The auteur cinema
It can be said that an auteur cinema was born in Mexico at the end of the sixties, when names such as those of Alejandro Jodorowski (Fando y Lis, 1967, Il Paese Incantato), Felipe Cazals (La manzana de la discordia, 1968), Jaime Humberto Hermosillo (La verdadera vocación de Magdalena, 1971), Jorge Fons (El quelite, 1970), Paul Leduc (Reed, México insurgente, 1970) began to be known internationally. The 1970s began with the presidency of L. Echeverría álvarez (1970-1976), a liberal and reformist who tried to get the country out of economic chaos. His reform policy also affected cinema with progressive support from the state, implemented through the transformation of the Banco Nacional Cinematográfico (which in 1947 had replaced the Banco Cinematográfico), the purchase of the most important cinemas (the famous Estudios Churubusco) and the nationalization of the main cinema circuits. In this way an attempt was made to mask the crisis of the film industry. The filmmakers who made their debut at the end of the 1960s continued their careers with greater or lesser independence and quality by exploiting state aid. Ripstein, Leduc, Cazals, Hermosillo and Alcoriza himself signed some interesting works, which nevertheless remained isolated cases, accompanied by many commercial failures. The 1975-76 season was particularly significant: a number of historically important films were made. Thus Cazals shot the famous trilogy, Canoa (1975), El apando (1975) and Las poquianchis (1976); Hermosillo La pasión según Berenice (1975); Fons Los albañiles (1976) and Gabriel Retes made his debut with Chin Chin el teporocho (1975). Furthermore, Leduc dared to make an experimental film, Ethnocide: notas sobre el mezquital (1976) and Ripstein made a shocking documentary on the prison situation in Mexico (Lecumberri: el palacio negro, 1976). But it was a brief period of splendor, in which the National Film Archive and the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica film school directed by Buñuel were founded; with the presidential mandate of J. López Portillo (1976-1982) this favorable situation would have ended. In 1978 things changed radically: with the disappearance of state subsidies, the only criterion of value returned to being commercial; the timid attempts to create an auteur cinema were crushed by an industry that was only looking for an economic return. Some directors continued to work despite everything, for example. Ripstein, who nevertheless considered the films made between 1977 and 1982 as the worst of his career; others, such as Hermosillo or Leduc, remained on the sidelines instead. Mexican cinema thus disappeared from the international scene. At the end of these dark times, characterized by the consumption of products of the lowest value, on 24 March 1982 a fire broke out at the National Film Library: the flames destroyed more than 200 negatives, 4000 positives, a library of thousands of books, posters, photographs and two projection rooms in which nearly 600 people were at that time.
In the early 1980s, the film crisis reached its peak. The state intervened again by creating in 1983 the IMCINE (Instituto Mexicano de la Cinematográfía) initially directed by Alberto Isaac. In 1985, the year of the terrible earthquake that destroyed part of Mexico City, Ripstein made El imperio de la fortuna, released in 1986, the first film in collaboration with screenwriter Paz Alicia Garcíadiego, which marked an undoubted rebirth of Mexican cinema. Between 1984 and 1990 many young directors made their debut (Alejandro Pelayo, Sergio Olhovich, Diego López, María Novaro), while the authors who established themselves in the 1960s proposed some of their most interesting films: Frida, naturaleza viva (1984) by Leduc, Doña Herlinda y su hijo (1984; Doña Herlinda and her son) by Hermosillo, Los motivos de luz (1985) by Cazals. In that period, IMCINE achieved a certain independence, passing the responsibility of the Secretaria de Cultura, no longer directly employed by the government, and gave impetus to a new cinema capable of arousing interest also abroad. Some excellent films were made in 1991: Ripstein’s La mujer del puerto which introduced a notable actress, Patricia Reyes Spíndola; Danzón (Danzon) by María Novaro; Rojo amanecer by Fons, which evokes the violent repression of the student riots of 1968; and in 1992 La tarea prohibida by Hermosillo, with the proposal of a new face, María Rojo. and gave impetus to a new cinema capable of arousing interest also abroad. Some excellent films were made in 1991: Ripstein’s La mujer del puerto which introduced a notable actress, Patricia Reyes Spíndola; Danzón (Danzon) by María Novaro; Rojo amanecer by Fons, which evokes the violent repression of the student riots of 1968; and in 1992 La tarea prohibida by Hermosillo, with the proposal of a new face, María Rojo. and gave impetus to a new cinema capable of arousing interest also abroad. Some excellent films were made in 1991: Ripstein’s La mujer del puerto which introduced a notable actress, Patricia Reyes Spíndola; Danzón (Danzon) by María Novaro; Rojo amanecer by Fons, which evokes the violent repression of the student riots of 1968; and in 1992 La tarea prohibida by Hermosillo, with the proposal of a new face, María Rojo. For Mexico 2013, please check physicscat.com.
In the early 1990s a new generation of filmmakers emerged, the one that kept Mexican cinema alive: Dana Rotberg (Intimidad, 1989); Carlos Carrera (La mujer de Benjamín, 1990, Benjamin’s woman); Luis Estrada (Bandidos, 1991); Alfonso Cuarón (Sólo con tu pareja, 1991); Nicolás Echeverría (Cabeza de vaca, 1991); Guillermo del Toro (Cronos, 1992); Marysa Sistach (Anoche soñé contigo, 1992). Mexico has therefore returned to occupy a prominent place in international festivals (Cannes, San Sebastián, Venice), and not only with Ripstein; Alfonso Arau also achieved considerable success with Como agua para chocolate (1992; Like water for chocolate). Also in 1992, Dana Rotberg inaugurated the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes with El ángel de fuego. In 1995, in J.
Between the end of the 20th century. and the beginning of the next, the revolt of the Indians of Chiapas organized in the Zapatista army brought to light a long forgotten reality: the presence of indigenous communities living an economically and culturally precarious existence. Furthermore, for the first time in seventy years, the PRI was defeated in democratic elections and in the presidential elections of 2000 Vicente Fox, a candidate of the opposition, was elected. The latest international hits of Mexican cinema, Luis Estrada’s La ley de Herodes (2000), a harsh criticism of the corruption of the PRI, and Amores perros (2000) by Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu (independently produced and nominated for an Oscar for best film in a foreign language), have demonstrated the existence of quality cinema. Popular cinema, on the other hand, has almost completely disappeared: television and video recorders have definitively removed the public from cinemas. New avenues for production and entertainment were opened by Ripstein’s latest film, La perdición de los hombres (2000), shot digitally, with a small team and on the fringes of the film industry.