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Interview: Samuel Douek, director of Hola Mexico Film Festival

Interview: Samuel Douek, director of Hola Mexico Film Festival

By Katina Vangopoulos
Nov 8, 2010

The Hola Mexico Film Festival has already made its way through the US and now lands on our shores for 2010 with a diverse range of films covering both upbeat and dark parts of Mexican society. I was lucky enough to talk with festival creator/director Samuel Douek (pictured left) ahead of the Adelaide leg about filmic love, Carlos Carrera and national film crises.

Cut Print Review: We’re very excited to have the festival rolling by… I’ve already seen Leap Year and that was a very interesting film.

Samuel Douek: Oh yeah, it’s quite a shocker!

CPR: What or who influenced you into creating the festival and why?

Samuel: Well I was living in Sydney a few years ago and I wanted something to portray Mexican cinema in Australia because I know there are a lot of foreign films here. You know, there’s the Russian Film Festival, there’s all these film festivals but there weren’t any Mexican festivals. And Mexico was making amazing films, there were interesting things happening so that’s why I thought ‘okay, well now’s a good time’. I managed to see a few good films that came out of Mexico that year, which was 2005, 2006 and I got connected in Mexico and we made it happen.

CPR: Are you still based in Sydney?

Samuel: I’m split between Mexico and Sydney. I love Australia.

CPR: Do you have a filmic background yourself?

Samuel: No, not really. I studied marketing and event management.

hola meixco film festival11 317x500 Interview: Samuel Douek, director of Hola Mexico Film FestivalCPR: Are you on the selection process for the films chosen?

Samuel: I do the programming of the festival so I try to select the better films that have come out of Mexico each year; seeing what films are making international festivals, new releases… I just try to find the films that way.

CPR: Where did your love of film come from?

Samuel: Well I’ve loved film since I was a little child. I’d always watch films either from my house or big cinemas. I remember when I was eight or nine I used to go Friday afternoons to see films with friends and family. I’ve always liked even Mexican films, they were very different and still are today you know, and people still watch them. I’ve always liked films, always.

CPR: You expanded the festival to a US run after success here in Australia. How’s that been different in terms of marketing?

Samuel: It’s very different because in the USA it’s mainly a Mexican market (eighty per cent of the audience). The sponsorship as well works very different, there are different sponsors in each city (compared to major full-festival Australian sponsors) – and it’s harder because Mexicans don’t see Mexican films. So we need to find Mexicans that want to see Mexican films and we also need to find Americans that don’t hate Mexico that want to see films from Mexico. So it’s been a hard and daunting task but it’s going well and we’re happy with how things are going.

CPR: We have the same on-going debate here (that Australians don’t see Australian films); would you have a comment on why Mexicans don’t watch their own cinema?

Samuel: Well it’s because people are educated to watch other types of films. The same as Australia, in Mexico the majority of kids grew up watching Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger and those types of films, so when something more artistic or something more personal comes out it doesn’t resonate, and it’s hard. Today, when you go to Hoyts or Greater Union or other big cinema chains, they won’t give so much space because it’s not so easy for an Australian (or Mexican) film. It won’t make the noise that Transformers or Spiderman can make and they don’t have the budget for millions of dollars for those films. So those are reasons, and also not everyone likes foreign films or artistic films so they just go and see a Tom Cruise film.

CPR: In the US you have a predominant market but in Australia the crowd would be pretty diverse wouldn’t it?

Samuel: Yeah it’s diverse, but it’s mainly Australian, which I like because that’s an amazing thing, for me to bring Australian people to watch and learn about our culture, that’s pretty awesome.

alamar latam film11 Interview: Samuel Douek, director of Hola Mexico Film Festival
A scene from
To the Sea [Alamar]
screening at the Hola Mexico Film Festival.

CPR: 2010’s a momentous year with the bicentennial of Mexico’s independence movement and centennial of the Mexican Revolution. How important do you think it is for films to remind viewers (both local and international) about Mexican history?

Samuel: Well there’s been a lot of talk about that because Mexico isn’t a stable place at the moment. There are a lot of problems with drug dealers and these things getting out and so I think some of the ideas with these films were to try and show Mexico as a more generic country…

I think not only film but other things tried to portray Mexico in a way to show the anniversary – the films that are out have some interesting themes, but not all of them celebrate Mexico in a positive way.

CPR: What was behind the choice for the Carlos Carrera retrospective at this year’s festival?

Samuel: He’s a big director in Mexico; everyone knows the film The Crime of Father Amaro, which was the biggest box office success in Mexican history. I saw his latest film From Childhood and I really liked it so I thought I had to bring it to the festival. Every year we’ve done a tribute to Mexico in a different way and I thought it would be so interesting to bring From Childhood and The Crime of Father Amaro, which is an amazing film that I hadn’t brought before and it made sense to put together a tribute to his work.

CPR: Has it been well received so far (in Sydney and Melbourne)?

Samuel: Yes, in Melbourne we did very well and in Sydney all three films were well attended. He (Carrera) was pretty happy and the Q&As went well.

CPR: With increasing success both here and in the US with each year, do you have plans to expand the festival elsewhere?

Samuel: No, we need to increase the amount of people that come to each city in these two countries first and then go from there. We’ve got an amazing program this year so we’d love people to come and check it out!

CPR: Can you name a personal favourite from this year’s selection?

Samuel: I really like a lot of them but I’ve enjoyed Presumed Guilty a lot. That film’s about the Mexican judiciary system and it’s a hard film, but I’ve enjoyed watching it.

CPR: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Samuel!

Samuel: Thank you very much.

lgo hola1 150x100 Interview: Samuel Douek, director of Hola Mexico Film FestivalHola Mexico Film Festival is showing at the Mercury Cinema in Adelaide between November 12-21. Tickets can be purchased from the festival website here.

Follow the author Katina Vangopoulos on Twitter.

Category: Interviews
Date Published: November 8th, 2010
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