The talented Estefania Garcia got an inside look and interview with the director Alonso Aguilar-Castillo, Director of the Los Cabos International Film Festival, which begins on November 12th. Come with us and take a look behind the scenes at what the neighbors are doing.
The third edition of Los Cabos International Film Festival is just around the corner, along with an implied invitation for tourists to come and visit our unstoppable little paradise. This year, the event will start on November 12th and will end November 16th.
The Los Cabos International Film Festival
Los Cabos International Film Festival has become one of the most significant film festivals held in Mexico. Originally named Baja International Film Festival, the festival was created in 2012 by a merge between Baja Californian entrepreneurs and film industry figures.
Together they have produced an event where international audiences can share their vision about the bold, reflective and inspiring films that have been produced in Mexico, the United States and Canada. The project is not made for a specific film genre, but for those producers and directors who wish to showcase their work for an international audience, particularly for film industry experts.
Besides doing an investigation about the festival, I also had the opportunity to interview Alonso Aguilar-Castillo, Director of Los Cabos International Film Festival. Alonso has been involved with the project since the first festival. It wasn’t until the second edition, however, when he officially became the Director of the Baja International Film Festival.
According to Alonso Aguilar-Castillo, the Los Cabos International Film Festival is a film festival with a much defined personality; one that brings the United States, Canada and Mexico neighbors closer. At the same time, the festival not only brings together some of the most inspiring independent films from the region but also offers an important space where dialogue and co-production are able to take place.
Alonso explains that they chose Los Cabos since its location happens to be strategic due to its closeness to the movie capital of the world: Los Angeles. Moreover, its premium infrastructure and excellent tourism services captivate Hollywood celebrities.
But that’s not all. Los Cabos International Film Festival also seeks to position Los Cabos as a premier tourist and cultural destination, while at the same time contributing to the local economy.
The CIFF’s ambitious industry program involves more than 300 delegates and decision-makers from the film industry. Likewise, it is considered to be the American festival that provides the most rewards and incentives to contestants.
So, how do the contestants and films become eligible? Well, the official board selects from two sources: one from a global call for entries, and two, they attend most of the A-classed film festivals (Sundance, Tribeca, Cannes, Locarno, San Sebastian…) to look for the most outstanding projects. In fact, an impressive 80% of the showings at this year’s festival will be either be world, Latin American or Mexican premiers.
Of course, one of the festival’s main draws has been the participation of national and international celebrities. One of this year’s most awaited stars will be Reese Witherspoon, who will be attending the Opening Gala of “Wild”, a Canadian production based on a true story. In the film, Witherspoon takes on the starring role of a woman who, in the midst of a personal crisis, decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
Other international personalities who will be attending the Los Cabos Film Festival are: Rosario Dawnson, Frank Grillo, Eric Bruneau, Leonor Varela and Sarai Givaty, among others. For its part, Mexico will be represented by celebrities such as Diego Luna, Tenoch Huerta, Natalia Lafourcade, Guillermo Arriaga, Chema Yazpik, Eiza González and Erick Elias.
This year’s publicity campaign once again takes up the festival’s slogan “Come and see what the neighbors are doing.” Each year, the festival chooses a Mexican director to develop the campaign. The “Cineminute,” which can be seen below, was produced by Mexican director Fernando Frias, a former Sundance awardee and the winner of the Los Cabos Film Festival’s Bengala Prize in 2013.
Another important aspect of the Los Cabos Film Festival is its giving back to the community. In fact, 8% of all ticket sells will be donated to the local DIF (a state-based social services agency). Moreover, a home rebuilding program for Los Cabos community will be announced at the festival’s gala.
Tickets for the Los Cabos Film Festival are available to the public at prices ranging from $70.00 USD to $250.00 USD, depending on which and how many events you plan to attend. In addition, organizers of this third edition of the festival have given away more than 7,000 free tickets to local businesses.
