Thursday, December 22, 2011

On the Mexican Cinema

Carlos Puig notes that 52 movies in Mexico sold some 13 million tickets through November, out of a total of 200 million tickets sold. He also notes that the average movie brings in 8 or 10 million pesos in revenues, which, given the costs of making a movie and the theater's cut, means that almost all of them are losing money. More:
Many of the movies that are made today are essentially vehicles of tax deductions thanks to the so called "226", the article of the Law of Taxes on Profits through which busineses can give money to directors to make movies instead of giving money to the treasury. In reality, the incentive no hasn't produced better movies but rather many of them which allows the businessman to deduct, and later they remain in mothballs forever or they are a box office failure.

I am convinced that the although the rules, habits, and customs of our cinema are not conducive to more Mexicans seeing Mexican movies, the quality also plays a part in this disaster. No theater or distributor that has in front of him a movie that will make millions will neglect to do so because it is Mexican, nor are Mexicans crueler with Mexicans than with other people. Should Mexicans be more tolerant because they are Mexican movies? That is a question that is not easy to answer. Do we want garbage on our screens just because it is Mexican?
That's a pretty harsh take, though one I think you hear frequently in Mexico. My biggest problem with Mexican movies was that for the last ten years, so many of them seem to imitate González Iñárritu's depiction of life in Mexico City as an impossibly bleak existence. There are several inter-related problems with this obsession: 1) Most directors can't pull it off as well as González Iñárritu; 2) After dozens of movies trading on this, it is now extremely trite; 3) It's painful to watch and offers little in the way of insight into the human condition or payoff to the viewer; and 4) It willfully ignores the rest of the country, where 80 percent of Mexicans live.

Although I've been out of the country for a year and a half now, so maybe that's not as much of an issue anymore.

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