates wealth, since the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in that sector grew 7.4 percent, generating more than 30 thousand jobs. While the expenditure made by households in Mexico in terms of movies had an increase of 6.7 percent over the previous year.

The success of the movie "Roma"

In the yearbook, which offers figures on production, exhibition, and distribution, as well as television statistics and digital platforms, a study is dedicated to the case of the film starring Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira, Rome, which was reproduced on Netflix Mexico 3.6 million times the previous year.

According to the study, six out of 10 Mexicans with a subscription to the platform saw the winning film of three Oscars. In the country, it was detailed, only the people of Baja California Sur did not have the possibility of going to movie theaters to see the movie of Cuarón.

In the non-commercial circuits of the country where the film was screened, it was most successful in the National Cineteca, with 32 thousand attendees; and at the Los Pinos Cultural Complex and the Esperanza Iris City Theater, with three thousand people.

Filmmakers ask that Netflix and Amazon pay taxes in Mexico

Filmmakers demanded that the Commission of Culture and Cinematography of the Chamber of Deputies that digital platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video pay taxes in Mexico and that 30% of the available content be created by Mexican or independent productions.

Filmmakers ask that Netflix and Amazon pay taxes in Mexico and 30% of the available content be created by Mexican or independent productions
Filmmakers ask that Netflix and Amazon pay taxes in Mexico and 30% of the available content be created by Mexican or independent productions

Also at the beginning of last month, the Ministry of Finance revealed that it is intended to collect OTT calls (free calls, for example through Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp) through 2020. Nowadays these streaming platforms do not pay for using broadband internet nor do they pay taxes, since the headquarters are located in the neighboring country.

Netflix contains about 4 thousand contents of which only 70 are Mexican productions originally like the Luis Miguel series, and La Casa de las Flores, as well as movies like Bayonetta. While Amazon Prime Video, with approximately 2,500 contents in its catalog, it only has 10 national productions.

Víctor Ugalde, president of the Rafael E. Portas Cinematographic Public Observatory, said that the Mexican regime must take action in this regard.

"Any government that has a nation-specific project must invest to guarantee the access of its citizens to local production since otherwise they could only have foreign material, that is, basically American content, and this would be informally educating all the Mexican population with a foreign way of thinking" declared the filmmaker.

An example of these actions is in Europe, where measures have already been taken, Netflix was required to have 30% of independent European productions in its contents. In England and Brazil, the plan was presented, also a new regime where a quota is destined to an investment fund destined to local productions.

Both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video already produce in Mexico, Netflix will have local official stores and announced in February that it has a list of 50 national projects.