Festival Wrap: Los Cabos International Film Festival 2014

Cabo San Lucas (the area known as Los Cabos) is widely recognized as one of the top tourist destinations in all of Mexico, with its spectacular beaches and waterfronts, its small town charm, and its affordable, all-inclusive accommodations. It’s an idyllic locale for an up-and-coming film festival – like the Los Cabos International Film Festival, now celebrating its third year.

Los Cabos International Film Festival inspires moviemakers and movie-goers from the North American triumvirate – the United States, Canada, and Mexico – to share ideas, experiences, and a love for independent film. This year’s festival kicked off with the Latin American premiere of Wild, Canadian filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee’s biographical drama about Cheryl Strayed’s harrowing journey along the Pacific Crest Trail.

The film’s star, Reese Witherspoon, was on hand to introduce the film, saying: “This movie is very close to my heart. I was so moved by the book, I knew immediately that I had to turn it into a film. This is Cheryl Strayed’s story. It’s a journey of love and loss and grief and happiness.” And, with Witherspoon’s superb performance,  a riveting, personal triumph that is a surefire contender for the award circuit.

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Festival Director Alonso Aguilar-Castillo with Reese Witherspoon (Wild) at the Los Cabos International Film Festival 2014.

More red carpet galas followed, open-air presentations under the vast Mexican sky at Pabellan Cultural De Cabo San Lucas: Xavier Dolan’s Cannes Jury Prize winner, Mommy; Mexican writer/director Guillermo Arriaga’s nine-part religious exploration, Words with Gods; Richard Linklater’s coming-of-age epic, Boyhood. Special tributes included Arriaga, Atom Egoyan (The Captive), Denys Arcand (An Eye for Beauty), and Roger Ebert (Life Itself).

Chaz Ebert, Roger’s wife, accepted the honor on behalf of her late husband, adding that her husband “would have been so happy” about the tribute: “He believed that the most noble thing that cinema can do is to put you in someone else’s shoes and let you feel what it’s like to be a person of another race, nationality, gender, age or economic class, so that we can all feel the heart of someone else.”

Chaz Ebert accepting the Los Cabos Tribute Award on behalf of her husband, film critic Roger Ebert.

Chaz Ebert accepting the Los Cabos Tribute Award on behalf of her husband, film critic Roger Ebert.

Situated at the cozy Bahia boutique hotel in Cabo San Lucas’ Medano Beach district, festival events were easily accessible on foot. Screenings were held at the Puerto Paraiso Mall, the cultural center of town. It hosted press conferences, master classes, and panels, and always seemed to be hopping with school children, families, and film enthusiasts by late afternoon.

To help navigate the program, screenings were broken into unique sections: Mexico First, celebrating the best in Mexican cinema (Marcelo Tobar’s Asteroide, Elise DuRant’s Eden, and the festival’s top prize winner, Alonso Ruizpalacios’ Gueros), B-Side, celebrating music and cinema (20,000 Days on Earth by Iain Forsythe and Jane Pollard, For Those About to Rock: The Story of Rodrigo and Gabriela from Alejandro Franco Fernandez), Green Perspective, cultivating and promoting environmentalism (Grant Baldwin’s Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, Deep-Sea Mexico by Jeronimo Prieto), and Sunset, celebrating horror films and B-series like the hysterical mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows, from Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords.

In mid-September, Hurricane Odile ripped through Los Cabos, causing significant damage to the airport, shake roofs and store fronts, uprooting trees and displacing boats, but the community has rallied to rebuild and expand. In a small resort town where the beaches are beautiful, the local cuisine is inexpensive and delicious, and the entertainment options aplenty, what stood out most about the Los Cabos International Film Festival was the warmth and generosity of the people – people who most certainly love and cherish the cinema.

Young, vibrant, and resilient, the Los Cabos International Film Festival is an unstoppable force. MM

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