Guillermo del Toro and the future "devastation" of good Mexican cinema
The filmmaker criticized the Mexican government's proposed film cuts to alleviate the economic pressure of the COVID-19 crisis as irresponsible. "It's deforestation," he said.
As are most countries, Mexico is preparing for a severe economic recession as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that could bring the nation's economy down by up to 9%, experts anticipate.
In light of the terrible scenario, the López Obrador government has set to work on an expansive fiscal plan to alleviate the crisis that has been received with real fear in some sectors. Above all, because when you win something, you always lose something. What is at stake this time is the future of cinema.
This is the opinion of Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro, who yesterday met with other members of the Mexican film industry for a virtual meeting with the government over the proposed cuts to the sector announced earlier this week.
"If the government is allowed to do this, it will be devastation within an already very fragile ecosystem structure," the director of films such as The Labyrinth of the Faun told Screen. "It's like deforestation."
Del Toro also warned that generations of storytellers will be affected if legislators approve their proposal to eliminate the Fidecine fund to aid national productions.
"After we thought we had reached a solution, they [the government] have made this unilateral move," complained the Mexican, who also pointed out that the funds are not only necessary to encourage new voices, but to offer greater diversity at a time when Hollywood blockbusters dominate the local box office.
Earlier this week, the director of the national film agency IMCINE pledged that the new austerity measures taken by the López Obrador government's would would not affect the film community. However, on Wednesday the Mexican government announced its proposal to cut the aid funds for the sector, which caused outbursts of indignation among filmmakers.
"If we don't continue with this tradition, everyone will work on commercials and telenovelas."
For the filmmaker, who won two Oscars in 2018 for The Shape of Water, the national Fidecine fund (for bigger-budget and more conventional films) and the Foprocine fund (for auteur works) have been a lifeline for generations of storytellers. The film community fears that cuts will set back the local industry by years.
"This economic crutch allowed novice filmmakers to make films - without it there would not have been a new generation when I was coming up in the late 1980s and early 1990s," he said. "There would have been no (Alfonso) Cuarón, no (Alejandro González) Iñárritu, no (Emmanuel) Lubezki, or (Carlos) Reygadas and the generations that followed.
In recent years, Mexican cinema has achieved an unblemished international reputation, with major, award-winning productions such as Alfonso Cuarón's Roma, which won the Oscar for Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film last year.
Cuts in Mexican films could set back the local industry by years compared to the U.S. industry.
"When I was in the 80s, you could count the number of Mexican films being produced, it was in less than double digits," he said.
"Now we have a healthy industry that, however, has yet to be sustained. It has a zero carbon footprint and it employs hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of families who are sustaining a tradition that comes from our golden age of cinema - people like the grips and those working in effects and crafts whose parents worked with Gabriel Figueroa and Emilio ("El Indio") Fernandez," Del Toro concluded.
"If we don't continue this tradition, everyone will work in commercials and telenovelas."