Mexican cinematography is one of the oldest in the world. Mexico was among the first states where the moving images were recorded with great enthusiasm and where they were then viewed with equally great interest in the cinemas. We, from the Cinemateque of Macedonia, can today only envy our Mexican colleagues on account of this enormous body of works and on the account of their numerous and experienced audiences, but also admire their film archive which is one of the largest in the world.
And it is through these moving images and audio-visual materials that we in the Balkans have learnt, or ‘believe’ that we have learnt something about Mexico, that we ‘know’ the country.
More than four decades ago, four Mexican films were included in one of the first film cycles that the Cinemateque of Macedonia, newly formed then, screened in the Youth Cultural Center in Skopje. Those four films were: El Gallo de Oro from 1964 by Roberto Gavaldon, and Malquerida from 1949, Maclovia from 1948 and Un Dia de Vida from 1950 by the legendary Mexican director Emilio Fernandez. This film cycle was supposed to present the cinematography of Latin America and a film from every other country on the continent was included, but the Mexican films dominated, and there was a reason why.
The older generations remember a cultural phenomenon that surfaced in the politically turbulent times when the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia sought friendships both in the East and in the West, only a few decades before the aforementioned film cycle. The film Mama Juanita, as the film UnaDia de Vida was entitled by the Yugoslav distributers, after the eponymous song from the film that entranced the domestic audiences with its pathos, started a wave, or more correctly, a tsunami of singers and bands that made music following the Mexican model, to accompany lyrics written in one of the languages of former Yugoslavia. There existed one such band in Macedonia too and it produced music in this newly created Yugo-Mexican style.
And therefore, the audiences of the film cycle shown by the Macedonian Cinemateque in 1980 were under the impression that they were only revisiting a culture that was close, familiar and filial. And I would like to repeat here my conclusion from further above that this impression was entirely based on films, on moving pictures. But since then, unfortunately, Mexican cinematography has rarely been present in our cinemas, mostly as part of festivals, or as a co-production, or re-packaged as a Hollywood product – if we can say so about the famous titles by an entire generation of successful Mexican directors, such as Iñarritu, Cuarón, del Toro, and even Rodriguez, why not.
We hope that this ‘Week of Contemporary Mexican Film’ that isahead of us will shift things in a more positive direction and that this cooperation with the Mexican Embassy in Belgrade will not be a one-off event, but that it will grow into a long-term project that will allow us to follow the film production from Mexico more often, if not regularly. There will always exist a desire and a need to see the films of a cinematography that comes a country that we find so close and similar in temperament, though so distant geographically.
Finally, I am intrigued and I am looking forward to the opportunity that this film cycle offers Macedonian audience to ‘adopt’ and ‘appropriate’ yet again certain segments of Mexican culture, which then might take root in our own domestic soil. Just like at the time of Mama Juanita.
Dear Cinemateque audience, I wish you pleasant film viewing.