Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna launch 4th Ambulante documentary festival in Mexico

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Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, two of Mexico’s most bankable movie stars, launched the fourth annual Ambulante documentary film festival Friday morning in a packed screening room on Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma.

Garcia Bernal, star of films such as ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ and the current hit movie ‘Rudo y Cursi,’ in which he headlines with Luna, urged people to have some low-cost fun in the light of the global economic crisis, which is being felt in Mexico.


“We’re at a critical moment, not wanting to spend money, and Ambulante is a free or cheap option to see films in the cinema,” Garcia Bernal said.

Luna said he and Garcia Bernal founded Ambulante in 2006 (read our report about the launch of the festival here) out of a sense of responsibility to do something with all the attention they were receiving because of their acting work.

Since the festival’s humble beginnings, when it featured just 19 documentaries, the number of films has doubled. And it has expanded its reach by traveling to more Mexican cities as well as a number of international locations including the United States, Britain, Ireland and Cuba.

“The one word that you can’t associate with Ambulante is ‘elitist,’ ” Luna told the crowd Friday, responding to accusations from a member of the news media that the festival was created as a way for the actors to make more money.

The contrary would seem to be true. Many of the films in the festival will be free, and for those screenings that have entrance fees, students will get discounts.

Ambulante helps distribute films by up-and-coming documentary filmmakers and gives grants to help producers and directors get films made.


The actors and the director of the festival, Elena Fortes, said they wanted to challenge the assumption that documentaries are boring, and they hope to appeal to young viewers as much as possible.

Ambulante (a Spanish word meaning a street vendor or a temporary market stall) is supported by Canana Films, the production company owned by Garcia Bernal and Luna; the cinema chain Cinepolis; and the Morelia International Film Festival. It will run from Feb. 6 to April 9 in more than 70 venues, including public plazas, cultural centers and museums as well as Cinepolis screens in 16 cities.

Of the 44 documentaries featured in the festival, nine are Mexican. The festival will also feature a special section on Swedish documentaries.

You can find information about screenings, a full list of the documentaries in the festival and related events on the official website.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City