Producer Mariana Méndez Alejandre Riding New Wave of Brilliant Young Mexican Filmmakers, Inspired by Oscar Winners Cuarón, Iñárritu & del Toro
“There is a new boom in the Mexican film industry with a record 175 films made here last year. And, Hollywood’s proximity is definitely an advantage. Then, people like Oscar-winning directors, Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezkihave helped open the door for young Mexican talent like the Latino cast in Oscar-nominated animated Pixar film ‘Coco,’ which openly celebrated Mexican culture. Generally, Mexicans like to take risks and I think that’s palpable in the careers of all the Mexican talent at home and in Hollywood. I also think that we like to push the limits as a society and that’s exactly what we’ve done with the film industry.” — Mexican documentary and feature producer Mariana Méndez Alejandre
Feature, documentary and commercial producer Mariana Méndez Alejandre is from Guadalajara, the same hometown as Guillermo del Toro. As a Jury Coordinator for the Guadalajara International Film Festival, she notes that del Toro was the festival’s recent guest of honor, describing the Oscar-winning director for The Shape of Water as “a great and humble guy.”
Inspired by the fact that Mexican directors have won four of the last five Best Director Academy awards, Alejandre is one who’s now emerging from this exciting and growing talent pool. She’s jazzed about her recent projects, including: being producer on Viva el Rey (2017) and on OverAgain and Zero Hour, written by Guillermo Arriaga; and, also on upcoming features, Noemí Gold, a US-Argentine production, and Inzomnia, which hails from the same team as Viva el Rey, and which she says “will make history as the first stop-motion feature being shot entirely in Mexico.”
Making history and shaking things up, is what Alejandre’s company, Mindsoup Entertainment, is all about. Mindsoup, which includes partners Rodrigo Courtney and Donald Brownlow, handles a lot of “fast turnaround production” projects like commercials and music videos in Mexico, while Alejandre, 25, has been focusing more on long-term projects.
Overall, Alejandre enthuses:
We at Mindsoup love the word disruptive — whatever the trend is we’ll do the opposite or twist it in a way that feels original and fresh. A vast group of filmmakers make projects because certain topics are hot until they saturate the market. We like to bend the status quo and come up with the unexpected. Mindsoup’s goal is to make content that starts a conversation and that reflects what we are going through as a society. Filmmaking is all about team work and I believe that by bridging the gap between talented Mexicans living in the US and talented Mexicans living in Mexico, we are able to tell more powerful stories that can create change.
Spellbinding storytelling is at the heart of what excites us as viewers. And, as a kid growing up in Guadalajara, Alejandre admits she watched loads of movies and TV shows. But what really fascinated her with DVDs was the featurettes after the movie. She recalls:
I couldn’t wait to watch the bonus features where the filmmakers explained how they had shot a scene or the actors would talk about their experiences on set. I watched those clips over and over until I knew exactly how my favorite films were made. In ways, that was more interesting to me than the film itself. And, those behind the scenes clips fueled my interest, and I just knew that I wanted to make movies/TV shows from early on. I think I was 12 when I told my parents I was going to move to Hollywood when I grew up to make movies.
Alejandre has always been passionate about putting herself in other people’s shoes and learning about new cultures and ways of life. So, she traveled as an exchange student to Italy and then did high school in Switzerland. Along the way, she went to school for Film and TV production and was plunged into producing right from the start. The go-getter produced her first short three months into her first semester:
My first short was called ‘The Other Side,’ and it was a very ambitious shoot that involved stunts and street closures, but I loved every minute of it. It follows the story of a businessman who loses everything he values (his wife, his job, his money) and decides to jump off a bridge. As he is about to do it, a young girl surprises him with some advice that may or may not change his mind. Since then, I’ve focused on learning from the right people and trying to make content that has an impact on society.
And that impact by filmmakers is evident by Mexican films winning more than 100 international awards in 2017. For example, those Oscar-winning movies like — Birdman, The Revenant, Gravity, and The Shape of Water — were all unconventional, and representative of a Mexican sensibility, even if not about or even set in the country. Alejandre explains:
To understand our way of thinking, you need to take into consideration what we see every day in the news and what goes on politically in our country; we have a very cynical view of the world because of it, which I believe enriches our storytelling. As far as other upcoming projects, I’m working with a Mexican filmmaker who focuses on female-driven stories and that, through her work, shows a very positive side of Mexican culture, which fits perfectly with the kind of stories I want to tell.
As evident by producer Mariana Méndez Alejandre’s infectious attitude and ambition, the sky’s the limit.