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Cultural Outreach Inspires Mexican Film Series


For years, the French, Spanish and Norwegian consulates have actively promoted the art, film and culture from their home countries in the United States. Mexico's representatives, on the other hand, have never been involved in such promotion--until recently.

On Friday, the American Cinematheque will host the second Contemporary Mexican Film Series, showcasing seven films and one series of shorts. In addition to several contemporary Mexican films, audiences will be able to see a screening of Miramax's "Frida," starring Salma Hayek, ahead of its scheduled Oct. 25 release.

The film series, which began last year, was the brainchild of Alejandro Pelayo Rangel, cultural attache for the Mexican consulate in Los Angeles. Pelayo was the former head of the Mexican Institute of Cinema and former director of the Mexican Film Archive.

Because Mexican film is experiencing a kind of renaissance and so few Mexican movies receive U.S. distribution, Pelayo thought it was time to begin a series, similar to the cinematheque's Recent Spanish Cinema and Argentine Film Festival series.

"There are festivals in Los Angeles that include Latin American films, but there was never an event solely for Mexican film," Pelayo said. "We think this is a very important market for Mexican film."

The films featured in the L.A. series have made their rounds at such festivals as San Sebastian, Montreal and Toronto, and include "The Caiman's Dream," "Japan," "Dark Cities," "Stories to Put the Crocodiles to Sleep," and "The Sparrow Hawk of the Sierra."

In addition to "Frida," the series will also screen Hayek's 1995 movie "Miracle Alley."

The L.A. festival is part of an effort by Mexican President Vicente Fox to establish a stronger presence for cultural emissaries here and abroad. Last year, in addition to sending Pelayo to L.A., the president sent novelist Jorge Volpe to Paris, and playwright Hugo Hiriart to New York as cultural attaches.

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