Fe­male direc­tors gain voices in Mex­ico

Women bust into gen­res typ­i­cally dom­i­nated by men

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Travel Life - By Anna Marie de la Fuente Va­ri­ety

Mex­ico’s famed “Tres Ami­gos” have made a name for them­selves in Hol­ly­wood and be­yond, di­rect­ing their way to a bevy of Os­cars. Less well-known: the emerg­ing wave of fe­male au­teurs from Mex­ico.

The direc­tors range from Pa­tri­cia Riggen and Issa Lopez, both busy with Hol­ly­wood projects and gain­ing their own in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion, to women from indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, such as Maria So­job, a Tzotzil na­tive, and El­iz­a­beth Pina, of Otomi Hnatho de­scent. The lat­ter two are mak­ing their first doc­u­men­taries. Also part of this wave: Ta­tiana Huezo and Ale­jan­dra Mar­quez Abella.

“It’s just marvelous what’s hap­pen­ing now; there are more fe­male direc­tors in fea­tures, and even more mak­ing short films,” says Maria No­varo, freshly in­stalled head of Mex­i­can Film In­sti­tute (Im­cine) and who fought against chau­vin­ism early in her di­rect­ing ca­reer. She is best-known for 1991’s up­lift­ing dance drama “Dan­zon.”

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est find­ings from Im­cine, women from Mex­ico di­rected 42 films in 2017, the high­est tally since they were first tracked in 2007. Of these, 42 per­cent were doc­u­men­taries and 58 per­cent fic­tion, an in­crease of 34 per­cent and 30 per­cent re­spec­tively, com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year. Women par­tic­i­pated as direc­tors, scriptwrit­ers or pro­duc­ers in 52 per­cent of the year’s pro­duc­tions.

No­varo, now 67, is also heart­ened by the grow­ing num­ber of fe­male cin­e­matog­ra­phers in Mex­ico to­day. When she tried di­rect­ing her first fea­tures in the late ’80s, she went up against pow­er­ful male-dom­i­nated unions that im­posed a dra­co­nian set of rules for women that obliged her to work with all-male crews and banned fe­male lensers. To skirt these rules, she formed a co­op­er­a­tive and hired a mostly fe­male crew.

But that didn’t pro­tect her from blow­back. No­varo al­leges that peo­ple af­fil­i­ated with the union dam­aged “Dan­zon” dur­ing pro­duc­tion. “They pun­ished me by de­lib­er­ately de­stroy­ing a week’s footage of ‘Dan­zon’ at the lab with sand,” she re­calls nearly three decades later, point­ing out that Ta­tiana Huezo’s doc­u­men­tary “Tem­pes­tad” (“Tem­pest”) rep­re­sented Mex­ico in the for­eign-lan­guage film cat­e­gory of the Academy Awards last year.

there weren’t many other fe­male direc­tors work­ing in Mex­ico back then.

Riggen and Lopez are lead­ing the pack of to­day’s fe­male au­teurs from Mex­ico, bust­ing cul­tural bi­ases to direct tra­di­tion­ally male dom­i­nant gen­res of ac­tion, fan­tasy or hor­ror. Riggen be­gan di­rect­ing in earnest af­ter mov­ing to the U.S. and is now one of the hand­ful of women of color to break into the so-called boys’ club of net­work pi­lots. She re­cently di­rected three episodes of Ama­zon Prime’s

high-oc­tane thriller series “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” and three pi­lots: su­per­nat­u­ral thriller “Run for Your Life” for Blum­house TV, CBS’ Matt Reeves-ex­ec­u­tive pro­duced sus­pense thriller “Sur­veil­lance” and Fox’s le­gal drama “Proven In­no­cent.”

In the lat­ter two pi­lots, her di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy/hus­band, Checco Varese (“It: Chap­ter Two”), served as the cin­e­matog­ra­pher, as he has in many of her films, led by “The 33,” the fact-based Chilean miner drama star­ring An­to­nio Ban­deras; faith-based “Miracles From Heaven”; com­ing-of-age drama “Girl in Progress”; and her Sun­dance break­out, “Un­der the Same Moon.”

“As a fe­male di­rec­tor it’s some­times very hard to find peo­ple who be­lieve in you and so it’s been great that I have at least one crew po­si­tion I don’t have to worry about that much,” Riggen says.

Mex­ico City-based Lopez started out as a writer of hit come­dies skewed to­ward teens and women.

“It was eas­ier to evolve as a writer or even a pro­ducer in chau­vin­ist Mex­ico,” she notes. It was only af­ter she wrote and shot her own eight-minute short to prove she could direct, that she helmed her first fea­ture, “Side Ef­fects” (Efec­tos Se­cun­dar­ios). Her next chal­lenge was to break out of rom-coms, which she did with “Tigers Are Not Afraid.”

Stephen King and Guillermo del Toro took no­tice, with the lat­ter ex­press­ing his de­sire to pro­duce her next film. She is now work­ing on the first draft of the su­per­nat­u­ral pe­riod film he will pro­duce.

“He’s a man of his word; he’s such a won­der­ful men­tor on both the cre­ative and busi­ness side of film­mak­ing,” she says.

Mean­while, Lopez has been at­tached to write and direct two English-lan­guage movies: “Three Sun­days,” a drama set in the Banda mu­sic scene of New York City’s bor­ough of Queens, with Para­mount Play­ers, and a still-un­ti­tled su­per­nat­u­ral re­venge thriller.

Huezo, whose evoca­tive doc­u­men­tary “Tem­pes­tad” (“Tem­pest”) rep­re­sented Mex­ico in the for­eign­lan­guage film cat­e­gory of the Academy Awards last year, says: “I don’t ap­proach a story think­ing that I am a woman and I cer­tainly don’t make films so that they are only seen by women; I have never thought about cin­ema in this way.”

Ear­lier in her ca­reer, Mar­quez Abella strug­gled to be taken se­ri­ously as a di­rec­tor. “(Crews)wouldn’t be­lieve I was the di­rec­tor and would point me to­ward cos­tume de­sign, but now the crew ap­pre­ci­ate my quiet style,” she says. “My per­sonal mis­sion is to bring the fem­i­nine ex­pe­ri­ence to the fore; we are half of the planet’s pop­u­la­tion af­ter all!”

She’s now writ­ing “La Triste,” based on her pa­ter­nal grand­mother’s ex­pe­ri­ence im­mi­grat­ing to Chicago. Talks with in­vestors are un­der­way.

WALLY SKALIJ/LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES 2018

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