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Event Spotlight: Q&A with Hola Mexico Film Festival director Samuel Douek

Friday 22 November 2013

Event Spotlight: Q&A with Hola Mexico Film Festival director Samuel Douek

The eighth incarnation of Hola Mexico Film Festival has returned for a tour of cinemas in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Adelaide.

Screening ten feature films and six documentaries produced by some of Mexico’s award-winning filmmakers, plus a series of special events surrounding each launch and closing, this year will again bring the country’s rich history and current culture to Australia offering a glimpse into another world.

Hola Festival Director Samuel Douek, who founded the festival in 2006, chats to Eventfinda about the Festival Cantina that’s exclusive to Sydney, why the current screenings made it into the event and his tips for festival first-timers. 

How do you make sure Australians are experiencing Mexican culture in a way that isn’t replicated by other international film festivals?

First and foremost, the quality of the films is our #1 priority.  We handpick each film to play the best that has come out from Mexico, and also a variety of films to show Mexico in many different lights.  I think majority of international film festivals only go for award winners, we actually have a combination of winners plus box office hits and social change focused documentaries.  And this year in particular, with the launch of hype pop-up Cantina, we are bringing Mexican culture outside the screen and to the entire space to feel like you are in Mexico! Thanks to partners like SOL beer this is a great way to bring Mexico to Australia.  

The launch of the Cantina in Sydney where punters can enjoy a pop-up bar, get their faces painted, attend art exhibitions and workshops or catch live music is a unique addition. It's unique to Sydney, why do other cities miss out?

This year we are introducing the Hola Sol Festival Cantina exclusively to Sydney. In doing so, we really want to expand the film festival experience and truly submerge audiences in the juiciest bits that Mexican culture has to offer. For the first time, we aim to share more than a great film by creating a unique, cinematic environment . The Cantina will include free live music, a Mexican film poster exhibition, talks (on the rise of Mexican cinema and culture featuring myself and industry professionals), craft workshops and of course, the pop-up bar with cold Sol beer and tequila cocktails on offer. We plan for this to be a taste-tester that will hopefully expand to other cities in years to come.

You’ve premiered films like Mariachi Gringo and Revolucion in the past, will Australia experience any world-firsts this year?

Of course! We can't wait for Australians to watch Nosotros Los Nobles, which will surely be a favorite. We love to give the audiences the opportunity to watch a film that no one else in the city, or the country has seen.   

The films screening this year are incredibly eclectic, from a film about Mexico City Hospital’s disfigured patients (Beautiful Faces) to the adults-only animated zombie film (El Santos vs. la Tetona Mendoza), you’re certainly offering a variety. Are there specific rules you abide when choosing the films?

Great stories. We want people to get something out of it.  We want people to be entertained and experience something unique, and we think the best films always start with good stories, some of these stories, can only be told in film. That is where the magic of film comes to life. We also focus on highly well produced, acted, sound and cinematography.  Each of our films will have those elements well crafted.  

For those first-timers, which films would you recommend as great introduction points? Why?

The Savina Ribas film is a great for first timers. It will give you an action packed experience with great acting, production, and a very touching story. It's based in the famed book LA MARA.  Similar to our 2010 opener Sin Nombre, the film will take you to the heart of some of the biggest issues of Mexico today; immigration, corruption and gangs.  

Hola Mexico Film Festival runs from 27 November - 4 December at Chauvel Cinema, Cnr Oxford St & Oatley Rd, Paddington.