So if you’re in the neighborhood or would like to make a last-minute escapade to participate in this wonderful film festival, drop on by and see what the neighbors are doing!
Interview with Alonso Aguilar-Castillo
What’s the main objective of the Los Cabos Film Festival?
We’re a film festival with a defined personality: to bring together Mexico, the United States and Canada through an ambitious program that highlights the region’s best independent cinema as well as creating industry-wide spaces for dialogue and co-production.
Why was Los Cabos chosen to host the festival?
In addition to the region’s excellent tourist services, which on their own are enough to draw Hollywood stars, it is also strategically located closed to the film industry mecca: Los Angeles.
Why did you change the name from Baja Film Festival to Los Cabos Film Festival?
Albeit a bit modest, we thought it would be a nice gesture to express our gratitude to the people of Los Cabos. This festival is the property of the cabeñas (inhabitants of Los Cabos). They are the ones who make it possible whether through sponsorships, volunteers or the people who attend the festival and fill up the movie theaters. And these people deserve to have a film festival that reflects their local identity.
How did you come up with your publicity material for the festival and what is the message?
More than a theme that changes from year to year, we are always reintepreting the festival’s central spirit. This year it’s “Come see what the neighbors are up to”, which diverse Mexican directors bring to life. Likewise, each year we invite a national director who has won a prize at the previous festival to direct the festival’s “Cineminuto” (One Minute Cinema). This year it was Fernando Frias, a Sundance laureate this year and the winner of Los Cabos Film Festival’s Bengala Prize in 2013. His work is the basis of our image and publicity campaign.
How do you choose what films you are going to present?
We make an open call for the diverse categories of the official section and industry programs. We also visit the major film festivals around the world, from Sundance in January to Toronto in September as well as the Berlinale, SXSW, Tribeca, Cannes, Locarno, Los Angeles, Telluride, Miami y San Sebastian. That’s how we find the jewels of independent cinema each year.
What’s new this year?
We have a notable increase in the number of participating celebrities this year: Reese Whitherspoon, Rosario Dawson, Xavier Dolan, Diego Luna, Atom Egoyan, Guillermo Arriaga, and about 20 others. It will also be the year with the most preimiers: 80% of our films will be world, Latin American or Mexican premiers. In addition, we have a very ambitious industry program with over 300 international industry delegates and decision-makers while also being the North American film festival that offers the most incentives and rewards.
What do you think the festival’s biggest contribution is to the community?
Without a doubt the festival is a great platform to position the destination internationally as a place with a strong cultural offer. Los Cabos naturally caters to an elite type of tourist, one who expects a high level of cultural activities. This in turns helps to reactive the economy on a qualitative level. The Los Cabos Film Festival is intended to generate this offer and show off the excellent tourism services of Los Cabos to the protagonists of world cinema.
Do you ever consider inviting other countries or is there a different country each year that is invited to participate?
It’s not something we are considering at the moment. Our objective is very specific and that allows us to be more effective at reach our goals. Without a doubt the festival is always looking outwards, but from the perspective of Mexico, the United States and Canada. For example, several of our films this year in the official selection and industry program are co-productions with Span, Iran, Colombia and Germany, among others.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Odile, do you think that the Los Cabos Film Festival helps to rebuild trust in the destination and convince tourists that it’s okay to return again?
Definitely. The Los Cabos Film Festival proudly supports the recuperation of Los Cabos as a premier tourist destination. The festival helps us shine the spotlight on this wonderful region to demonstrate that Los Cabos and its people are truly unstoppable.
Are you going to bring up the issue of Hurricane Odile during the festival?
We’ve already announced that 8% of our ticket sales will go the the Municipal DIF (the state-run social benefits office). We’re also taking action to make the festival more open to the local population by giving out 7,000 free movie tickets as well as organizing various free open air events. Likewise, we will be making an announcement at our galas as to a new program to support the rebuilding of houses in Los Cabos.