The Challenge of Telling a Good Story
Machete Producciones was established in 2008 and has since produced four films and received several awards at Cannes.
Machete Producciones' raison d'etre is the search for stories. While it may seem like stating the obvious for a film production company, it is the real goal it has managed to achieve project after project: to tell stories that are different, daring and "worth remembering."
Since its creation in 2008, the production firm, formed by Edher Campos and Luis Salinas, has pushed steadily along a path that has led them to produce four films, receive two awards at the Cannes Film Festival and raised their name to a high standard.
Machete was created by Campos and Salinas and was named after a tool that evokes protest, defense and also hard work.
The Startup: Año Bisiesto
"The time came when we asked ourselves why we were making films that we didn't like, that were not ours, that we got premiered but all our efforts were not channeled into something we really wanted to do," remembers Campos.
The script for Año Bisiesto was a good reason to launch Machete Producciones. It was a profound story of loneliness that dug deep into a sadomasochistic relationship and posed an interesting challenge for these rookie producers. Furthermore, it was the film's director and screenwriter Michael Rowe's first work.
Getting the resources was far from easy, according to Campos, but the project finally moved forward with the help of an interdisciplinary group of young people and experienced producers.
"That is always a strategy for getting good feedback," says the producer.
The film was finished in 2009 and was selected for the Cannes Festival Directors' Fortnight in 2010. It was received well by critics and it won the Caméra d'Or, the award to the best opera prima by a director. It was the first time that a film made in Mexico had received the accolade.
"It is a universal story that could happen anywhere. What is interesting, and the challenge in telling it, is that it all happens inside an apartment. People can identify with the story and not necessarily because they have been through it. The topic of loneliness touches very sensitive fibers," explains Campos.
A Bet on Operas Primas
With Año Bisiesto, Machete set high goals. It was a wise move for the production company. The film was sold in over 30 countries and in Mexico it played in commercial theaters with only 12 copies and was seen by close to 50,000 spectators –unlike large productions that screen up to 200 copies.
"The Mexican film market is very uncertain. Mexican audiences are very demanding but you never know what can attract or interest them," reflects Campos.
After returning from Cannes, Machete began its second production, Nos Vemos Papá, Lucía Carreras' opera Mexico's Partner prima that deals with the Electra complex in a very delicate way, according to Campos. Cecilia Suárez stars as a woman who discovers, after her father's death, that he was the person who complemented her.
"It is a very risky proposal and, once again, funding it was quite difficult. But we worked closely with Grupo Modelo and they became interested in the film. We created a great synergy with them and we were surprised that they would be interested in a project with an independent proposal," explains Campos.
Nos Vemos Papá was first shown at the Morelia Film Festival in 2012. It then went to premiere at the Karlovy Vary festival in the Czech Republic, where it was the only Latin American film that formed part of the official selection. The film opened in theaters early in 2013 and has been in festivals in Israel, Spain, Holland and India.
"That is where you discover that every film has its own cycle, its own circuit and its own audience," affirms Campos.
La Jaula de Oro: A Huge Challenge
When Año Bisiesto was presented in Cannes, the producers met Diego Quemada-Díez, a Spaniard living in Mexico who showed them his project La Jaula de Oro, a testimonial of South American immigrants who go to the US; another opera prima and another interesting story for Machete.
They partnered up with another producer, Inna Payán, who risked traveling from Guatemala to Wyoming by train to make the film that included close to 700 immigrants and so-called non-actors –people who are not strangers to the creative world but who are not professional actors.
Machete's new production was also selected at Cannes in 2013, as part of Un Certain Regard, where it obtained the Italian critics award and the French press award. It also received the best cast ensemble award from the official selection.
La Jaula de Oro will be released in five European countries by the end of 2013 and has currently been selected for over 15 international film festivals.
And then, a Romantic Comedy
And while all is happening, the firm is in the postproduction phase of its fourth project, a coproduction with the Czech Republic. When Nos Vemos Papá was screened at the Karlovy Vary festival, some Czech producers presented Machete with a completely different project: a romantic comedy that takes place during Christmas.
The possibility of expanding the horizon of such a distant market –Central European– was, in itself, a good reason to take on the challenge. Plus, they had the opportunity of shooting in Prague with two Mexican actresses, Dolores Heredia and Aisslinn Derbez, starring in the film.
"It is a light comedy that also has a strong dramatic edge. It is about a Mexican family that goes to Prague because the father is a Czech who left his country 30 years ago," reveals Campos, excited at the idea of exploring a new genre.
Little Baby Jesus, Czech director Lenka Kny's second film, is expected to be a huge success in commercial theaters. Campos explains that it will all depend on the publicity, convinced of the need for a media strategy to ensure a successful film.
"It is important to let people know that a film exists because often, when people find out, the film is no longer playing. I have learned that you need at least three months of campaigning for people to discover that a Mexican movie is going to open."
Thanks to distribution companies that have conquered spaces for Mexican film, and the talent of many young creators, Mexico's film industry is doing well.
"The industry is in a sweet spot. Mexican films have resurfaced and we must not lose the box office; we must offer audiences a wide variety of choices," concludes Campos.